Picking the best property management software isn’t easy. The process of finding the perfect software for your property management company can be challenging with misleading advertising and high-pressured sales to overpriced platforms claiming “one size fits all.” In today’s market, this is a red flag. One size fits all doesn’t work well with clothes, and it certainly won’t work well with your property management software.
The fault in this claim is the mixed-message it creates for consumers. For instance, while the effectiveness attributed to integrating other providers with a core solution has been deemed a strong solution for property management, companies that support an “all-in-one” solution are typically providers that are financially dependent on their own offerings.
This creates chaos in industry information, with major providers (and often thought leaders) pushing out information that’s contradictory to what’s best for the industry, or what would create the most efficiency for property management companies.
Rather than take the information available by the industry for granted, it’s important that your property management team ask this important question: “What am I sacrificing to keep everything on one platform or with one provider?” The answer should be little to nothing.
Instead, you and your team should have the flexibility to fit the product to your specific needs. The properties you manage are unique and your software solution should reflect that.
Industry Approved Solutions
Consistently, property management is about managing the unit, the lease, and the resident. While this should be the basis of all property management software, it sometimes isn’t a part of the core solution. Add to this the fact that each property management company may handle these needs differently, and suddenly, the issue becomes more widespread.
So while all software should meet specific standards (e.g. unit specific management options like rent schedules or maintenance tracking), oftentimes solutions lack these needs in their offering, or worse yet, force you to buy additional modules to manage this basic operation need.
The ability to manage the basic, inherent needs of your property shouldn’t be an afterthought to your solution provider. Nor should it force you into a solution that doesn’t match your management needs. Instead, the ideal property management solution should adhere to you.
In fact, Thomas Espy—an industry thought leader in overseas broker management and an international editor of Tranio—spoke to RentecDirect on the topic. Espy mentioned what to look for and what to stay away from, when it comes to finding the perfect property management solution.
“Look for flexibility and customizability, a comprehensive approach and array of functions (i.e. a program which can “do it all” in terms of the essentials), usable on many platforms (e.g. web-based with mobile app and cloud-based data storage), tier-pricing (especially if looking for free options) with no start-up fees or annual contracts, and online database and record security.
Beware of a difficult interface coupled with poor customer service and product training. Also watch out for any sort of “one size fits all” promises; few programs are 100% comprehensive out of the box. If someone tells you it is, that’s a huge red flag.”
Epsy highlights a vital point in his recommendations—comprehensive, out of the box solutions are near impossible to comeby. Instead, you should search for solutions that tout a robust core while offering flexible integrations and options to meet your daily needs.
Even better are solutions that also offer a strong support, orientation, and customer service to maximize your efficiency on the software. A solution that accomplishes all of these things will help build a custom fit to your organization, not assume that it already fits without knowing your needs.
Avoiding Contract Stockholm Syndrome
You see it often in industry reports—property management companies, when interviewed about their software, will give it a moderate ranking and express hope around a new “coming soon” update to their software. Rarely do they ever state what they like about the software as it is now.
The answer to “coming soon” features is likely nothing, but as the operator is locked into a contract, they’d rather look on the bright side than admit they’re stuck for another 3 years with a lackluster software.
Yet, all operators know that their software is important to staying competitive. But with many providers forcing add-ons and long term contracts, for most companies, avoiding these issues seems near impossible.
The fact of the matter is that there are more solutions out there that are willing to help your business grow, and are willing to grow with it, no strings attached.
A good property management solution won’t lock you in through contracts, or worse, through data entrapment that makes it cumbersome to switch. Instead, the right solution will earn your trust instead of forcing your business, by offering simple contracts with easy outs, and no data trappings.
The Open API Difference
If there’s any feature in property management software that really embraces the idea that one size does not fit all, it’s the availability of an open API. An open API, a software intermediary that’s published publicly for free and allows programs to interact, isn’t just trendy, it’s actually pretty important to the variety of property management companies out there.
Industry trend has been to present the best-in-class solutions and package them as finite. But what about the relationships built between vendor partner and property management company? Properties with preferred partnerships lose out because the option to integrate isn’t there in a closed API.
In addition, technology is always advancing. Properties have a need to adapt to the ever changing ways of the world in order to not fall behind. Closed APIs, where a standard menu of property management services are available, make this near impossible.
What these groups fail to realize is that these standardized process do not address the intricacies and difference encountered across a range of properties. This damages the efficacy of their software, and in turn, the perception of their brand. By offering an open API, a software not only offers the most innovative solutions to come to surface, but empowers in customers the ability to have a free range of choices.
These choices not only allow the option to partner with innovative vendors, but offer the opportunity to grow and differentiate your property.
An open API keeps teams up-to-date, and if they grow tired of one vendor, there’s the flexibility to switch, just like that.
Finding Your Size
When searching for property management software, it’s important to know a number of things: what information you need regularly to help successfully run your property, what processes and methods are already in place with your property managers, and what tools would best improve their efficiency. From here, you’re part of the way to choosing an optimal software.
While there are any number of possibilities on the market, knowing the value of certain property software features (e.g. the ability to craft a solution based on needs, preferences, and budget without sacrificing a seamless platform experience), helps to prioritize and select the software that will work best for you.
In making this choice, you can avoid feeling boxed into a default vendor or having to pay fees to integrate, and instead find a solution that produces the highest ROI naturally.
In this sort of open environment, the best platforms prevail, rewarding innovative technologies in the multifamily space and offering a comprehensive customer experience for your company and your residents.