Property management Software questions

40 Replies

This blog is not so much of the normal type of blog where I give a narrative on a subject. Instead, it is a request for feedback in regards to property management software (PMS)for rental property. Currently, I am using a couple of products that I cobbled together to make my process easier (or at least it is to me!). I am using one provider to process auto-debits for monthly rent, another provider to do backround checks, my accounting software to do the books and reports and the trusted Excel spreadsheet to keep my overall picture.

So my goal is to have a single PMS in place by 2015 that will allow me to have everything in one application. I have done exhaustive research and found 12 viable candidates and have reviewed all of them. I am not listing them here becuase I don't want to skew your feedback. I have run trial properties through 3 of them and I am currently beginning my trial on 2 more this week.

However, while my usage in a trial is important, it can't replace the experience that I am sure some folks may have on their favorite software package. Therefore, I would appreciate some guidance on what you beleive is a great PMS application. Please give the positives and the shortcomings. Include things you wish it had and things you wish you knew before you committed to the package. Talk about their customer support and anything else you wish to include.

Thank you in advance for your help as I value your experience and opinions on this subject.

Bill P. I currently use Buildium, and I am very happy with it.  I can collect rent, get maintenance requests, pay owners, send out 1099s, etc.  You can use it for marketing, and I believe they have tenant screening too, but I don't use those features as I have others I already use that I love.  It's probably the best priced out of the full featured software.

If money was no object, I might have gone for appfolio instead just because a lot of property managers I know use and love it.  However, it would be almost twice the cost of Buildium for a portfolio my size.  I manage about 60 properties, and I don't think Appfolio would make sense until I had 100.

Dawn, Buildium is one the two packages that I am seriously considering and will be using a trial period later this month. Thanks for the input.

Bill,

  I opened my company 2 years ago, and I did my research before I opened my company and I chose Appfolio. I Like the fact that they don't nickel and dime you over every little improvement.  I love the fact that they don't increase the price for new features that they bring online.  For instance, 24 Hour cash payments ( paying rent at 7-11 or Ace Cash express), there is no extra cost for me for this services.  My tenants love it because they don't have to pay tunnel tolls to get to my office.  Also they are constantly improving their product.  I have been apart of bata testing on some of their add on features, and they have people call you and ask you as a property manager what functions do we need to add to make your job a lot easier.  

 The negative is that when you have a payment issue, or your are trying to move someone in and you need to talk to customer support you usually will get a call back in 24 hours.  This frustrates me, and I got to the Appfolio user's forum, or call another company that uses Appfolio, and get the answer before they call me back.  

Negative when Appfolio sells you their software, they neglect to speak to the fact that out going payment (ACH transactions to owners), are up to you to get services for.  That feature is not available in their system.  I didn't understand that the first month Went to my bank and at the time I only 89 units, it cost me over $300 to pay them that month.  As I call it growing pains.  I found a third party vender and my outgoing expenses to pay owners is less than $100 a month.  

Negative, there is no delete button... you  can hide properties, tenants, or owners, but you can't delete them.  I am not sure about you guys but when you moved people in manually, we sometimes had an issue where entered the information incorrectly under the property (as we were getting used to the PM software) and once entered you can't delete.  So what we have to change the name (no name) and then hide it.  

Negative once a tenant has moved in, you have to go completely through the process to move them out (incase they didn't come in and sign their lease), there is no undo move in. 

Positive, you can have multiple-portfolios with different bank accounts.  For instance if you have another Licensed Agent under your company and they want to manage properties you can set them up with their own portfolio and they can only see properties in their portfolio.  Any logos for any letters, or leases will reflect the portfolio which the property is assigned to.  

To be honest I am absolutely pleased with Appfolio,  I just called on Monday for customer support, with a new item, and I had a return pone call the same day.  I left a message I was very upset about customer support and I knew no one would get to me until the end of the next day (customer service used to be in California) The gentleman I spoke with told me that they have customer support to cover from 8:30 am until 7PM ET Now.  So maybe my negative has turned positive.  

