The Best Property Management Software
62 Products Evaluated
15 Platforms Tested
4 Top Picks
The Best Property Management Software
The best property management software allows you to collect rent, manage maintenance requests, and generate vacancy listings — all on an interface that is intuitive and responsive. After interviewing property managers and landlords across the country about their list of must-have features, we tested 15 promising software programs for ease of use and customer service to find the three best.
How we chose the best property management software
Products designed for property management
We started our search for the best property management software with a wide lens, looking at software tailored to residential and commercial properties, for managers of hundreds of units as well as part-time landlords. We preferred SaaS systems to desktop-only options, meaning that the software is managed by a third-party vendor — faster to implement and less maintenance in the long run. We also skipped over niche software programs like those designed for vacation rentals, which require the managing of new tenants every week.
Property management tools
With baseline criteria set, we interviewed property managers and landlords to find out which tools they use and which tasks keep them busy every day. We learned that there are a handful of must-have features for any property management software. With this in mind, we reached out to as many companies as we could find and set up trial accounts to see which of those features they offered:
Collecting rent online
Almost all property management sites let you manually record and view rent payments, but the best ones enable and assist with every step of rent collection: processing rent payments online, recording payment status and history by tenant and unit, and automatically incorporating information about each payment into the site’s accounting features. Although we couldn’t actually make payments through the sites we tested without registering bank accounts, we went through every other step in the rent-payment process to ensure total functionality.
Managing maintenance requests
Most property management software allows you to manually record work orders, but to earn one of our top picks, a site had to: a) let tenants request work orders online, b) let property managers assign work orders to maintenance workers, and c) let everyone involved track the process. We also favored software that lets you pay workers online and record that payment automatically and accurately for accounting purposes. To test our top picks, we made fake accounts for tenants and vendors to recreate this process from start to finish.
Bringing in new tenants
There’s no point in owning or managing property if there’s no one to occupy it, so we also looked at how different sites let you advertise vacancies online. Can you generate a listing for a given unit or property with the click of a button? Can you easily publish that listing on Zillow, Trulia, and other real-estate sites? Can you screen and manage prospective tenants? The best property management software programs can answer yes to all of these questions.
In addition to condensing all your tasks into one place, property management software should let you accurately keep your books, generate reports, and store your important documents. Here’s what we looked for in each of our top contenders:
We wanted to find property management software that could take care of all your accounting needs — no QuickBooks or other accounting software required. All property management software lets you manually enter information about income and payments, but the best goes beyond a simple ledger and lets you receive and make payments online, code transactions for tax purposes, and perform bank reconciliations. It should also automate as much of that accounting work as possible.
According to Jan Winters, an assistant commercial manager in Chicago, “Reporting out on financials is one of the tasks that commercial property managers spend the most time doing.” Budget reports, forecasting reports, delinquency reports, work-order reports, occupancy reports — your software should be able to quickly and easily answer any question that anyone might have about any aspect of the property you’re managing.
In addition to reports, we wanted to be able to easily create, store, and search other documents and files like leases, eviction notices, and vendor lists. If a site let us upload and store files according to tenant and unit, that was good. If it provided templates we could populate with specific information — for example, filling in a generic lease with details about a unit, a tenant, rent, and late fees — even better. To get full points in this category, the software had to offer all that and a search feature, so that a user can still, say, find a certain lease even if they forget which unit or tenant it belonged to.
We also called and emailed customer service multiple times to see which provided quick, thorough, and friendly assistance. Winning companies provided thoughtful customer service reps, dedicated learning center resources, or individualized technical support. We wanted top picks that didn’t stop at intuitive design and thorough bookkeeping features, but also came through with excellent customer care.
The 4 best property management software
Why we chose it
As with all of the best softwares we tested, Buildium’s dashboard design was organized and easy to navigate. However, what really stood out was the smartly designed “Guided Tours” feature at the top of our dashboard. From “Tenant Screenings” to “Property Accounting,” clicking on each module begins a step-by-step guided tour of each function. And we literally mean step-by-step — the tour told us which tabs to click and which features to select, and it provided constant commentary through text or video to explain what every feature did.
Even if you’ve already run through a module once, it’s still available at the top of the dashboard for when you need a refresh. For those new to property management software, or property management period, this thoughtfully designed digital tour is a valuable tool.
