Tenant Management

The Best Free Property Management Software for Small Landlords in 2020

Most of us utilize new technology in many aspects of our daily lives. From streaming Netflix to using video doorbells and other smart home devices, it is all around us. We have upgraded our mobile phones to the latest iPhone and Android devices. And we are increasingly comfortable using voice activated assistants like Alexa and Siri. However, when it comes to our own businesses, landlords are light years behind the times in adopting any of the useful, sometimes free, property management software. Many of us are still collecting paper applications and running rent checks to the bank every month. Instead, we could use that time to focus on other parts of our business, grow our portfolios, and spend more time with our families. In this article, we present our list of the best free property management software for small landlords in 2020.

Why You Should Use Property Management Software

Many landlords and property owners have thought about converting some or all of their operations to new property technology. Unfortunately, many don’t know where to start. We have previously discussed the benefits of rental property management software for small landlords. We have also written comprehensive overviews of several of the top software products on the market today.

Whether you are a small property manager with just a handful of units, or a new landlord who has recently acquired property, property management software can be your friend, and your assistant. From advertising and applications, to tenant screening, lease signing and rent collection, there are software solutions that can help you handle these tasks quickly, efficiently and more accurately than their old analog counterparts.

Now, as landlords ourselves, we know that each dollar of rent received and expenses paid matters. This has never been as true as right now in this changing and uncertain rental market. When it comes to adopting new technology, landlords are not wrong to consider cost or the ability to try it out before committing to something new. Fortunately, many of the property management software products either have free versions or free trials. In addition to price, you should also consider the quality of features such as rent collection, tenant screening, advertising, and others.

That said, we have done the research and put together this list of the best free property management software for small landlords.

Also Read: The Best Online Rent Payment Service for Small Landlords

Also Read: The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

What is the Best Free Property Management Software?

In this analysis, we compare overall costs to determine our winners for the best free property management software. While some products do offer free options, there may be additional fees or charges that you or your tenants must pay for some important services. We have compiled and compared all these costs and have found winners (ie, lowest costs) for each of our portfolio sizes and categories:

1 Unit:Sign Up Now>
5 Units:Sign Up Now>
10 Units:Sign Up Now>
50 Units:Sign Up Now>
100 Units:Sign Up Now>
Tenant Screening:Sign Up Now>
Rent Collection:Sign Up Now>

Click here to view the complete scores

Full-Service Property Management Software

Property management software comes in many shapes and sizes. Some focus on a specific segment of property management and aim to help landlords solve that one task. Others offer full, integrated property management software solutions: from advertising, applications and screening to lease signing, rent collection and reporting. We first list products that have free property management software options in addition to their paid subscription premium plans. This is followed by those with free trial offers exclusive for landlords visiting from our website.

Rentec Direct

Rentec Direct offers property management software and tenant screening solutions for landlords and real estate professionals to manage properties, tenants, and accounts online. Subscribers can collect rent payments, post vacancies, screen applicants, collect rent, and more. Rentec Direct Rental Property Management Software Overview

Rentec Direct offers a free property management software product called Rentec Basic. It is free to landlords managing 10 or fewer properties. Rentec Basic has the following features:

  • Property & tenant accounting and record keeping
  • Online (cloud-based) file storage for leases, documents and receipts
  • Income and expense tracking and reporting
  • Option to sign up for Rentec Protect tenant screening membership or use Apply Connect for landlords with less than 6 properties.

If your portfolio is larger than 10 properties, or you would simply like to access a more robust suite of property management services, Rentec Direct has Rentec Pro and Rentec PM premium plans. You can sign up for a free two week trial here and get up and running in less than 30 minutes.

Rentec Direct is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

SparkRental

With SparkRental’s landlord app, you can easily take care of everything from advertising your space to handling payments and sending notices. SparkRental Property Management Software Overview.

SparkRental has a free property management software plan as well as Premium and Ultimate subscription levels. Using the free service, landlords still have access to SparkRental’s advertising, application and screening services, as well as lease agreements and document storage. You can even collect rent online from a single tenant.

With a paid subscription to either the Premium or Ultimate plans, landlords and property managers are able to run screening reports at a lower cost (paid by them or the applicant), can collect rent from more than one tenant, and have access to SparkRental’s communication and management features.

Create a free account at SparkRental.

