Rental property management software probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind when you have a small operation. You’re probably still using paper files or spreadsheets to record your day-to-day activities and transactions while focusing on scaling up your business and keeping your tenants happy. But as you grow, an excellent software program will become more and more critical.
The life of a landlord or a property manager can be hectic. That is especially true if you have multiple properties and another full-time job that keeps you busy. It’s a common complaint of landlords that they wish they could be in two places at once because of all of the work it takes to manage their properties.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself feeling the same way. Maybe you’ve even tried a few tricks to free up some of your own time, like outsourcing some of the work that needs to be done on your properties or joining with a partner for the purpose of sharing the workload.
Usually, when you utilize these methods, they work for a while. However, they’re not always a long-term solution. There have been so many advances in technology over the past several years, we thought it was time someone took some steps to simplify the lives of property managers and landlords.
Property Management Software Benefits
We found that by automating some of the work of rent collection and providing a space where landlords could easily track any repairs or other problems tenants were experiencing, it provided an easy solution to help them simplify property management.
How can a few (thousand) lines of code help you organize all of this stuff? Here are the four main ways:
BENEFIT #1: Keeps Landlords Updated
If you’re a property manager, your ultimate customer is the landlord, right? They’re essentially paying your commissions, so you need to make sure they stay happy. The best approach is to keep them in the loop as much as possible.
One way to do that is by direct contact. You can shoot them an email every few days or give them a call. But considering how busy most people are, this isn’t very efficient for you or your landlords.
Instead, a cloud-based software system may be the best solution. It provides real-time information to your landlords anytime they need it. And even though they may hardly ever use it, they’ll rest assured knowing they have the ability to check on their properties anytime, day or night.
BENEFIT #2: Streamlines Maintenance Works
Here’s the old-school method of handling a customer maintenance request:
- The customer calls the property manager and reports the issue.
- The property manager talks to the maintenance team, who then schedules the task.
- The manager then calls the tenant back, letting them know when the issue will be fixed.
- The maintenance team misunderstands the issue and shows up without everything they need due to a miscommunication.
- After leaving to get more tools and returning to the unit, the maintenance is completed, and everybody is happy.
Back-and-forth phone calls just aren’t necessary- this is 2022! Cloud software is the key.
A good software program can speed up this process, keep everyone involved, and prevent poor communication. It also gives the property manager more of a backseat role, as the new flow looks something like this:
- The tenant logs onto the cloud and reports the maintenance request.
- The maintenance team receives the request, responds with a day, and sets a time when they can fix the issue.
- The repair is made, and everything inside the software system is closed out.
BENEFIT #3: Offers Convenience to Tenants
Your relationship with each tenant is equally important, right? You essentially represent the landlord, so keeping the tenant happy by providing excellent service is a significant part of your job as a property manager.
One easy way to do that is to offer a little convenience and privacy. For example, suitable software packages allow tenants to pay rent and utilities online without walking or driving up to the front office.
Multiple studies demonstrate that online payments are more than just something that helps landlords and property management companies stand out. It’s also good business sense. Not only do people like being able to choose how they pay, but they’re also more inclined to do business with someone who offers convenient pay methods, such as mobile and online options.
People who use online bill payment options have been shown to fall behind less with their rent, while those who pay by snail mail are more likely to “lose track of bills”. Having 24/7 access to their dues and other aspects of their rentals is just one of the major features tenants look for when renting a home.
Online rental payments cuts preparation and processing times significantly; some systems also allow automatic payments, making it even easier at both ends. Maintenance orders are more straightforward too, as the tenant can input them from a computer rather than go through a few phone calls. Pulling up the rental contract or rules of the property may also be something they’re interested in, just in case they lose the paper copy.
BENEFIT #4: Easy Access to Records and Finances
Instead of having a paper trail to keep track of things for your property management business like rent payments, maintenance requests, and applications, you can have easy access to all of these things with the built-in documentation features of property management software.
Papers can get lost or damaged, but with online records, you’ll be able to simply search and have access to everything. This not only saves space and time but also increases accuracy of your records. No more guessing at what records you saved and what you didn’t—it’s all there conveniently for you to access in your property management software.
Property management software also allows you to keep track of your finances such as income and expenses. Having visibility into these things will help you to better manage your budget and grow your income. Bookkeeping and accounting can be tedious, but having everything recorded and processed digitally makes the accounting process a lot easier.
So what do you think? Does investing in rental property management software seem to make sense for your business? Or is it just an extra expense you can’t justify at this time?
Does your business really need property management software?
