Good property management software can be the missing link to solving so many pain points for property managers—and reinvigorate the way business is done. It can bring all the elements of a tech stack seamlessly together. It can increase efficiency while reducing costs, allowing you to do much more with less. It can offer mobile-first experiences to owners, residents, and staff.
And, in a time when we’re all trying to give each other a little distance, it allows property management businesses to keep running with zero-touch processes that are fast, easy, and safe. And more than features, it’s about the team and the partnership that you’ll receive.
7 steps to find the best property management software for your business
- What’s the Best Software for Property Management?
- Step 1: Ask Other Property Managers What They Use
- Step 2: Identify Your Core Business Needs
- Step 3: Compare Data Security
- Step 4: Compare Features
- Step 5: Price Out Your Options
- Step 6: Try Them Out
- Step 7: Learn More About the Company
- Your Search for the Best Property Management Software
The idea of committing to a new set of tools can be overwhelming—a Google search for property management software returns over 1 billion results.
So, where do you even begin? Here’s 7 easy-to-follow steps to whittle down your options to find the best property management software for your business, your owners, and your residents.
With any software solution for your business, you want something that’s been vetted by other property managers who understand your needs and can attest to its ability to deliver.
Before you do anything else, ask your colleagues these questions:
- Which software do you use?
- Why do you like it?
- What features have been game-changers?
- Is there anything you wish worked better or differently?
Remember, you’ll be using this property management software for everything. So, if the word on the street is that it’s clunky, buggy, or not user-friendly, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few of our favorite reputable sites for finding reviews of the best property management software (or, really, software of any kind):
Any time you choose software for your business, be sure it hits all of your business needs and can plug into your existing tech stack.
For example, will the software make you more efficient, help you grow, and inspire you to drive owner and resident loyalty with portal access? Start by thinking through a list like the one below.
Your property management technology should:
Chances are, the software you choose will be what’s called software as a service, or SaaS. That means as soon as you sign up, you’ll be able to access your account from anywhere, at any time through a website.
Of course, if all your data is stored online, you do have to think about its security. Hackers could get access to the financial and personal information of your owners and residents, not to mention your own businesses’ financials.
The majority of SaaS providers have security protocols in place to detect and block phishing scams, trojan horses, and other cyberattacks.
Still, it’s important to ask the right questions when looking at SaaS platform security because not all have the same level of attention to protecting your precious information. Here are some key security questions you should ask:
It’s critical to understand how and where they handle (and store) data, so you can review the security procedures of those cloud service providers.
Once you’ve created a short list of options based on your security needs and colleagues’ recommendations, you can start comparing features. Most providers offer a basic software package.
Check the list below to be sure that it includes what’s essential to running your business.
A word on simple property management software
At first glance, it might feel right to opt for software that emphasizes simplicity above all else. After all, why choose feature-heavy options when your needs aren’t complex or you’re new to using software for your business?
As you get used to your new technology, however, you’ll find that having more features under one roof can actually make your job easier in the long run than taking a piecemeal approach to choosing only the tools you need at the moment.
Here’s the caveat when considering simple property management software: the tools should be simple to use, not simple, or basic in their capabilities.
The best software for property management shouldn’t limit you to a few basic features. Instead, look for a solution that makes it easy to use a broad, flexible set of tools. The best software out there combines the features below in an easy-to-use package.
Full general ledger accounting
Can you track every dollar paid by residents, paid out to owners, and owed to vendors no matter how many properties, bank accounts, and business expenses you manage? Also, how does the system allow you to account for different property types?
Take a closer look at 8 ways purpose-built accounting software saves you time and worry.
When tax season rolls around, software with full general ledger accounting and the ability to file online can keep you compliant and saves you time, especially if that software lets you easily file specific forms like 1099s.
Here’s what an effective efiling tool looks like in action:
Can you create and send reports to investors or property owners from within the software? Can you track the performance of your leasing activity and business’ profitability?
Can you offer residents online payments options? Does the ePayment tool you choose sync with your accounting system and stay on top of any delinquencies, late fees, and other charges?
Can your residents, owners, vendors, and employees log into the system to view and pay money that’s owed or report and track work that needs to be done? You shouldn’t have to pay extra for these access points.