Excellent customer support
If you do happen to get confused while using the program, Buildium offers plenty of resources to help you figure things out. We liked that a real-life human sales consultant, Owen, reached out to us within an hour after we signed up for our free trial, letting us know that he could answer any questions we had as we explored the software. When we sent him questions, we got answers within the same business day, and sometimes the same hour. And while we found that support excellent, it wasn’t pushy: When we eventually told Owen that we preferred to explore the software on our own and turned down an optional demo, he simply directed us towards other resources, including the “Guided Tour” feature and Buildium Academy.
Learning center resources
Buildium shines for its extensive educational materials, including a unique “Buildium Academy,” which offers courses that teach users the skills and tasks necessary for property management. Whereas most other companies’ “learning center” pages are either minimal or so packed with information they are difficult to navigate, Buildium’s is neatly organized into “courses” targeting specific tasks and skills related to the software or property management in general. Each course comes with a course description, course objectives, and outlines of quizzes, along with estimated time for completion. For the busy landlord who’s looking to optimize their property management software strategically, Buildium Academy is a big help.
Buildium’s monthly minimum fee is as low as $45 for 20 units, with a tiered pricing structure based on number of units. To see the exact cost for your property, check out Buildium’s sliding price scale. For such a relatively low price, Buildium has all the comprehensive functionality we looked for, including online rent collection, online work orders, and strong tools for creating, storing, and sharing reports and other documents, and it will serve any type of property manager well.
Points to consider
Limited mobile functionality
While it does have a mobile app that lets you do some important tasks, like managing work orders and manually entering payments, Buildium’s site itself isn’t mobile-responsive, and you will lose out on a lot of functionality if you’re on the go. It’s probably enough for most property managers, especially if your business is smaller-scale. However, if you’re often in-transit and need full mobile functionality, AppFolio is worth checking out — it might save you significant hassle, even if it’s more expensive in the long run.
Why we chose it
Great mobile functionality
A few other property management sites, like Buildium and Rent Manager, have apps that let you perform basic functions from a mobile device, but AppFolio’s entire platform is mobile-responsive. The especially impressive inspections feature lets you upload pictures from your phone’s camera and take verbal notes with a speech-to-text tool. Even the most old-school, least tech-savvy contractors can easily use it while performing an inspection. Then property managers get instant, paperless access to all the data those contractors input.
Excellent customer support
We found that AppFolio’s customer service was top-notch as well. Though we had to wait for a couple minutes to speak to an agent, we were provided with friendly, knowledgeable service shortly after. The service agent also gave us his direct line so we wouldn’t have to sit on hold again, and he followed up soon after through email to make sure our issues had been resolved.
Comprehensive property management tools
Like Buildium, AppFolio covers all the bases of a property management software. You can collect rent from your tenants and pay vendors online; tenants can make maintenance requests, which you can then assign to maintenance workers and track each step of the way; and AppFolio’s accounting features let you go far beyond a simple money-in/money-out ledger. In addition, you can generate an astounding variety of reports and other documents, list vacancies across all the industry-standard real-estate sites, and manage prospective tenants without ever handling a single piece of paper.
Wide range of plans
AppFolio also offers a wider variety of plans than Buildium, from residential and commercial properties to student housing and community associations, allowing you to customize the types of properties you manage.
Points to consider
No free trial
Unfortunately, AppFolio doesn’t currently offer free trials to prospective customers. However, it’s easy to set up a free demo: Fill out a form on their site and a customer service representative will reach out within 24 hours. The demo itself was thorough — plan on setting aside an hour and a half for the walkthrough — and it was easy to ask the agents specific questions about the software in real-time.
Expensive minimum prices
AppFolio’s service starts at $1.25 per unit per month — but with a $250 minimum monthly payment and a unique $400 onboarding fee. If your property has a large number of units, AppFolio is worth checking out, but it will be slightly more expensive than Buildium. Managing 1,000 residential units on Buildium, for example, costs $1,060 per month, compared to $1,250 on AppFolio. We recommend comparing prices with Buildium’s sliding scale to see exactly how much you’ll pay.
Why we chose it
Free for up to 75 units
If you’re managing fewer than 75 units, TenantCloud is completely free, and you’ll still get most of the must-have tools that you would with other property management software. For property managers responsible for more units, TenantCloud is still very reasonably priced: $9 per month for up to 150 units, and $35 for up to 500.
TenantCloud does a respectable job of nearly matching all the functionality of our other more expensive top picks. Online maintenance requests, vacancy listings, and rent collection are as good on TenantCloud as anywhere else — two roommates can even pay their individual shares of rent independently of each other, a feature we didn’t see anywhere else.