Again if you choose Appfolio, and get stuck call or email and I will be more than happy to help out. 

Hi Bill - I've used a number of different property management software systems in my career as a professional property manager. 

Yardi - Way too cumbersome and expensive for your needs. Requires hours and hours of training just to get it be functional for you. It is primarily property management only and can't handle your other needs to run credit etc. The accounting module will make your eyes bleed since it is way to complex.

Buildium - Folks seem to enjoy Buildium since they are going from spreadsheets to their first management software. This can blow you away, if only because working with spreadsheets is a nightmare way to spend your time as a real estate person. It is very limited on the accounting side but for your first experience, it may be just right. For those of you with lots of properties, you may hit a limit with Buildium and start to look elsewhere for something more robust. Migrating your data to a newer platform is a terrible and disruptive transition. Buildium is not that customizable if you need something outside the box. Which, for me, defines 99% of real estate.

Rent Manager - My VP suggested we use Rent Manager for our office because it is very customizable. We have not looked back since. Basically, if you can get over the sheer amount of customization and features it offers you will likely not need another piece of software until you or rent manager goes out of business.It can handle auto payments, credit checks as add-on modules you can add for a small fee. I've heard of cases where people have left Rent Manager for Appfolio but I can't speak to that experience. Hopefully someone can chip in with their Appfolio experience.

I'm not going to quote pricing on these because they all offer different schemes for payment and it depends on how you get it delivered and the number of licenses needed.

Hi Lisa! You published your post about Appfolio just as I was asking questions about it! This is why BP rocks

Thanks you for the info. I'm glad you are enjoying using Appfolio as much as I like Rent Manager.

I'm not allowed to advertise our solution (we're in the process of setting up an advertiser account with BP),  but we're in the process of bringing one to market and would love to offer a free version to a few BP members while we're in beta. You'd have to IM me though. It's being produced with a group of real estate investors to be dead simple.

Our idea is we want as much input from the communities to make something you enjoy and meets all your needs.

Buildium and Appfolio are good solutions too.

Lisa-

Thanks for the input about Appfolio. I had also heard bad things about the support and the lack of undo and delete. Couple that with their pricing and I have removed them from my selection process a few months ago. Thanks for the post.

Rob-

I agree with your Yardi and Buildium comments. Funny thing is that Rent Manager is based just 2.3 miles from my house. Small world but I haven't contacted them yet but will do so soon.

Kyle-

I will be IMing you and would be willing to be a beta tester and put a couple SFH in the program to try it out. Thanks

I have used Rent Manager for 10 years now I believe.  I manage 90 properties in which there are 500 apartments.  I would highly recommend it.

@Kyle Jeske I would be interested in testing. I only have 7 properties currently and not using any pm software. Let me know.

App folio is to expensive and they are wayyyy to pushy when trying to get you to come on. I inquired about a month ago and it was a big mistake. They flooded me with emails even after I told them I was not interested. Funny it takes them 24 hours for tech support? It takes less then 5 min when you inquire... Something to think about, where is their focus?

Honestly, I use a spreadsheet, but I am currently building a database using Libreoffice.  I have found no software that is really good for owners that do not deal directly with tenants.   I have 3 different PM companies that deal with my tenants.

@Bobby Beard   Boy, you are not kidding about AppFolio being way too pushy! I inquired about their software a while back and they e-mail me and call me all the time, even though I have told them numerous times that I am not interested. In fact, they just called me 5 minutes ago and I told them again that I'm not interested. I'm sure they will call me again in about 2 weeks. I will never use them specifically for this reason, and because they are too pricey. They guy said I would save the $200 per month it costs, in features. However, when I asked him how he could do this, he would not give me any concrete answer and said he needs to get a bunch of details about my business first. Nope.

I've  found Buildium markets aggressively as well. There are number of CRM programs we are beta testing as a company. We use them for sales, leasing and managing projects. I am not a fan of Salesforce which was too cumbersome and not as dynamic as we needed. Currently, we are working with a company in Vancouver called Allur for a program called SPARK to manage our sales metrics, leads and vacancies. We are still in the configuring stage but if can get to do what we want, it will be a game changer for us. 

