If you manage a rental property, you probably already know that it can be a lot of work. Tending to home maintenance, balancing the books, and tackling marketing tasks can easily keep you busy. It’s little wonder that 88% of landlords say that renting out properties brings on some degree of stress, according to a survey conducted by home remodeling site Porch.com. Be that as it may, the vast majority still feel that the money makes it worth it.
Opting for a free property management software can help streamline your responsibilities and take some of the weight off your shoulders. Of course, not all platforms are created equal. We rounded up five standout programs that get the job done without costing you a dime. Read on for a breakdown of some of the best free property management software in 2020.
The Benefits of Using Free Property Management Software
Before we dig into what’s on the menu in terms of free property management software, it’s important to take a minute to understand why you might need it. Some landlords are happy doing the job on their own. If you’ve only got a single property under your belt, keeping up with spreadsheets and collecting rent the old-fashioned way may not be something that stresses you out all that much.
If you don’t fall in this camp, there are plenty of reasons to consider a property management platform—especially if it’s free. Begin by asking yourself if any of the following sound like you.
- You manage multiple rental properties. For some, staying current on maintenance and collecting rent from numerous tenants across multiple properties is overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re routinely dealing with pop-up maintenance requests. Property management software can lump all your properties together in one digital home so that you don’t miss a beat.
- You’re overloaded with paperwork. Owning a rental property comes with a lot of paperwork—and keeping track of it all can leave your head spinning. The right property management software can bring everything from rental agreements to background checks to receipts all under one virtual roof. Most come with a mobile app that allows you to access important documents while on the go. Digitizing your rental property business can also be helpful during tax season.
- You’re looking for an easier way to collect rent and stay on top of late payments. If waiting for paper checks and then depositing them into your bank account every month feels like a hassle, look into a property management software that allows renters to pay online. This streamlines the process and can funnel income directly into your account.
Some property management software programs stand out for their ease of use and overall functionality—and if they’re free, all the better. You may want to consider the following platforms when doing your research.
Free property management software TenantCloud packs a big punch. Landlords have access to a free listing website and can also screen tenant applicants at no charge. The free basic account—which is marketed as a free trial, but you can actually keep it for as long as you like—is designed for folks who manage up to 75 units. You have the ability to link up your PayPal or Stripe account to send and accept payments directly through the platform. Take it on the go with the app, which also allows you to manage maintenance responsibilities.
Free accounts unlock 10 notice templates, too. That means you won’t have to draft up entirely new documents for each new formal correspondence. Store them all within TenantCloud’s file manager. (The free version allows for up to 512 MB of storage space.)
Potential cons: Not surprisingly, additional perks come at a cost. TenantCloud’s upgraded memberships allow for eSignatures, CRM leads, QuickBooks syncing and more. Their paid options also open the door for more storage space and autopay functionality.
2. Rentec Direct
It isn’t heavily promoted on their website, but Rentec Direct extends their basic plan for free to landlords who manage 10 properties or less. This package includes accounting functionality that allows you to easily toggle back and forth between different properties and tenants. This includes a general ledger system that lets you view, edit, and print data specific to individual properties, tenants, and bank accounts. The idea here is to keep your numbers up to date and easy to read in the event of an IRS audit. It’s something you’ll thank yourself for if the day ever comes.
Rentec Direct’s unlimited file storage feature comes in handy, too. Each tenant and property has its own dedicated library where you can attach scanned receipts to all your expenses. The kicker is that each file is automatically backed up with encrypted cloud technology, so you won’t have to worry about a computer glitch wiping out your important documents. The free basic subscription allows you to generate property management reports, as well.
Potential cons: Depending on your needs, you may find the basic version limiting. Upgrading to Rentec Pro will set you back $90 a month, but it does go a few steps further in terms of value. Tenant screening, marketing tasks, and online rent payments are among the perks. Otherwise, the free basic plan is ideal for landlords managing fewer than 11 properties.
When it comes to free property management software (free being the operative word here), Innago is tough to beat. The platform makes it possible for landlords to create online leases, gather digital signatures, and even collect rent payments—all without charging you. Landlords can also generate customized or recurring invoices. What’s more, automated late fee settings and payment reminders are on the table, as well.
With regard to financial tracking, Innago touts dynamic reporting and exportable data. Screening new tenants is also free of charge. This includes criminal, credit, and eviction histories. (Background checks and online rent payment fees generally fall to the tenant, although landlords have the option to pick these up.)
Potential cons: Some users say that navigating through the Innago portal could be easier, but it isn’t enough to be a deal breaker.
Next up, Cozy is a popular free property management software—and with good reason. Core services are free for landlords. This means you can screen prospective tenants and even compare them side by side to help you make the best decision for your investment. Free online rental applications are part of the deal, too. Since Cozy has partnerships in place with Doorsteps and Realtor.com, you can market your listings there for free.
Meanwhile, tenants pick up the tab for things like background checks and credit reports. They’re also responsible for a service fee if they choose to pay rent with a credit or debit card. What’s more, the app makes it simple to communicate about maintenance concerns, track expenses, share documents, and collect online rent payments from an unlimited number of roommates and tenants, among other things.
Potential cons: One downside is that ACH transfers from tenants may not be as fast as you’d like, which can be a drag. You can upgrade to three-day transfers for an extra $2.99 per month. And while you can share important documents like lease agreements, Cozy isn’t able to generate templates or process eSignatures at this time.
If you’re on the hunt (get it?) for a free property management software, Hunt probably deserves a spot on your shortlist. It’s designed with the long game in mind so it’s geared heavily toward filling property vacancies. Landlords can advertise on Hunt.com for free, showcasing as many photos and property details as they like.
They can also screen potential tenants, check eviction histories, and accept online rental applications at no charge. When you do settle on tenants, Hunt is set up for online rent collection from multiple bank accounts.
Potential cons: This platform is still growing, so you can’t upload property documents, bill with automatic late fees, or establish maintenance requests just yet—but they say these features are on the way. One downside, however, is that landlords are on the hook for a $45 application fee for each applicant.
The Bottom Line
You have more than a few options when it comes to finding a free property management software that makes sense for your rental business. Let your unique needs be your guide. If, for instance, collecting rent is one of your pain points, a program that does it for free may be worth it. Another platform may be better for simplifying the marketing and application process so that you can fill vacancies quickly.
Start with where you are and take stock of what it is you’re looking for in a software program. Property management comes with plenty of stressors—the right app could be the thing that makes life a little easier.
- Porch.com. “Renters and Landlords Study”
Marianne Hayes is a small business owner and longtime freelance writer who’s been covering personal finance for nearly a decade. She specializes in small business news, budgeting, saving, and wealth management. Marianne has written for Forbes, CNBC, LendingTree, Experian, Mint, LearnVest, The Daily Beast, HuffPost, and more. When she isn’t writing about small business and finance, she’s teaching creative writing workshops and curling up with a good book. She lives in Florida with her husband, three daughters, and miniature dachshund.