The Best Property Management Software: Top 3 Picks for Any Rental Portfolio Size

By: , Contributor

Published on: Jan 06, 2020

Managing rental properties just got easier with property management software.

An important part of being a landlord is effectively managing your rental properties. In today's digital era, landlords have access to some of the best property management software programs out there, making the process of managing a single unit or 100 units more streamlined than ever.

If you're looking to upgrade to a new management program or planning to use an online property management software for the first time, this article will explain what to look for in property management software program and compare the top property management software companies to see which program is best for your needs.

Who is property management software best for?

Online property management software is best for real estate investors or professional property managers who own or manage rental real estate and want to streamline the process of managing a single rental property or multiple rental units.

The pricing of the software will vary by company. There are a number of free software systems that offer basic management features, making them great options for property owners who only own one to 49 rental units. Other software systems have more robust features and charge an annual fee, monthly fee, or a combination of the two; these systems are typically better for those who are managing 50 or more units.

What to look for in the best property management software

A property management software solution should provide the landlord or property manager with everything they need relating to the property(s) in one centralized location. Property management software should improve the management process for its users by simplifying things such as:

  • Tenant screening
  • Rental applications
  • Rent collection and online payments
  • Communicating with tenants
  • Maintenance requests
  • Signing or renewing leases
  • Advertising properties
  • Income and expense tracking
  • Accounting tools
  • Reporting and more

How I determined which software companies were best

There are literally dozens of different property management software systems out there, making choosing a platform an intimidating process. Rather than you having to go at this alone, I compared 12 of the top companies based on customer reviews and popularity on Capterra to determine which programs were best.

I looked at features like:

  • Customer reviews
  • Customer support
  • Mobile functionality
  • Usability and ease of interface
  • Features
  • Cost

I took all of these factors into consideration and chose the best company for real estate investors looking for a free software program, mid-range software program, or professional program.

Best property management software companies

Company Who it’s best for Cost
Tenant Cloud Landlords who own up to 75 units and are looking for a free program with basic functions like advertising properties, online applications, tenant screening, collecting payments online, maintenance requests, and tenant communication. *The paid version is great for landlords who own 75+ units or want to benefit from additional features. Free for up to 75 units Extra features are only available in the paid versions of this software ($9 or $35 per month)
Buildium Property managers who own 40 units or more who are looking for a robust professional software that can handle all facets of property management and are willing to pay more for additional features. $47 per month for up to 40 units with incremental increases above that. The most expensive tier is $1,080 per month for up to 5,000 units.
Appfolio Property managers who manage 200+ units that are a mix of residential and commercial real estate and are looking for professional software that can handle all facets of property management. Pay-per-unit pricing:Residential $1.25Commercial $1.50Community associations $0.80 Student housing $1.25Minimum monthly fee of $250

Best free property management software

Tenant Cloud is my top pick for a free property management software and is great for landlords or property managers who have between one and 75 units in their portfolio and are okay doing without some features for the cost savings.

Tenant Cloud is a really robust program considering it's free for up to 75 units. As you grow your portfolio or based on your needs, you can upgrade to the paid version to gain some of the additional features, which is $9 per month up to 150 units or $35 per month for up to 500 units. Overall, this is the best property management software system for a small rental portfolio in terms of value, features, and functionality.

Pros of Tenant Cloud:

  • Cloud-based, not desktop-based
  • Mobile functionality
  • Advertise rental units
  • Contact and task management
  • Screen tenants with a customizable online application and credit, criminal, and background check service
  • Communicate with tenants
  • Handle maintenance requests
  • Collect rent online
  • Automatic email reminders to tenants when rent is due or late
  • Accounting and expense tracking (paid feature will link to QuickBooks)

Cons of Tenant Cloud:

  • No digital leasing (cannot send lease for e-signature with free membership)
  • No calendar syncing
  • Certain features like syncing with Quickbooks or automatic tenant payments are restricted in the free version
  • Mixed reviews about its customer service
  • Software updates are infrequent and new or improved features aren't introduced often

Runners-up for best free property management software:

  • Cozy.co is second in line for the best free property management software. It has many of the features listed above; however, it does not offer customizable applications.
  • Turbotenant.com is 100% free no matter how many rental units you have. It offers similar advertising, tenant screening, and application features as Tenant Cloud, but does not allow you to collect rent online, which is a major downside.