SparkRental is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

Tenant Cloud

Tenant Cloud is free end-to-end property management software. They have a free “Basic” plan for DIY landlords with up to 75 units. Tenant Cloud also has a Standard plan for up to 150 units with additional features that include online rent payments, auto pay, e-signatures, and more. The Advanced plan is for DIY landlords and property managers with up to 500 units included. This gives landlords priority support, Quickbooks syncing, and property message boards along with the features included in the Basic and Standard plans.

Landlords using the Basic plan can collect rent from tenants using Stripe or PayPal. Tenants pay the 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee. However, if you want to accept unlimited free ACH payments, you must subscribe to either the Standard or Advanced plans.

With Tenant Cloud’s basic account you can manage tenants, owners, and professionals in one convenient location. Additionally, you can keep track of your rental information, accept and send payments, manage maintenance, and communicate easily at no cost. You can always upgrade for additional features or downgrade to the basic subscription at any time.

Sign up for one of the Tenant Cloud plans today for free.

Buildium

Buildium property management software supports the larger DIY landlord and property managers. The software includes tools to help with accounting and bookkeeping, lease & document management, maintenance tracking, applications and screening, and more. Learn more at our Buildium Overview.

Buildium has two paid subscription levels, Core and Pro. Pricing is based on portfolio size. Landlord Gurus readers can receive a 2-week free trial to start exploring Buildium and all their features today.

Buildium is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

Feature-specific software solutions

The following software providers do not offer full-service property management services. Instead, they focus on specific property management tasks such as rent collection and/or tenant screening, which are often cited as the most difficult or time-consuming aspects of a landlord’s job. These products have been designed specifically to meet those needs. You can start your entry into new technology for just these aspects at first. They are generally considered lower-risk, low-cost alternatives to the end-to-end services described above. Consider these free property management software programs.

RentPrep

RentPrep focuses on providing tenant screening services. They are a team of FCRA-Certified Screeners who aim to provide comprehensive tenant screening. They use real-live intelligence to help landlords identify the best possible tenants for their rental properties. RentPrep Tenant Screening Software Overview.

You can get started now with a free account and never have to pay until you request a screening report.

RentPrep is a winner in our Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

Apply Connect

Apply Connect focuses ONLY on screening reports for landlords. Using their service is simple, affordable, and paid for by prospective tenants, meaning it is free to landlords. We believe this is a great service for those landlords and property managers looking specifically for credit and background reports.

Create your account for free and start screening today.

Apply Connect is a winner in our Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

PayRent

PayRent helps property owners and managers collect rent online quickly, safely and securely. In just a few clicks, you can add your properties and get your tenants enrolled and start receiving rent payments. It is always free to sign up. The low transaction fees can be either absorbed by the landlord or passed through to your tenant. Sign up here.    

ClearNow

ClearNow is an easy-to-use and reliable service focusing on tenant screening and online rent collection. They have automated rent payment since 2000, and serve landlords and property managers of all sizes (1+ units). ClearNow Rent Collection Software Overview. If you try them from here, you can get a 2 month free trial and collect rent for free.

ClearNow is a winner in our Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

How Much Does Property Management Software Cost?

Each software product handles their pricing in different ways. For example, some may offer free or low-cost monthly subscriptions, but charge fees for rent collection or tenant screening. Others may have free property management software options for landlords with 1 unit, and then charge for additional units. So in order to compare property management software prices consistently, ie, “apples to apples”, we calculated the monthly cost per unit for each product. We did this for portfolio sizes of 1 unit, 5 units, 10 units, 50 units and 100 units to find the lowest cost options. Additional details about our scoring process as well as complete breakdowns are at the bottom of this article.

Landlords with 1 Unit

one unit cost table

Based only on total cost, Rentec Direct’s free property management software, Rentec Basic, is the lowest cost option for a landlord with one unit. There is no monthly subscription fee, and screenings are handled using Rentec Direct’s partnership with Apply Connect for up to 6 units. However, Rentec Basic does not offer rent collection capabilities. Therefore, if a landlord wanted to collect rent online, he would need to combine Rentec Basic with one of the services that offers rent collection such as PayRent. (See below for PayRent’s rent collection fees.) To do so would increase the total combined monthly cost to approximately $5 per unit.

