Buyer's Guide: Property Management
Buyer's Guide: Property Management
Exhaustive paperwork needn’t plague today’s property managers. A diverse mix of software and Web-based solutions can help you profit from rentals with just a few clicks. These products provide a system for organizing, tracking, and creating reports to keep managers and landlords informed about tenants, leases, and multiple properties.
“When dealing with other people’s money, you need a system you can rely on,” says Gene Molloy, ABR®, CRS®, broker-owner of Gene Molloy Properties in Arlington, Texas. He manages more than 100 single-family units and apartments.
His solution? Tenant File software, which he’s been using for more than 10 years. Although he’s experimented with pricier solutions, he says, “Tenant File costs less than some others, is easier to use, and has a good accounting system built in.” Molloy purchased the full version—for managing an unlimited number of rentals—for $360.
Martha Fontana, general manager with Grand Strand Resorts in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., relies on the more specialized Resort Management System. The software, which has a Web interface, simplifies the challenges of handling more than 500 rentals, which can be leased by the day, week, or month. “The software does everything: finds what [rentals are] available, keeps track of reservations, locks in fees, takes care of work orders and vendor billing, and gives us reports that owners want to see,” she says.
An added part of its appeal: “Anyone can learn how to use the system with its built-in prompts and tutorials,” Fontana says. “Without the software, we’d need a lot more manpower to run this business.” She employs five to 12 staff, depending on the season.
As Steve Dickmann’s business, Parrish Property Management Inc. in Greeneville, Tenn., grew, he realized he needed more than the QuickBooks accounting software he had adapted. Taking into account price and functionality, he decided Tenant Pro fit his needs and invested $1,700 in the software to manage 100 rentals.
His advice to others searching for a property management solution: “Download and run the demo versions. That’s the best way to find out whether the program is easy to use and has what you want.”
Choose Your Best Match
In selecting property management software, consider these factors:
- Identify core needs. Some vendors promise comprehensive solutions; others focus on the special requirements of house, apartment, or vacation rentals. Do you need an accounting system, or something that integrates with the financial software you already use? What kind of reports do owners want? Do you want software or a Web-based solution?
- Plan to expand. Entry-level property management software is often sold in blocks to manage a set number of units. Vendors offer add-on modules to increase capacity or add functions such as accounting, maintenance, and tenant background checks. Whatever you start with, your software should have features and functions—built-in or as options—to keep pace as your management services take off.
- Call tech support. If they respond quickly now, they’ll be there later when you need them.
- Tally total costs. Pricing isn’t always as straightforward as you expect. Get the details on all you require to build an adequate property management system, as well as the cost of modules you may want to add later. Find out about the policy and fees for upgrades. And don’t forget to ask how much tech support costs, since many vendors price it separately.
- Consider the product and vendor. A publisher with a long track record and solid user base most likely has staying power. The frequency of upgrades also tells you how well the vendor responds to user requests and evolving technology.
- Talk to users. Vendor-supplied references are probably biased. Find users on your own. Start by calling property managers in other markets.
Property Management Software
Landlord Report Starting price: $69 for five units Mdansby.com LLC, www.mdansby.com, 866/632-6729. Manages single-family home and multiunit rentals available by day, week, or month. Helps maintain records for property, contractors, owner, work orders, tenants, and payment history. Offers customizable forms, letters, invoices, and reports. For Windows and Macintosh. Optional modules available for Palm OS/Pocket PC; off-site backup service for your digital files.
Quicken Rental Property Manager 2.0 $99.99 Intuit Inc., http://quicken.intuit.com, 800/811-8766. Designed for managing up to 10 properties with 25 total units, but can support more. Offers a system for organizing and monitoring information on properties and expenses and includes income and expense report functions. Automatically records expenses by Schedule E tax form categories that can then be exported to TurboTax, a tax preparation program.