Intuitive website design
Comparing prospective tenants is actually easier on TenantCloud than it is with most paid software due to the site’s exceptionally intuitive design. Minimalist visuals, pleasing colors — TenantCloud is actually kind of fun to use (and we dig that cute little cloud icon).
Points to consider
Minimal customer support
TenantCloud’s customer service is not on the same level as the rest of our top picks; we received an answer to our email the next business day, but didn’t experience any personalized follow-up or as much individual care as we did with AppFolio and Buildium. And, surprisingly, there’s no option to reach the company by phone.
Limited accounting tools
TenantCloud’s accounting and reporting features aren’t as comprehensive as our other top picks, either. Accounting tools operate on a basic money in/money out model, and there are only seven report types offered (compared to dozens on Buildium and AppFolio). But if you only manage a few units, these basic functions will get the job done.
Why we chose it
Most customizable software
Rent Manager has, for all intents and purposes, just as much functionality as our top picks. It’s also the most customizable property management software on the market. You can tailor everything to your individual needs, down to what icons appear on your dashboard and what choices are available in drop-down menus. In fact, Rent Manager actually runs its business using a very customized version of its own software.
Flat monthly rate
Rent Manager has a unique pricing structure that we didn’t see in any of other top picks. It charges $75 per user per month (most companies charge by the rental unit), so if your property management firm has relatively few employees handling a relatively large number of units, it could be the most economic choice.
Points to consider
Rent Manager was the least user-friendly software of our top picks. It’s remote-desktop-based, rather than browser-based, which can make it a little laggy if your WiFi is bad, or if you’re using a Mac. The design is also more overwhelming than intuitive — there’s a tricky learning curve when you first start using it (though they do everything they can to ease your transition, including a virtual training course called Rent Manager University).
Charges per user
While most companies we looked at charge by the rental unit, Rent Manager costs $75 per user per month. If your property management firm has relatively few employees handling a relatively large number of units, it could be the most economic choice. But for firms handling a smaller number of units, Buildium and TenantCloud will both offer better deals.
Guide to Property Management Software
How to find the right property management software for you
Consider the number of units
Because pricing structures vary from company to company, how many units you’re managing will tell you a lot about the software that’s the best fit for you. If you expect that number to grow in the future, we’d recommend shopping around with a higher number in mind. It’s difficult to switch software once you’ve committed, particularly in a period of substantial growth.
What kind of properties will you be spending the majority of your time managing? Some software offers plans specifically designed for units like residential properties, commercial properties, student housing, and community associations. If you know you’ll be working primarily in one of these areas, it’s worth prioritizing in your decision-making process.
Test the software
All of our top picks offer a free trial or demo of their software, and they’re worth taking advantage of. Look for interfaces that feel easiest to use for your specific property management needs. Want a tool that makes it particularly simple for tenants to pay their rent online? Now is a good time to take these essential functions on a test drive.
Evaluate customer service
Finally, you should take the time to call and email each company to see how responsive they are. This will be particularly important if you’re new to property management software, as questions are bound to pop up as you learn the ins and outs of a program. If you found a particular software to be completely intuitive to learn during the free trial period, this might not be a big deal to you. But for most people, access to helpful customer support can make or break your experience.
Property Management Software FAQs
What is property management software?
Property management software combines rent-collection tools, maintenance-request systems, robust accounting and reporting, and even marketing systems into one complete package. It doesn’t matter if you’re renting out a single home or in charge of thousands of commercial units — managing a property requires you to be a salesperson, a handyman, an accountant, and a diplomat, all at the same time. Property management software simplifies your job by putting every tool you need into one program.
Why do some property management software features cost extra?
Virtually every property management software, including our favorites, charges extra for two features: collecting rent online and conducting background/credit checks on prospective tenants. The extra money is to pay the third-party companies they usually rely on to perform these tasks, like Dwolla and Rent Payment (rent collection) or TransUnion, SmartMove, and Experian (background checks). You’ll typically spend between $0.50 and $15 per use to take advantage of these features.
Why is mobile functionality so limited?
Taking work orders and tenant information on the go is becoming more important for property managers, but software companies have been unable to keep up. “There is a lot of important functionality that absolutely needs to work,” says Paul Belmore, a property management associate in Lynnwood, Washington. “Because of that, the vendors are very slow to upgrade their systems, as nobody can afford any downtime.” Right now, AppFolio is the only property management software with truly mobile capabilities. This may change in the near future as companies work to keep up with the pace of advancing tech, but if it’s important for you or your tenants to be able to manage their rental affairs through a smartphone, it’s something to keep in mind.