This makes SparkRental’s Free plan our winner. For a landlord with one unit, there is no monthly subscription fee. Rent collection is just $1 per ACH and can be charged to the tenant. Tenant screening to get credit, criminal, and eviction reports costs $45 but is paid by the applicant. As a result, it is by far the lowest cost property management software in this category. And with the ability to pass rent collection and tenant screening costs to the tenant, this is an example of a truly free property management software.

Sign up for a free account at SparkRental

Landlords with 5 Units

5 unit cost table

Again, Rentec Basic is the lowest cost free property management software option if you don’t need online rent collection. Unfortunately, SparkRental’s Free plan is only for landlords with one unit. However, they do offer a Premium subscription that costs $19/month plus $36 per screening package. ACH rent collection is free.

Tenant Cloud’s Standard subscription level costs $9 per month which is less than most of the other software providers at this portfolio size. With free rent collection and access to complete property management tools and services, the combined cost of $3.39 per unit per month makes it our winner for landlords with 5 units.

Join Tenant Cloud and get a $9 bonus to your account!

Landlords with 10 Units

10 unit cost table

Rentec Basic still is lowest cost for free property management software. However, at the 10-unit level, our landlord must subscribe to a $15 screening membership in order to screen tenants. This does include one free screening report each month, but in order to take advantage, landlords would need to stagger their screenings (and vacancies and applications) to just one per month. The monthly cost per unit increases slightly and adding the use of a rent collection service increases the combined costs to over $5.25 per unit per month.

Rentec Direct’s $35/month Pro subscription is a viable alternative that offers their full suite of property management features, including free online rent collection and $15 screening reports. The total combined monthly cost per unit comes in at just over $4.00. However, the Tenant Cloud Standard edition remains the lowest cost product with an average cost per month coming in at less than $2.50 per unit. This makes it our low-cost winner for landlords with 10 units.

Join Tenant Cloud and get a $9 bonus to your account!

Landlords with 50 Units

50 unit cost table

At right around $1.75 per unit per month, Rentec Pro and Tenant Cloud Standard are in a virtual tie for lowest cost for landlords with 50 unit portfolios. Both offer full online property management features including rent collection and tenant screening. However, we again lean towards Tenant Cloud as their subscription fees remain at $9 per month compared to $55 for Rentec Pro at this level. See below for complete pricing information.

Just slightly more expensive but still coming in at less than $2 per month per unit are Rentec PM and SparkRental’s Ultimate subscriptions. If you professionally manage rental properties for other owners, Rentec PM might be more suited for you and is still less expensive than either of Buildium’s plans. SparkRental Ultimate has lower screening fees which would be more applicant-friendly in a competitive housing market.

Join Tenant Cloud and get a $9 bonus to your account!

Landlords with 100 Units

100 unit cost table

For landlords with larger portfolios, Rentec Pro and SparkRental Ultimate compete for the lowest cost property management software, both around $1.50 per unit per month. Based on a lower monthly subscription price of $39/month vs. Rentec Pro’s $90/month, we chose SparkRental Ultimate as our winner for landlords with 100 units. SparkRental also offers a discount on subscriptions if you are willing to pay annually.

Rentec PM, Tenant Cloud Standard and Tenant Cloud Advanced also offer competitive products, each less than $2 per unit per month.

Sign up for a free account at SparkRental

Other options

Tenant Cloud Basic is technically an end-to-end free property management software with $0 monthly subscription fees. However, it does not allow for ACH or EFT rent collection. The rent collection options require tenants to pay using a credit card through PayPal or Stripe. While very convenient to the tenant, the fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction makes it an expensive solution. However, there is the ability to pass this fee to the tenant, in which case landlord costs would consist only of a one-time rent collection setup fee of $1.99.

Alternatively, landlords can forego the PayPal and Stripe rent collection features and combine the remaining property management software features of Tenant Cloud Basic with one of the specific online rent collection systems such as PayRent. The monthly cost per unit would be similar to the pricing for Rentec Basic as described above. But with the possibility of passing rent collection and screening fees to tenants and applicants, both Rentec Basic and Tenant Cloud Basic can offer legitimately free property management software solutions for landlords.

Tenant Screening

If you are interested in a free property management software provider for tenant screening only, RentPrep’s background check in combination with their criminal and sex offender report and credit decision report is the best low-cost option.

Get started with a free account at RentPrep

However, for a full tenant screening report, Apply Connect our is lowest cost provider at just $28.50 per report.

