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Buyer's Guide

by Taylor Short,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 24, 2017

In the traditional software model, software is installed onto the user’s computer at the property management office. However, over the last few years, Web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) has seen tremendous growth in popularity. There are four major reasons for this increased adoption of this fee-based module.

Common Features of Web-Based Property Management Software

Faster, easier set-up time. Installing software to a local computer takes time and energy. It requires knowledge of system components, data backup, maintenance, updates and repair in the event anything goes wrong.

Web-based software requires no installation. All it needs is an Internet connection. Because the vendor hosts the software for you, system upgrades and regular maintenance are taken care of for you.

Lower up-front costs. Rather than purchasing the software up front, the user pays a license fee, usually monthly. This drastically reduces upfront costs, which benefits most small business. 

Ease of access. Typically in the traditional on-premise model, applications can only be accessed by the computers with the particular software installed. Because SaaS applications are Web-based, any computer with a Web browser can access them. That means your data is easily accessible wherever you are. 

Because web-based systems are accessible via any Web browser, they're typically well-suited to be use on mobile devices. However, there are differences between using Web-based software on your mobile device and using a native mobile application. For more, see our property management mobile apps guide.

Website integration. Web-based systems simplifiy integration with the company’s website, and with that integration comes features crucial in managing the property. For example, tenants can have their own portal, allowing them to pay rent and make maintenance requests online; and vacancies can be posted on the company website and then ported directly to major locator services like Craigslist, Apartments.com or Rentals.com.  

With the advent of the SaaS model, property managers are effectively renting the system, rather than buying it. Support, upgrades and ancillary fees are all bundled into the monthly or annual subscription, which may be a set fee or may be based on the number of units and/or users.

  Perpetual License Subscription Model
Upfront costs Large Small
Recurring costs Small (upgrades) Medium
Benefits Permanent Ownership Cancel any time, no-hassle upgrades & support
Drawbacks Sunk costs, technical infrastructure required Recurring fees add up over time

Expected Benefits of Web-Based Property Management Software

  1. Real-time information availability: A cloud-based property management solution can be accessed from anywhere and at any time on various devices, such as desktops, laptops and smartphones. The solution centralizes information from multiple properties and offers full data visibility at any point in time.
  2. Automated reminders for critical dates: Remembering the rent due date can sometimes be difficult for landlords, especially if they have tens or even hundreds of rental units across multiple locations. A property management solution automates the process of capturing important milestones regarding property rent, such as rent due date, lease expiry date or renew date. It also automates sending prior reminders to both the landlord and tenants so that no one misses any critical deadlines.
  3. Multiple property management: It can be tedious to manage property-related operations, especially when there are multiple units spread across different locations. It can be challenging to manually track the progress of multiple activities, such as managing tenant records, scheduling maintenance operations, handling monthly finances and communicating with tenants on time. This is where a cloud-based property management solution comes into play. Such a solution helps landlords manage multiple sites and their periodic operations. Users can electronically record every financial transaction and have multi-channel communication with their tenants in real time.
  4. Build an online presence: These days, landlords are listing their properties on various property renting channels, such as renting.com, realtor.com and housing.com, to attract more people. Cloud-based property management software helps landlords create online listings for their property and share them on multiple third-party renting sites to reach a bigger audience.
  5. Scalability: The advantage of using any cloud-based property management solution is that they can be easily scaled up as and when your requirements change.
  6. Security: An advanced property management software ensures a high standard of security for both property and tenant data stored in the cloud. With a cloud-based solution, you don’t have to be worried about data security at all times.
  7. Additional benefits: A property management solution also helps in managing other activities, such as reporting, complying with property renting laws and regulations, managing inspection and advertising property.

Key Considerations

There are many options and feature sets in property management solutions. To narrow things down for your business, you should first analyze your basic requirements and then search for a solution that suits your business.

Here are some of the features that matter the most and the reasons why you should seriously consider them:

  • Accounting: With property management software, landlords and managers can simplify their financial operations and manage complex tasks even if they have limited accounting knowledge. Selecting a solution that also offers accounting functionality can be beneficial as this would cover the need for buying additional accounting software.
  • Property classification: This feature identifies the types of properties that the software can manage. Software can be for a single facility, commercial property, residential property, multi-unit property or even function as an association property management solution. You should ensure that the software you are planning to buy is designed and customized according to your property type.
  • Browser compatibility: Most cloud-based software is compatible with the latest browsers. But it's better to know the browser compatibility of your shortlisted software before you purchase it. Therefore, make sure that your selected software is at least compatible with the following browsers:
    • Apple Safari
    • Google Chrome
    • Internet Explorer
    • Mozilla Firefox
  • Marketing: Marketing features help property owners advertise their properties on various platforms, such as renting channels, social media platforms, property websites and housing channels. Most property management solutions allow the posting of ads directly on these platforms to improve promotion.
  • Owner portal: Owner portals allow property managers to track their properties from a single place. The portal has options to track tenants, view rent statuses, communicate with tenants, manage accounts, monitor online listings and do much more. Therefore, it’s convenient to have a dedicated online portal for property managers if they have to manage multiple properties situated at different locations.
  • Tenant portal: Similar to the owner portal, the tenant portal is a dedicated portal for tenants and allows them to pay their rent, configure profiles, submit maintenance work orders, check balances and more. The tenant portal helps streamline the vast majority of owner and tenant interactions.
  • Mobile: Modern property management solutions offer a dedicated mobile app for both owner and tenants so that they can access the service directly on their smartphones. Some of the features include updating property information, uploading service images, communicating information and sending alert notifications. This functionality enables property managers to perform their operations even when they are away from their regular system.

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