Today, we’re digging into the buzzy, growing world of single-family property management software.
Technology, as most people know, is a double-edged sword. When used correctly, it can optimize business processes and create more efficient systems within your business. When used incorrectly, it can tear a hole in the space-time continuum – and you don’t want that.
Industries all over the world have been going through their own tech revolutions over the last 40 years, and property management really began in the 80s with Yardi's "Basic Property Management" software. Online listings took off in the early 2000s, and now PropTech is everywhere. The use of rental property management software has never had more potential or been more complicated.
So how do you build a single-family rental tech stack that works for you and your employees?
Meet Rhianna Campbell and Kelli Segretto, two property management consultants that combine to boast more than 35 years of property management experience. Both have been through more than their share of tech rollouts. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and they’re here to share with you what a good process for building a tech stack actually looks like.
Meet the Experts:
- Kelli Segretto, Founder of K Segretto Consulting and a 20-year veteran of property management
- Rhianna Campbell, property management consultant and speaker with Proper Planning LLC, and former CEO with over 15 years of experience in the industry
What type of property management software should I choose?
First, let’s go through the steps you need to take to identify your ideal property management software choice. Things like pricing and integrations are key. But before you get into the weeds, you need a plan in place to help you identify exactly the type of software you need.
Campbell and Segretto walked us through the process.
Define the problem you want to solve with software
Technology will help you button up inefficiencies, but it can also create inefficiencies if it’s implemented for its own sake – which is one of the most common mistakes PMs make when at the top of the tech funnel.
“Start with your issues list,” says Segretto. “A lot of times what I see is a property manager will go to a convention, and they’ll meet with a lot of different vendors, and they’ll come home with five new things they want to implement tomorrow.”
There’s something of a FOMO effect with tech as it’s viewed as innately progressive, but tech is only progressive on a case-by-case basis. It will only help you so long as it solves a problem for you. You have to spend the time to identify what problems exist in your business before you start searching for solutions, lest you find yourself putting the cart before the horse.
“You really have to dive into your issues list,” Segretto continues. “Realize what your biggest need is first and choose technology that matches that need. Talk to your fellow PMs, join these mastermind groups, attend Triple Win LIVE events, network on Facebook, and talk to other people to find out what’s working for them.”
Segretto really stresses the importance of doing your homework because there is a tremendous amount of money and effort that goes into a technology implementation, and the worst thing you can do is go through all of that for little to no benefit.
The biggest mistake PMs make when trying to build a useful tech stack is just collecting as many programs as possible and trying to jump directly into a fully functional stack instead of identifying solutions and rolling them out strategically.
Below is an example of an issue list template Segretto uses in issue list meetings with her clients. If you're interested in a professional consulting session to help create an issue/action plan for your PMC, you can schedule a call with K Segretto Consulting here.
How do you compile an issue list?
“I talk to every single employee and find out what their biggest challenges are,” says Campbell.
“I love to hear directly from the people who are working face to face with residents and clients and find out what some of their challenges are in the way that they do things on a day-to-day basis. And then from there, you can really pull out some of the commonalities that everyone seems to be having.”
Campbell goes on to clarify that the issues you compile from these conversations give you a clear-cut list of questions you can ask software vendors when investigating solutions.
“You can say, ‘These are my challenges. Can you walk me through how this software can help me solve these problems?’ And that’s a more direct approach versus being sold all the features that you may not even use.”
Vet potential PM software vendors
When vetting specific technologies, Segretto suggests asking for a sandbox instead of just a demo.
“Ask for a sandbox to where you can actually play with it, manipulate it, break it, find where those weaknesses are in that software before you commit to it.”
Segretto also recommends seeking referrals to users who have used the software successfully and who have tried the software and either passed on it or gotten rid of it.
Being able to understand those different perspectives will help you see a complete picture of who the software is for, where it excels, and where it may come up short.
Integrate property management software into your current tech stack
Once you’ve identified which property management solution you want to work with, it’s time to enter the implementation phase. This is where most people’s fears reside.
“I’ve seen hundreds of businesses launch technology across the nation and helped them implement. Ones that tend to fail are the ones that are not prepared,” says Segretto.
“What I mean by not prepared is they don’t have their team’s buy-in. They don’t even know what they really want the technology for. They just feel like they want it, and they want it right now. They’re not willing to dedicate a resource or a person that’s going to own it. Without that ownership, tech stacks fail.”
The biggest parts of a successful implementation are team prep, ownership, and monitoring.
Getting buy-in from your team is critical for any implementation. The people who are using the tech need to believe in and understand it. Nothing guarantees failure more than just throwing a new service at someone.
