Why work when you can automate?
The whole point of investing in rental properties is passive income. If you’re spending your nights and weekends manually collecting rental applications, writing lease agreements or collecting rent payments, you’re doing it wrong. The best property management software allows you to do all these things with the click of a button.
Rental property manager software allows landlords, real estate and property management companies to oversee their properties in one place. It automates actions like:
- Advertising properties
- Collecting rent payments
- Screening applicants
- Requesting maintenance work
- Tracking profits and expenses
In short, rental property manager software allows landlords to stay organized and on top of their properties, saving both time and money.
But it’s difficult to know what’s the best landlord app for your business. There’s a vast number of options out there, and many don’t disclose their pricing and fee structure. And with extra costs and hidden fees, it’s not easy to compare like for like.
Here’s our take on the best property management software for each type of landlord and property manager. And we’ve included the best free property management software too!
What Features Should You Look for In Rental Property Manager Software?
Picking the best rental property management software for your business boils down to several factors. This includes the number of properties you manage, how mobile you are, your budget and the amount of people you have on staff.
But whatever rental property manager software you go for, there are some standard features you need for the right level of automation and overview.
On the Cloud
Traditionally, all rental property manager software was managed from one application on your desktop. But increasingly the best landlord apps for the mobile property manager are cloud-based, ensuring your information is accessible from multiple devices.
Handy when you’re at a loose end and want to do some admin while on the go. And, for that matter, when your computer suddenly sparks and fizzles and displays the “blue screen of death”!
Collecting Rent and Managing Expenses
When you’re juggling multiple properties, don’t let your precious time be sucked up by collecting and chasing rent payments. Even free property management software allows you to collect rent online and keep track of late payments.
But to have a complete overview of your passive income, you need to track your expenses too. That’s why the best rental property manager software integrates your rent ledger and tracks your expenses. This allows you to automate as much as your accounting work as possible and generate essential reports with ease.
Ideal landlord apps let you generate income and expense reports with one click, along with Schedule E tax statements. Who said landlord accounting had to be hard?
The best rental property management software don’t just allow you to record work orders for your properties. They also allow you to request and track maintenance work orders. Even some free software for rental property management allows you to store information securely and easily, like photos and documents.
Good landlord software also helps you track communications with tenants, with a system for recorded maintenance messaging.
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Advertising Vacant Units
Rental property manager software that automates advertising your rental properties is a must, because it’s such a time-consuming process. Even free property management software allows you to advertise a property at the push of a button, syndicating it to top real estate sites like Trulia or Zillow.
The best property management software will also automate the rental application process. You can automatically generate and send a rental application to your applicants, which they can fill out online, e-sign and send back to you.
Nothing ruins your bottom line faster than a bad tenant who never saw a bill they wanted to pay on time. But tenant screening can also eat up your time and bog you down with paperwork.
The best property management software automates this process as much as possible, allowing you to run tenant screening reports instantly, including full credit reports, criminal reports, eviction reports, and housing history reports. Ideally, you can also select who pays the fees: the applicant or you.
Some landlord apps even let you generate a free background check for applicants!
Protecting Your Investment
Elite property managers use an ironclad lease agreement to protect your property from the very beginning. If a rule isn’t written into the lease, it’s not enforceable.
So the best property management software programs generate custom lease agreements for you at the click of a button. The should also let you generate late rent notices instantly.
Which rental property manager software is the best for you? That depends on the amount of properties you’re dealing with, and your requirements. Here’s our recommendations for the best property management software for each type of landlord.
Best Free Property Management Software for Smaller Managers & Landlords: SparkRental
What, you thought we wouldn’t include our own app on this list?
We get it: you’re building your property empire one property at a time and you want to avoid any unnecessary expenses. But managing everything by yourself is time consuming and costly, which eats into your passive income. So, you can’t afford not to automate either. What to do?
SparkRental’s free property management software has all the features a landlord or smaller property manager needs to automate their property management. Landlords can save time and money operating their rental business without costly fees and monthly charges.
Spark Rental’s minimum monthly cost is free for the standard plan. But as your needs change, you can upgrade to our premium plan ($19) or ultimate plan ($39).