Best mid-tier property management software

Buildium is close to Appfolio (our top pick for a professional property management software system) but can also serve mid-size property managers. Its monthly fee is expensive, but its program functionality, features, and user-friendly interface make it my top pick for a mid-tier property management software. It can be used for residential or commercial rentals, as well as community associations. This is a great product for a property manager or owner who has 50 or more units under management and wants to benefit from a comprehensive, easy-to-use software with extensive features.

Pros of Buildium:

  • Cloud-based, not desktop-based
  • Mobile functionality
  • Task management where you can assign tasks to other company employees, such as an on-site property manager
  • Advertise rental units or vacancies
  • Screen tenants with an online application and credit, criminal, and background check service
  • Tenants have their own portal to login to
  • Communicate with tenants
  • Handle maintenance requests
  • Collect rent online
  • Pay vendors online
  • Automatic email or text reminders to tenants when rent is due or late
  • Accounting and expense tracking that will link directly to your bank account
  • Send 1099s directly from the software
  • Ease of use
  • Good customer service
  • Frequent software updates -- although functionality is not as extensive as other programs (like Appfolio)

Cons of Buildium:

  • Certain features are an additional cost, like electronic signatures (e-leasing) at $5 per signature
  • Expensive

Runner ups for best mid-tier property management software:

  • Avail.co is another popular mid-tier-priced property management software that is extremely user-friendly and offers all of the same benefits as a paid Tenant Cloud membership but at a higher monthly fee. For this reason, it's more cost-effective to go with Tenant Cloud or upgrade to Buildium because of its additional features.
  • Re-Leased would fall under a similar category as Avail. It offers many of the biggest features, has great customer support, and features an awesome calendar as the main interface. However, there is no website management or tenant screening.

Best professional property management software

Appfolio is one of the top-rated software programs and offers the most robust program available in today's market for commercial real estate, residential rentals, or community associations. The company focuses on serving property managers who have large portfolios, so this software likely isn't worth the cost if you own or manage fewer than 200 units.

Pros of Appfolio:

  • Cloud-based, not desktop-based
  • Property website
  • Mobile functionality
  • Advertise rental units or vacancies
  • Screen tenants with an online application and credit, criminal, and background check service
  • Tenants have their own portal to login to
  • Communicate with tenants
  • Handle maintenance requests
  • Collect rent online
  • Pay vendors online
  • Automatic email or text reminders to tenants when rent is due or late
  • Accounting and expense tracking that will link directly to your bank account
  • Send 1099s directly from the software
  • Ease of use and easy to navigate interface
  • Good customer service
  • Frequent software updates -- the company strives to continuously improve features and functionality based on users feedback

Cons of Appfolio:

  • Expensive monthly fee
  • Initial one-time setup fee

Runner up for best professional property management software:

  • Rentec Direct has higher customer reviews and customer ratings with all of the same features as Appfolio, but in comparison, Appfolio has a more user-friendly interface, in-depth reporting, and functional portal. The major pro to using this software over Appfolio or even Buildium would be its cost. Pricing starts at $35 per month for 10 units or less, and goes up to $900 a month for 1,000 units and up.

In summary

Property management software is based on your personal needs. While I consider these the best software systems in today's market, you ultimately have to determine which program fits your budget and needs. Most of these companies offer free demos and will schedule a one-on-one call to walk you through the features and functionality of the software before you purchase. This can be a great way to see which system is best for you. No matter what size portfolio you own, it's a good idea to find an online property management software to help you run your rental real estate business as efficiently as possible from the get-go.

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