Tenant File 5.6 Starting price: $224.95 for 100-unit version W.G. Software Inc., www.tenantfile.com, 800/398-3904. Designed for easy setup and use. Maintains records on properties, owners, tenants, and payment history. Automates rent and owner payment collection. Includes one-click reports, e-mail reminders, printed statements, and owner balance summaries. Unlimited tech support. Optional modules available for work orders, 1099s, and word processing to edit Tenant File’s 10 template letters and forms.
RentRight Starting price: $249 for 25-unit module, support extra RentRight Inc., www.rent-right.com, 800/736-8065. Handles all types of rentals. Maintains records on properties, units, owners, tenants, payment history, work orders, and billing. Double-entry accounting system. Includes a library for letters and contracts. Customizable reports can be exported to Excel, Word, HTML, and PDF files.
Property Master Starting price: $299.99 for 25 units with 30 days of tech support Property Master, www.pcpropertymaster.com, 888/820-7767. Maintains records on properties, owners, tenants, payment history, work orders, and vendors. Link property, unit, and tenant photos to their respective records. Publish reports in HTML. Single-click recording of expenses and rent received. Calendar with scheduling and alert functions. Tracks effectiveness of marketing programs used to promote rentals.
PROMAS Landmaster Rental Version Starting price: $395 for 50 units; required product support extra PROMAS Landlord Software, www.promas.com, 800/397-1499. For all types of rentals. Maintains records on properties, owners, bank accounts, tenants, and payment history, and includes integrated double-entry accounting functions. Offers customizable letters for owners, tenants, and vendors and also includes more than 200 reports. Optional network version, Web publishing, tax collection, and commercial and check reader modules available.
Tenant Pro 7.3 Starting price: $395 for 25 units; required product support extra Domin-8 Enterprise Solutions, www.tenantpro.com, 800/964-2792. For multiple residential or commercial units. Maintains records on tenants, owners, units, vendors, and properties. Integrates with Microsoft Word and exports data to Intuit QuickBooks. Includes an accounting system, customizable toolbar, and 120 reports that can be exported to Word and Excel or shared as PDF or HTML. Prints checks, leases, notices, and 1099s. Add-on modules include electronic payments, applicant screening, and a network version.
Property Manager EDGE Starting price: $495 for Small Office Edition for 50 units Winning Edge Software Inc., winningedgesoftware.com, 509/852-8000. Handles every type of rental property. Offers integrated accounting, contact management, calendar, and word processing modules. Links photos to property information to provide visual aids of rental units. Customizable reports, such as financial reports or invoices, can be published as HTML or sent via e-mail. Optional modules, which are included in the $3,195 professional version, offer additional customized reports, payroll, billing, and electronic banking functions.
PropertyBoss Starting price: $799 for 100 units, telephone product support extra PropertyBoss Solutions LLC, www.propertyboss.com, 800/562-0661. Comprehensive program for lease and work order management and for tracking income, expenses, and tenants. Helps with applicant screening and ensures tax credit compliance by using a credit and criminal reporting module that screens credit history and criminal records. Includes 100 standard reports and a report wizard to create customized versions. Optional modules for affordable housing compliance, electronic payment, utility billing, and Web connectivity with residents. An entry-level version, PropertyBooks, is available for property managers overseeing 50 or fewer rentals.
Resort Management System $1,195 for 25 units AMS Inc., www.resortmanagementsystem.com, 800/366-5152. Short-term management solution for vacation and resort rentals. Manages reservations, accounting, maintenance, housekeeping, Internet booking, and travel insurance. Flexible search criteria for finding desired type or size of unit. Creates guest database that supports e-mail reservation confirmation. Optional modules available for advanced accounting functions, work orders, online booking, and credit card processing.
*All programs are for Windows, unless otherwise indicated.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the products in this category. NAR doesn’t evaluate or endorse these products and isn’t responsible for changes in product info. Prices are the vendors’ suggested retail prices and are subject to change.
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