Property maintenance software is a tool that all managers swear by. They realize that without it, they would have difficulty keeping up with both emergency and regular maintenance tasks necessary to take great care of a property.
That said, there are some that still consider it a waste of money. They find that paying for the software is a luxury they can do just fine without.
Which boat do you think you’re in? To help you decide, here are a few points to consider before making the investment.
Know your management style
Are you a great planner? Do you have everything well thought-out and organized ahead of time, and do you mark your calendar for when you have to do certain things?
Note this doesn’t just apply to your work life but your personal life as well. You’re obviously a great planner if you plan out your child’s birthday party months in advance.
Well-organized people usually get more out of their maintenance software than those who fly by the seat of their pants. They’re already used to breaking down maintenance tasks, so they just have to program their existing schedule into the software. This shouldn’t take too much time, as these programs are fairly straightforward.
Now, what if you aren’t a planner? In general, you won’t get much use out of this software. You’re more likely to keep doing property maintenance as you always have- putting out fires rather than scheduling everything ahead of time.
Are you a startup?
Small property management companies can probably find better places to invest time and money than every kind of software they think they may need. Cash is usually very limited, so there may be significant opportunity costs if they spend too much time focusing on tools (like software) rather than the core of the business.
For example, investing in this software doesn’t make sense if you don’t have many properties to manage yet!
Free software vs. paid versions
Many property management software products have free versions that offer basic management functions. On the other hand, paid versions will give your multiple modules or capabilities. You may use software for certain things, such as tracking expenses and rent payments, which free versions will afford you. However, paid versions will benefit you if you wish to schedule maintenance tasks and streamline everything involved in rental management.
To find out what you really need, there are a few different things to try. The first (and probably fastest) way is to just poke around the software. If you were always taught to use the same tabs or buttons, it might be that another tab or menu will bring you to scheduling maintenance.
Another option is to check out the software company’s website. You may have a “light” version of the software, but a more advanced version can give you what you need.
Finally, ask other people in the industry. It may be that some of them have worked with the software and know a few things you don’t. And since most of us learn best when taught by someone else, this is an excellent way to learn a few things you probably didn’t already know.
Finding property management software that’s right for you
Purchasing property management software can be daunting, especially if this is your first time managing your properties via software. Adapting to modern management techniques can become overwhelming, but thankfully there are plenty of property management software applications that work to streamline your workflow and make your management experience as easy as possible.
Knowing what you need is half the battle.
As a landlord, you need to compose a “grocery list” of features that you know will benefit your real-estate operation. Your list might include automatic payments from tenants, automatic payments to contractors employed by the landlord, or an integrated tax calculator.
Basically, you need to compile a series of tasks in your management workflow that need improvement or that an automated system could improve. Once you clearly understand what exactly you need, you can start actively comparing products.
Check out what others say
Property management software reviews are available for you to read and make an informed decision, but not all reviews are equally as helpful as the next. When you are reading a property management software review, there are some key points you need to look out for to ensure you are being pointed in the right direction.
Property management software reviews should be an articulated conversation that points out the features and advantages of a particular software solution. The writer of that review should clearly inform their audience on how these features are beneficial to the completion of tasks involving property management.
To make the software purchase worth the time and money of a landlord, the reviewer must also convince them that the software will not only streamline the management experience but also be more efficient with time: improving security measures while also having the information remain easy to understand for the landlord and their staff.
A review can be well-written, concise, and articulates all the nuances of a particular property management software. But if the reader has no idea what they should be looking for in a software solution, then the review still fails to accomplish anything. The landlord needs to do their homework as well to make the most out of a review.
Customer testimonials will provide your second-best impression of a particular software package. Make sure you view testimonials from an independent source, so you can see unbiased reviews and comments from customers like you, who bought that product expecting it to help them in a meaningful way.
Software compatibility and accessibility
Obviously, features will be a significant determinant of which software package to obtain, but other factors must be considered. We live in a day and age with computers everywhere, and there are different kinds of computers. That smartphone in your pocket? Yep! It is also a computer and very well may be capable of running property management software.
There may be software options available that can be operated from a traditional desktop as well as a mobile phone. A landlord who travels often could potentially benefit from being able to manage their property from wherever they are. Software packages may also have hardware or software limitations. Your operation may run entirely on Macintosh computers, and the software you were most interested in may not support that platform.
Most commercial software applications are designed to work with the Windows operating system, so that is also something to consider. Software that spans multiple operating systems should be a positive sign. Also, software needs to be updated regularly to make sure it is compatible with newer versions of an operating system. If property management software is still running on Windows XP, that should be a red flag for you, as Windows XP is neither secure nor is it supported by Microsoft.