A CRM may be what you are looking for as just a landlord as typically a CRM can handle large data sets and project management. Beware the price, pushy sales (not Allur), and tricky contracts. 

Think CRM as your front-line sales and projects and PM software as your back room management and accounting dept

There is no current product that we've found that can do both effectively. Sort of like a sleeper sofa. It's either a crummy bed or a crummy couch.

Do all PMS company own their services they provide or do they partner with other companies? And when you log in do you see the providers name? I am guessing they have one portal with one user name and password?

You could always use 

https://www.rentecdirect.com

It's free.  But, you can pay for advanced features such as screening and payments.  I use the free version, so I can't comment on the rest.  

@Gita Faust

As someone who owned their own public accounting firm, I can tell you that the RentecDirect PM version has a lot of features but it really does not have the advertised full accounting function.  Really no balance sheet of cash flow statement. In regards to their services, they have partnered with other vendors to provide some services. I am in my 30 day trial period and find the program lacking. However, I haven't found a better one yet.

I have also used 123Landlord.com and it does not satisfy anything more than keeping track of rent income and expenses. Cute but minimal.

I am starting my trial period for Buildium on Monday 9/15 and will have more to report then.

Originally posted by @Bill Pohl:

@Gita Faust

As someone who owned their own public accounting firm, I can tell you that the RentecDirect PM version has a lot of features but it really does not have the advertised full accounting function.  Really no balance sheet of cash flow statement. In regards to their services, they have partnered with other vendors to provide some services. I am in my 30 day trial period and find the program lacking. However, I haven't found a better one yet.

I have also used 123Landlord.com and it does not satisfy anything more than keeping track of rent income and expenses. Cute but minimal.

I am starting my trial period for Buildium on Monday 9/15 and will have more to report then.

 Hey Bill... appreciate your sharing your experience. How did the Buildium trial go?

@Marcia Maynard  

I started my Buildium trial on 10/3 and have worked through it completely. I am impressed with the versatility of the system and am impressed by its capabilities. I think there is a couple of shortcomings (true accounting depth) (beginner's cost) (learning curve) but I really like the system. Buildium has been quick to answer my questions and the answers have all been satisfactory. This is a system people could keep long term in their rental business as long as they understand the parameters they must adhere to. With my background, I am a little hesitant to leave my full blown accounting package and other programs that I use but I may do so starting in 2015 with this one. I'll have to think long and hard about it but if I were a new user without any other process; this is the one I would choose. I have a couple more systems that I want to review, most notably Rent Manager, but I can't imagine anything beating Buildium across the board. Hope this helps. 

Originally posted by @Bill Pohl:

@Marcia Maynard 

I started my Buildium trial on 10/3 and have worked through it completely. I am impressed with the versatility of the system and am impressed by its capabilities. I think there is a couple of shortcomings (true accounting depth) (beginner's cost) (learning curve) but I really like the system. Buildium has been quick to answer my questions and the answers have all been satisfactory. This is a system people could keep long term in their rental business as long as they understand the parameters they must adhere to. With my background, I am a little hesitant to leave my full blown accounting package and other programs that I use but I may do so starting in 2015 with this one. I'll have to think long and hard about it but if I were a new user without any other process; this is the one I would choose. I have a couple more systems that I want to review, most notably Rent Manager, but I can't imagine anything beating Buildium across the board. Hope this helps. 

Thanks. Can't wait to hear what you think about Rent Manager too and others out there. We may need to transition to a better system in 2015. Our holdings are 15 residential rental units (houses and small plexes) and we use Quicken for bookkeeping and a Columnar Pad (our rent register)... does that date me or what! We want a system that will help us improve our ability to track our maintenance/repair needs and expenses by property and by project. Always open to hearing about the experience of others. Thanks for doing the "testing" and providing some insight!


 @Bill Pohl

The question to ask one is how do you want to use QuickBooks? As a property management software or just an accounting software to get your PL and BS?