Can you store leases, addenda, receipts, and photos in the software? Is there a storage limit?
Can you create work orders from a maintenance request and send them directly to contractors?
Can you create branded listings for your vacancies? Can you syndicate them out to Trulia, Zillow, Zumper, and other listing sites? Can you store this data to repost at any time?
Can you coordinate contactless property pre-screenings, showings, and inspections?
Can potential residents apply online from their smartphones? Can you perform a tenant screening through the software? Does the software provide digital lease signing?
Can you use the software to communicate with residents and owners? How can you do that (i.e., through push notifications, texts, message boards, or emails)?
Once you’ve checked off these basic capabilities, you can evaluate additional, premium features. Be sure to ask if you can add them à la carte.
Features for Growth:
Business growth and lead generation
Can you track key data (revenue, leads, profitability of different units and investments) within the software? How easy is it to access that data and share reports with both team members and property owners?
Renters insurance capabilities
Does your software offer tenants an easy and reasonably-priced option for renters insurance that can serve as an additional source of revenue for your business?
Your own branded website
Are there tools to help you easily create your own professional website that reflects your values, brand, and the competitive edge your company brings to the table? Does the website feel truly personalized and not “cookie-cutter?”
The ability to take CRM, leasing, and performance data out of one piece of software and connect it to another. Most often used to make workflows more efficient or report on KPIs.
What Does an Open API Mean for Property Management Companies?
Online property management software integrations
When software easily integrates with other technology, you’re able to tap into an even broader range of solutions to meet your needs.
Check out Buildium Marketplace for an example of what a property management-specific ecosystem of tools looks like.
What about customer success?
How you evaluate a technology partner should go above and beyond the features. While not a technical product feature, the availability of a skilled, professional customer success team is a must for you to ramp up quickly and get value from your software.
Consider the following:
- Training and onboarding support
- On-demand learning options like product videos and tutorials
- Phone and ticket support
- Other educational resources that make you even better at what you do
Comparing Online Property Management Software?
It helps to have all the details in one place. Check out our handy property management software checklist to compare solutions.
What About Specialized Property Management Software?
Many of the digital solutions out there are adaptable to property management companies of varying sizes and specializations. If you want a deeper look into specific software capabilities for your portfolio type, explore our guides on:
Single family property management software
Multifamily property management software
There are a number of ways to try a solution before you buy it. Once your choices are narrowed down to just a few, sign up for a free trial or online demo.
You can also talk to their sales team or chat with their customer success team and request a virtual walk-through, where you can dig into the elements of the partnership and features you’re most interested in.
Most companies also provide demos and educational materials on their websites. Be sure to sign up for those, too!
It may seem secondary to price and function, but it’s just as important to know what kind of company you’ll be doing business with.
At the end of the day, the software you choose shouldn’t be just a tool. It should be a partnership that helps you to achieve your goals—whether that’s growing your business, moving to a business model that provides more online solutions for both convenience and safety, or simply cutting costs.
Ultimately, your software should be backed by a company that aligns with what your own business represents.
Look for an organization that does the following:
Provides the kind of support that customers rave about: Have they won any customer service awards? If so, they’ll usually be listed on their website.
Builds the kind of organization that employees rave about: Check out the company’s Glassdoor and LinkedIn reviews.
Practices corporate responsibility: How do they give back to their communities? Do they give to any charities? Do they have employee volunteer days? What do they talk about on their blog and on social media?
Is involved in their industry: Are they thought leaders in their industry? Do they use their social channels to make contributions in the property management software space? Are the company’s leaders passionate about what they do and talk about it every chance they get?
Evolves with the industry: How do they market their product releases? How do they talk about major industry news?
With this guide, your search for the best property management software can quickly go from hundreds of choices to one!
Remember that the software you choose will be central to your business. It should make every part of your job easier, from resident relations to vendor management to paying your bills.
Whether you’re switching from a platform you’ve been working with for a long time, or it’s your first time using property management software, now is the time to look towards the future of the industry and pick a technology partner that will get you ready for it.
Download our free Property Management Software Shopping List
See More in Scaling