- Send your rental listing out to Trulia, Zillow and HotPads, reaching 120 million Americans
- Collect free, instant rental applications that your applicants fill out and sign online
- Run complete tenant screening reports (either instant or charged to applicants)
- Create free lease agreement with protective clauses of your choosing
- Collect rent online, direct deposited into your account
- Track your rent and expenses in one place for quick and easy accounting
- Store your documents, property condition photos and records in a secure property management hub
- Generate and send late rent and other tenant notices with the click of a button
- The free plan does not include maintenance and communication logging, landlord website builder or priority customer support
- For properties of 75 or more units, you’ll probably require more customizable property management software
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Best Property Management Software for Large Managers: Buildium
If you’re managing 75 or more units, those little expenses that you could just absorb before will start to affect your bottom line. And you’ll need features like customer service and better oversight. It’s time to kick it up a notch and automate more steps, and that means spending more.
Our pick for the best property management software for large landlords and property managers is Buildium. It’s one of the best-known names in the property management industry, and for a good reason. Its software is flexible and easy to use.
But with Buildium’s minimum monthly cost starting at $47 for 1-20 units, it may not make good financial sense for the smaller landlord.
- Easy-to-use tools with an excellent digital tour for the novice
- Robust online security and Stevie Award winning, 24/7 customer service
- Set custom credit score requirements to quickly screen applicants on the Pro plan
- Prorate common charges among tenants
- Set up regular inspections automatically with their partner Happy Inspector
- Convert maintenance work orders into bills, which can be paid online
- Enables tenants to authorize their bank accounts, set up automatic payment schedules and submit maintenance requests
- There’s a mobile app but only for essentials, and its site isn’t very mobile friendly
- High monthly cost from the get-go
- Not as customizable as other rental property management software
Best Rental Property Management Software for Mobile Functionality: Appfolio
So, Buildium is a good option for the larger landlord or property manager. But it’s not particularly mobile-friendly. So, if you want to manage your properties on the go, our vote goes to Appfolio. Every single one of its functions is available on mobile devices.
Appfolio’s minimum monthly pricing starts at $1.25 per unit per month. But with a $250 minimum monthly payment and a $400 onboarding fee, it’s more expensive than Buildium.
- Offers similar features to Buildium, but its platform is fully mobile-responsive
- Easy-to-manage software that’s intuitive and quick to master
- Upload pictures taken with your phone and record verbal notes with the inspection feature
- Responsive customer service
- Offers a wide range of plans to suit your property portfolio: residential, commercial, student housing and community associations
- Appfolio does not offer free trials to prospective customers, but a free demo is available
- Minimum monthly pricing is more expensive than Buildium
Most Customizable Property Management Software: Rent Manager
If you want a property management app that can be tailored to any portfolio of any size, the best property management software for you is something very customizable. In this case our vote goes to Rent Manager. Its pick-and-choose features and unique pricing structure suits all different kinds of landlords that manage all kinds of properties.
Rent Manager charges a flat monthly rate of $75 per month per user, not rental unit. So, if you have a lot of properties and few employees, this pricing structure could suit you.
- Tailor the application to your needs and requirements, including the drop-down menu choices on your dashboard
- VoIP technology automatically identifies and opens the caller’s records, speeding up conversations
- Fully integrated with multiple partners with full read and write data functionality, including AmRent and Safeguard
- Eliminate the need to print and send documents through the mail with Virtual Post Office
- Rent Manager’s software is hosted on a remote desktop rather than cloud-based, so it can be laggy
- Interface design isn’t as intuitive as other property management software and is harder to learn
- If you’re handling a smaller number of units, the flat rate of $75 might not make sense economically
Over to You
Regardless of the size of your business, the best property management software will save you precious time and money by automating your day-to-day operations. You’ll have an overview of your rent payments and expenses and can send and receive tenant applications with the click of a button.
If you’re managing a large number of properties, the best property management software will cost you. Just make sure that the software suits your requirements as well as price range, like mobile integration and property type.
But if you’re a small landlord or property manager, you can’t go wrong with SparkRental’s free landlord app. It automates those jobs that eat up so much of your time with the click of a button. And it gives you peace of mind with automated screening reports and tenant notices.
Have any tips about what property management software to choose? How do you prefer to automate your landlord tasks? Let us know in the comments!
Further Reading & Resources
About the Author
Yvonne Reilly is a landlord, property investor and solopreneur, passionate about helping people become financially independent and realizing their FIRE dreams. As a freelance writer, editor and digital marketer, she also helps small businesses connect with their audience and build traction. You can find out more about Yvonne on her website.