When you talk about numbers - we all think reporting- accounting and bookkeeping. But the main point everyone misses is how to incorporate your business day to day processes, systems and management into one software. 

Everyone knows QB as an accounting and bookkeeping software and 95% of real estate professionals and property management learn on their own, ask their friends, for CPA who are great in what they do. Here is what it can do and what we teach others and what one can accomplish. 

True QB does not have the fancy bells and whistles, but for the cost, easy to use and getting thinks rolling managing your properties is just perfect. And yes there are apps that integrate to make your life easy. for eg Bill and Pay for recurring rent, email invoices, portal for tenants ACH or credit card payment.

Here is what you can accomplish after you have written your instructions you should be able to pull up reports by owners, property, units, tenants, vendors, employees, hard and soft money loans, including constructions... and anything you enter and more. 

-- chart of accounts is just the starting point

-- rent roll

-- tenant - invoice, statement, payments, credits, recurring rent - advance

-- security deposits 

-- work orders - completed, tenant's call, 

--lease expiration 

-- email's - has also a mini CRM build in

--as to owners - summary and detail, reserve funds, 

-- Get reports for everything you enter... create pdf or export to excel . Reports can be by day, weekly, monthly quarterly, yearly - comparing by % and $ .

- budgets, forecasting and cash flow 

and the list goes on. 

Hi Bill P. 

Background: We manage about 200 properties in Tulsa OK using Propertyware. We converted nearly two years ago. We use Propertyware for all management, maintenance, and trust accounting as well as marketing. We also had them build our website for us and host it with them. We still use Quickbooks for our corporate accounting, but we have become efficient at using the two programs in tandem. Overall we are satisfied customers.

Pros:

- Overall efficiency has improved dramatically. Workflow management and automation is first rate.

- Very full featured. Normally when I think to myself "I wish I could do..." I just look it up and find that Propertyware has implemented it. From all appearances Propertyware is in it for the long haul and take customer suggestions seriously.

- Marketing tied into our website makes listing a property on our website extremely easy: upload photos, narrative, click "Publish for Rent" in Propertyware, it is up on our listings page on our website.

- Accepting e-payments from tenants, direct deposits for owners, all within Propertyware. Bulk processing of owner draws, etc. Again, workflow is seamless and logical.

Cons:

- Their web development team can put together a nice looking website (at least we think it is!) but the backend "Sites" module does not permit much control from a SEO standpoint, so I have spent a lot of time coming up with workarounds. If you are a techie (or wannabe SEO guy like myself) and want full control of your website I would not recommend using their web development/hosting. You can still integrate the listing widget into your website, allowing you to quickly publish listings.

There is a learning curve and it will take some effort to convert from your old system to the new (it took us about a month to get everything up and running), but once established, we have found marked improvement in overall efficiency as a company.

You might check out their free trial. It has a sample database that you can manipulate to get a feel for the software and workflow.

I agree though QuickBooks tops my list LOL! Propertyware is my second choice. Many of our clients as they have grown switched. Their integration is one of the best I have seen with QB.

I started out with Buildium but wasn't in love with it and then found out about the price increase.  As a small time independant landlord for now, doubling of their rate was not acceptable so I started looking again.  I came across Rent Post and have adopted them.  It is very intuitive, allows online payment, tenant and owner portal, work order requests, online doc storage and full accounting, including the property manager side which Buildium lacked.  I am very happy with my choice and have paid in full for 3 years to lock in a discounted price.  

@Gita Faust  

Sorry that I didn't mention it but my background is that I ran my own public accounting firm for 12 years and have used most of the accounting packages. Currently have Peachtree as I liked it better when I did a comparison in 2010. But I also have a few other packages at my disposal like Sage 50 and CYMA. Just trying to get to the point where I can just enter the information once and use the software for my corporate/tax accounting system.

@Chris Simmons  

I also think the pricing structure is a poor decision for smaller landlords. If they cut it in half for landlords under 50, they probably would gather more of a user base.

@Nate Garrett  

Propertyware did not get on my list because of the LARGE frontend cost. I wanted something that I could transistion into over time.

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