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I am in the process of purchasing a couple of rental properties, and am completely new to property management. I know there are a few veteran landlords who frequent this site and was hoping to get a suggestion or two for some good software to manage these properties (and potentially more in the future). A lot of what I have seen available seems to be geared towards the bigger players rather than small time landlords like myself.

Ideally I'd like something cloud-based, but am open to anything that is relatively inexpensive and does the job.

Key functionality
- Managing communication with Tenants.
- Payment collection either via ACH or Credit card.
- Tracking expenses, maintenance, lease documents, and other records.
- Bonus: Automated notifications for late payments, etc.

I know a Google search will turn up a lot of options, but honestly I am more looking for unbiased advice on which of these are worth investigating further from people I trust (you guys!). Also, are there other features that a small-time landlord can't live without that I'm not thinking about?

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  • I have a property manager to deal with all that stuff, costs some but I think its worth it.
    – littleadv
    Apr 3, 2013 at 20:43
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    Have you tried creating your own spread-sheets? We have one set up for rents, one with tenant details, one for work required, work completed and costs, and another one that incorporates all the income and expenses ready for taxes at the end of the year. You can link some of the details so you don't have to enter an item more than once. By doing it yourself you have an idea of what information is important.
    – Victor
    Apr 4, 2013 at 3:48
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    @Victor for accounting nothing beats GnuCash. Maybe not so perfect for Australia, but for the US taxes - the reports work perfectly right out of the box, just mark the accounts as taxable and you have it
    – littleadv
    Apr 4, 2013 at 4:40
  • @littleadv, in AUS I use what is called eTax, basically a tax office software where one has the option to have most of the electronic data preloaded by the tax office, so we just have to check it and add any additional income and or expenses. For my own records I prefer to design and use my own spread sheets, I can easily add to them as my circumstances change.
    – Victor
    Apr 4, 2013 at 4:51
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    Spreadsheet and accounting software wouldn't handle the main feature I'm interested in, allowing the tenant to do auto-drafting of rent from their checking account.
    – JohnFx
    Apr 4, 2013 at 20:33

4 Answers 4

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I spent 5 years with a vendor servicing the property management industry. I can give you the names of software I'd seen in my time there, and you can investigate to see if any of them can work for you.

edit: I left Quickbooks off this list since you already said it doesn't have the features you want, but a lot of the small PMs use it.

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  • Re: Quickbooks. I do realize it has some of the things that would be useful as a landlord, but I was already familiar with it's capabilities and was just hoping for an app more specific to this need than a general financial accounting tool.
    – JohnFx
    Apr 10, 2013 at 22:13
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There are really only a few good systems out there that fit your needs and a much larger handful that tick off the features but are a nightmare to use.

I'd highly suggest setting up demos with a few companies and have them show you their software, ask the tough questions and see if it might work for you.

You should expect to receive a FREE trial to see how the system will work for your needs without purchasing first. Many companies will even help with importing.

We've developed RentPost.com, an online property management platform that's exactly what you mentioned. That said, there are others in this space as well, but not many. Some of those listed by phasetwenty are quite dated and/or very expensive with out-of-date licensing practices, aside from Buildium.

Best of luck!

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So this is almost blasphemous as a software engineer. HOWEVER, I am going to suggest sticking with excel... Hear me out

1. You are just starting.

If you want to be successful with managing your investments then YOU need to know the in's and out's of property management. Go do the research an learn what you can itemize. Go do the research and learn how to hand write receipts. Calculate down to the penny with excel what you are earning. Don't let some software, written by a nerd like myself tell you what you want to know. Maybe they screwed up their formulas!

I've tried a number of rental management suites and I still prefer to manage my units the old fashioned way. By hand, in excel. I know where every penny comes in from and where every penny goes. I have graphs that show my growth and I can easily set reasonable goals for myself throughout the year. Itemization is simple and the no frills approach makes it less overwhelming when starting.

2. Good luck getting all your tenants to use a payment system.

"Why don't you just have them pay it with their credit card... derp"

I get this suggestion from my non property owning friends constantly. However, just like communism, this only looks good on paper. As soon as you run into that 70 year old veteran that refuses to use anything but money orders your system is broke and you have to cash checks again. Not to mention there isn't one system that works best for everyone. This is why even the huge property management companies still accept checks and money orders.

3. OWN your properties.

Don't be one of these jaggoffs that just collects checks and doesn't maintenace their buildings. If you do things by hand, set real goals by hand, handle checks, pay bills, talk to tenants, all by hand, you will get a no bull shit report on what is really going on in your buildings and what really needs repaired. I LOVE people that don't take this approach. You know why? Because their buildings fall into distress. Their rent is to low because they don't do market research, by hand, they don't know what the comparables are, their mortgage gets behind and they have to sell their property at less than what they purchased it for because they suck at life.

Being a property owner isn't hard. Have decent credit and a good debt to income ratio and you'll get a home loan. However, being a landlord is no easy task. It requires you have the gumption to learn and make things happen on your own. The best way to build a foundation that will last you through the hardest times is by doing things for yourself first. I have an accountant that does my taxes for me, but you bet your ass I do the taxes myself first to make sure 1. he's not screwing me and 2. that he's smarter than me and I am actually paying for a service. There's always something I miss but you know what? I won't miss it next year and every year I get a little better.

For the record I purchase a new rental property every year. I never have empty units and they always produce more than what it takes to run them. I do this all with an excel spreadsheet. Before you go and drop hundreds of dollars on something that you can do by hand, I'd suggest learning to do it by hand first. Make sure you're a pro, then look into cutting corners with fancy software.

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  • Thanks for the advice. I'm still new to this, but I am slowly learning a lot of the lessons you described. Excel is still my tool of choice, and I have YET to get one tenant to agree to auto-pay or credit card payment.
    – JohnFx
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:21
  • @JohnFx Yeah, I wanted to do the samething when I started. It makes the most sense. It's not worth the headache though getting everyone switched over. Then, after you do, you run into issues when you buy new places that have tenants already in place. That's where the real issues are. It's a pain in the ass. I gave up on that dream a couple years ago haha. I just take the checks and get hand cramps as I sign them. #FirstWorldProblems Oct 20, 2015 at 19:32
  • My real issue is they like to give me money orders, and I learned the hard way not to put those in my bank's night deposit box.
    – JohnFx
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:36
  • Do you have a bank that has an app? I cash all my rent with my phone. Also UPS can do it. Just take them a batch and they run it through for you. Oct 20, 2015 at 20:05
  • @JohnFx just curious now that we're a few years down the line, how things are going Oct 6, 2019 at 17:08
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I am a landlord and I use quickbooks pro, it does a fantastic job and it is quite affordable. The tax reports in the software are also helpful, I just print a copy and send them to my accountant.

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    I don't see how this actually hits on most of my key functionality points I suggested in the question.
    – JohnFx
    Apr 9, 2013 at 0:00

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