If there’s one thing we can say about 2020, it’s that this year doesn’t tiptoe around. 2020 is all about big change, and the world of property management software is no different. There has been massive growth and disruption in the property management software world in 2020, from companies doubling their size to others unveiling innovative new services to better carve out a corner of this incredibly quickly changing market.
We’ll take a look at five of the top players in this disruptive field, and compare them to determine which company is 2020’s best, whether for a small independent landlord or a growing business looking for a service to scale with them.
- Functions of Property Management Software
- Top 5
At its core, property management software simplifies the demands of the property business tenants and managers alike by transferring many traditional property-related actions to a digital space. Landlords can collect rent, list properties on partner sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, even manage leases and fulfill maintenance requests.1 Claims of 90% reductions in paperwork are not unheard of from blissful converts, and the ability to provide managers with a single source point for their data (and ways to safely duplicate and store it) give property management software incredible advantages over the “traditional” way of managing properties.2
Even independent landlords who may only lease out 1-2 properties enjoy the security and ease of use of property management software, which could explain why several of the companies we researched are racing up those “top 500” lists for fastest-growing new businesses.3
There are certainly more than five property management software companies, but for the purpose of this comparison, we chose five of the top software choices on the market today based on their most recently available number of existing clients: Appfolio, Tenant Cloud, Buildium, Yardi Breeze, and Rentec Direct. To compare these applications, we decided to use Capterra’s crowdsourced ratings system of 1-5 as a base. We would take Capterra’s ratings and then additionally rate each app on: number of users, cost for individual landlords (based on 2 units), cost on multi-unit landlords (based on 20 units)4, and each platform’s ability to get the most functionality out of the data it was provided. The average of these scores would ultimately provide the program’s final score. Here’s how they ranked:
Yardi Breeze might leave you breathless when you first look at the bill ($100 and $400 minimum monthly payments for residential and premier, respectively).5 But while Yardi Breeze is not the cheapest platform on the market, it does seem to be one of the easiest to use – especially for tenants. Many of the reviews we found (even the less positive ones) remarked on Yardi Breeze’s ease of tenant use.6
While many of the apps we reviewed follow the “one flat fee” model of SaaS, Buildium prefers a “pay-as-you-go” method. The company’s platform has a starter fee of $50 for providing users with “accounting, maintenance, tasks, violations, resident & board member communications, and online portals”7 but then charges extra for eLeases and other perks. It’s $165 and $460/mo. premium plans include more unlimited services.
The ability for landlords to customize the service to their needs payment-wise appears to be paying off for Buildium, which made the list of America’s fastest-growing private companies for 7 years in a row – something only 3.5% of companies on the list can say.8 While its lack of a tenant screening system and its pay-to-play system limit its functionality somewhat, it appears to be a strong contender for the small-to-midsize landlord that is focused on getting the job done affordably.
When Appfolio says they are an all-in-one solution, they aren’t kidding. The company’s features page showcases a dizzying array of options for businesses and renters alike,9 from downloadable apps for easy renter management to AI-backed assistant that responds instantly to inquiries 24/7.10 Perhaps that innovation is why they have an industry-leading 15 million users across their platforms, with an overall rating of 4.6 (tied for highest among the companies we reviewed).
All that innovation comes with a price – a $250 monthly minimum for its portfolio manager service, and a sobering $1500 monthly minimum for its “plus” service (for ultra-premium or large-scale enterprise clients). However, that flat monthly fee winds up still providing value as companies scale up their use, versus being “nickel and dimed” by other sites.11
At first glance, it appears the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies to Tenantcloud. The software service offers a “free forever” basic plan, with a number of the company’s more innovative features crossed off the list compared to its more robust “advanced” plan for $35/mo. Also, additional features like insurance, tenant screening and rental reports are an additional charge on top of that monthly fee.12
However, Tenantcloud’s “basic” package winds up being anything but. Whether you are managing two or 20 properties, the free package provides a single administrator with the power to do many of the basic tasks of property management, from maintenance requests and online billing to receiving rental applications. For independent managers just looking for help with “the basics”, Tenantcloud appears to offer them for free – just don’t expect much more. The company has the lowest Capterra rating of the softwares we reviewed, and its customer service experience seems to leave a lot to be desired. You might not be able to beat free when it comes to pricing, but free might not be all that liberating when tenants start getting frustrated with a portal that’s not working properly.
“Customer service sets us apart” is something you could probably find on the home pages of most companies, but in the case of Rentec Direct, it’s true. The company has a 4.7 rating on Capterra for customer service, which is the highest of any company on our list.13 It’s also one of the most affordable, with just $5 separating its Pro and PM packages. While there are some additional fees for things like credit card processing and tenant screening, they appear to be less on Rentec Direct than on other sites on our list. Yet despite its affordability, it ties Appfolio as the highest-rated software on our list. It might not have all the bells and whistles of Appfolio, but it definitely is doing something right by its customers.
|App||Capterra Rating||Number of Users/Units||Cost (Individual)||Cost (Business)||Features||Final Score|
While each of the platforms has its positives and negatives, they all also offer free trials of their software for managers interested in taking them out for a test-drive. That way, landlords who want to test the functionality of one finalist versus another or see how easy it is for a prospective tenant to navigate the portal can do so without risk.
Also, for many landlords (especially landlords with just one extra rental property), this might be way more than they need. Perhaps all they need is a simple rental agreement for a single occupant. If that’s the case, please check out eForms rental agreement template.
Because sometimes, all you need is a form.