Since this is computer-based software, we also need to discuss licensing. You need to ensure that the license you purchase covers all of your computing needs. A particular publisher may only license their software to be installed on one computer per license. If you have multiple computers that need to run this software, you will be in trouble if you only purchase one license. Thankfully, most software publishers allow multiple installs, but it’s always better to ensure your needs are met before finalizing your purchase.
Transitioning to property management software
Whether you’ve been using traditional pen-and-paper or you’re already used to using real estate management software, moving to something new can be daunting. Of course, you want to do it as quickly as possible to get your money’s worth, but you don’t want to risk the interruption of current operations or the loss of critical data.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Step 1: Get familiar with the software.
Before starting the transition, you should experiment with the software to get a feel for it. What kind of features does it have? How can you get it to do X or Y for you? When you file something away–such as a tenant contract–where does it go?
There are generally two ways to understand how the software works:
- Use the manuals and guides that came with it. Hopefully, these include many videos, as it’s generally easier to show someone how to use software with short videos than tons of text.
- Start fiddling around. When you discover something yourself, you’re more likely to remember it.
Step 2: Sort files and documents for easy uploading.
Real estate management software works best if you know what documents go where. In other words, put your property maintenance files together, the finance documents in another folder, and so on. By grouping everything, you’ll make loading the respective documents into the new software easier.
It may also be a good time to screen old documents and remove what isn’t necessary anymore. Even though it’s tempting to hold onto everything, it may not make sense logistically. The beauty of using software is that it doesn’t cause physical clutter like all of that paperwork does. If you’re unsure about a document, scan and load it into the software. If you realize you’ll never need it later, just delete it.
Step 3: Teach your team how to do it.
At my last job, we had a training manager who helped everyone when new software or hardware came down the pipe. I know many businesses don’t have the luxury of a full-time training manager, but you can fill in for one! Learning the software yourself helps build your credibility, plus you’ll come to know it better than everyone else because you’ll be teaching the process.
Keep in mind that some people will likely struggle with new software. Even if it’s very intuitive, you’ll have people come up with wacky questions that seem very straightforward. When that happens, just be patient!
Remember that this doesn’t just apply to your employees. Your parent company, the landlords you manage properties for, and even tenants may come to you with questions. By being the go-to person, you’ll gain respect from everyone.
Keeping data safe and secure
Property management software stores a lot of sensitive information. You wouldn’t just leave your identifying information, social security number, address and bank details laying around for others to look at, so do the same for your clients and tenants.
Data safety is quickly becoming a much bigger concern than it used to be. Because most people have adopted more organized ways of keeping track of information, security problems that end in identity theft and online scams have been on the rise. Take some simple steps to protect your clients, your residents, and your business.
- Make sure you are fully aware of who has access to your office computers and other digital devices. Just to be sure, update passwords on a regular basis.
- Teach your employees (if you work with a team) how to keep data safe. Stress the importance of data privacy and security.
- What happens at work, stays at work. While it is more convenient to be able to take some work home, it’s best not to allow it. If you have business laptops or other mobile devices (including flash storage), make sure your employees leave them at the office. It’s simply safer.
- Keep yourself and your team abreast of the latest phishing scams and bugs. Many bugs are created purely to get around encryption systems.
- Firewalls and antivirus programs are very important. Make sure that you not only have the best ones, but keep them up to date. Make sure your settings enable a daily scan when possible.
When keeping people’s personal data on hand, make sure that you have a policy for your clients and tenants to see. This can be an addendum to the lease or management agreement and will need to include what is stored and why, how it is kept, who is able to see it and how long you will have it on hand.
When client or tenant information is no longer relevant (when they end a lease), get rid of data in a proper way that is not accessible to others. (Delete data and shred printed files.) Data that is kept on hand (such as information for future references) should be locked up with a log system.
Take advantage of free trials
The best property management software companies know their product is superior to the others and extend their assurance to you in the form of a free trial of their product. Depending on the trial length, you may find a product not worth your time or a product you simply cannot live without. Free trials are a great way to align yourself with the best property management software available.
RentPost offers a one-month FREE trial, with paid plans starting at only $29/month for 25 rental units. You and your tenants get complete peace of mind for just a little over a dollar monthly, so be sure to check them out.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, your job is to help your company make money. If you believe adopting property maintenance software will help, go for it! But if it seems unnecessary, as maybe you already have a great maintenance system or would rather just deal with issues as they arise, it’s certainly not a requirement to be successful.
That said, property management software has become indispensable to the majority of property managers, especially those who manage multiple rentals.