Explaining and training are the two big words here (it’s neat that they rhyme). Make sure your team knows why you’re doing this and how to use it.
“You’re prepping your team, you’re talking about it, and you’re giving those ‘why statements’ so that everyone is on board before you launch. All of that needs to happen in your pre-implementation,” says Segretto.
Owning the tech stack
Segretto believes it’s critical to identify who in the company will own the technology rollout. A tech rollout is just like any other undertaking in your business in the sense that it needs a central point of leadership to understand and manage all its processes.
According to Segretto: “You have to pick a designated person who's going to be the owner of that technology. Then as you implement, they're going to be the expert, and they need to have time during that pre-phase to become an expert, to get the training, to know the tool so that when questions happen in your office, your team members have a point of contact in office who's going to be able to either give them the answer or find them the answer.”
Monitoring the impact of software
“It’s never set it and forget it,” says Segretto regarding the upkeep of a tech stack. “That would be cool, but that’s not reality. You need to be constantly monitoring its performance. I think that sometimes we tend to expect things will just keep working, and we don’t really do the work we need in order to monitor performance.”
Campbell believes it’s helpful to monitor the performance of tech the same way you would monitor the performance of an employee.
You need to conduct regular reviews of your tech’s performance much the same way you would of your team’s performance. Things change, companies grow, and priorities shift. The same tech implemented the same way won’t necessarily be efficient forever. Tech audits are necessary to identify places where you can further optimize on a regular basis. After all, constant improvement should exist in any good business.
“Being able to evaluate whether or not that technology is working is really important,” says Campbell. “I've seen a number of times where people buy into the tech and then don't use it. It’s important to have points in time where you check to see if you're really utilizing that software that you paid a lot of money for, and not just spending money on it every month. Create opportunities to evaluate the performance of your technology to make sure that it's keeping up with the demands and the changes of your organization.”
Best 9 Single-Family Property Management Software
So, let’s say you’ve got the plan and process all mapped out. But where do you start with actual vendors? Real estate and property management software is a booming industry with dozens of options for multifamily and single-family property management companies.
Segretto and Campbell walked us through some of the best property management software solutions available right now. These apps and platforms can help with everything from:
- Rent collection
- Work orders
- Credit card payments
- Online rent payments
- Tenant Screening
- Lease management
- Maintenance management
Here are some of the leading tech solutions that we’ve gathered through Segretto’s and Campbell’s recommendations and our own experience.
RBP by SecondNature
SecondNature pioneered the property management industry’s first-ever fully managed Resident Benefits Package. The RBP includes critical services that more and more residents are asking for – and are willing to pay for.
We support PMCs by managing services like credit building, air filter delivery, maintenance requests, renter’s insurance programs, resident rewards, and more. The RBP by SecondNature provides services that residents want, investors love, and that support you and your team.
Campbell says: “One of the things I want my clients to think about is [PMC software] is not just for our benefit. This is not just to make our lives easier and our jobs easier. It's to really be able to reposition our time so that we're focused on value creation.”
LeadSimple is, appropriately, one of the leading software solutions for professional property managers. The cloud-based solution provides a sales CRM and process automation for PMC and real estate professionals. The all-in-one solution provides lead management, workflow management, and communication management.
RentCheck is a popular property inspection platform that helps save time by supporting residents in completing inspections on their own at your residential properties.
Appfolio is another cloud-based property management software that helps automate tasks and workflows for PMCs. They support real estate and PM professionals in digitizing their business operations.
Buildium is an all-in-one property management software for both single-family homes and multifamily apartments. They provide management tools for accounting, leasing, maintenance, a mobile app, and integration services.
Process Street builds no-code process and workflow management that helps keep your team on target and makes scaling easier.
Quickbooks is the gold standard in accounting software services across industries. The software supports small and mid-sized businesses in all their accounting needs.
Loom is another software that supports all industries. It’s a simple video and screen-recording service that helps with training videos, communication, and more.
DoorLoop is a property management system that provides services like a built-in CRM, tenant portal, owner portal, and rent collection. They can accept credit cards, debit cards, and ACH payments.
Tech is a good thing. Don’t let the length of this article about implementation scare you into thinking it’s more complex than it is. As long as you’re willing to manage your tech stack and make sure your team knows how to use it, you’re going to be in good shape.
You wouldn’t bring on a new employee for no reason, so don’t add tech for no reason. Tech is a tool, and its power is determined by the person who wields it. If you’re purposeful and thorough, you can vastly improve the efficiency of your business with the ever-growing field of PropTech companies in existence.
Learn more about how Second Nature is supporting property managers with leading tech solutions and services that residents pay and stay for.