Create your account for free and start screening today.

Also Read: The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

Rent Collection

If online rent collection is your only need for a property management software solution, PayRent and ClearNow both focus on this feature.

PayRent simply charges a percentage fee of 0.25% per transfer while ClearNow charges $14.95 for your first unit and then $2 for each additional. Based on an average $1500 monthly rent per unit, PayRent has a lower monthly per-unit cost for our landlords with portfolios of 1 or 5 units. However, the average cost per unit comes down for larger portfolios. ClearNow charges landlords for rent payment fees with no ability to switch that to the tenant.

PayRent, on the other hand, allows the landlord to pass those costs on to the tenant. This, in addition to its simpler cost structure, makes PayRent our winner for the best free property management software for rent collection.

Sign up for free at PayRent

Also Read: The Best Online Rent Payment Service for Small Landlords

Conclusion

It can be confusing to attempt to compare pricing between rental property software products. While some do offer free property management software options, there are often various fees and charges necessary to use some of the most important features that property management software offers.

We think the best way to compare prices is to determine which features are most important to you as a landlord. Then see what the costs are for a typical landlord with a portfolio similar to yours. We think you will find a variety of cost-effective options that allow you to leverage key features of property management software while effectively running your rental property business.

And remember, while costs are certainly an important consideration, there may be a product that offers features better suited to your needs as a landlord.


Pricing Details and Assumptions

Since most of the property management software companies offer multiple plans, we compared each plan separately to see which of their offerings would be the best option for our landlords. For example, SparkRental has Free, Premium, and Ultimate plans. Each offers unique benefits and pricing and the best one might be different based on the number of units in your portfolio.

Additionally, some software services offer multiple screening report options, and others offer expedited rent or cash payment services.

In order to make useful comparisons, we compared pricing for screening products that contain some form of:

  • Credit score
  • Criminal background report
  • Full credit report
  • Eviction report

Similarly, we only looked at the pricing for standard ACH/EFT rent collection processing. No expedited payments, and no cash payments. With the exception of one product – Tenant Cloud’s free property management software plan – we also did not include costs for accepting credit card or cash payments.

Other assumptions:

We assumed an average tenant stays in their unit for 2 years (ie, 2 one-year leases) so the screening cost per tenant is prorated over 24 months. Similarly, any one-time setup fees were amortized over 5 years. We also used an average rent of $1500 per month for any charges that are based on a percentage of rent collected.

For each property management software product, we then totaled:

  • Monthly subscription cost; plus
  • Rent collection cost, per transaction; plus
  • Screening cost report, averaged over 2 years.

This gave us the total monthly costs, regardless of whether the landlord or tenant pays. We then averaged this over the number of units in the landlord’s portfolio to determine the total monthly cost per unit. The complete scores are below:

Rentec Basic (up to 10 units, no rent collection)

# of units1510
Monthly Subscription$0.00$0.00$0.00
Screening membership (required if want to screen)$0.00$0.00$15.00
Cost per screening$28.50$28.50$0.00*
Avg screening cost per month$1.19$5.94$0.00
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$1.19$5.94$15.00
Total monthly cost per unit$1.19$1.19$1.50
*no more than 1 screening included per month

Rentec Pro

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$35.00$35.00$35.00$55.00$90.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Cost per screening$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00
Avg screening cost per month$0.63$3.13$6.25$31.25$62.50
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$35.63$38.13$41.25$86.25$152.50
Total monthly cost per unit$35.63$7.63$4.13$1.73$1.53

Rentec PM

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$40.00$40.00$40.00$65.00$100.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Cost per screening$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00
Avg screening cost per month$0.63$3.13$6.25$31.25$62.50
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$40.63$43.13$46.25$96.25$162.50
Total monthly cost per unit$40.63$8.63$4.63$1.93$1.63

For more information, see our Rentec Direct Rental Property Management Software Overview.

SparkRental Free (1 unit only)

# of units1
Monthly subscription$0.00
Rent collection$1.00
Rent collection setup$0.00
Cost per screening (3 reports)$45.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.88
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$2.88
Total monthly cost per unit$2.88

SparkRental Premium (5 units or less)

# of units15
Monthly subscription$19.00$19.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00
Rent collection setup$0.00$0.00
Cost per screening (3 reports)$36.00$36.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.50$7.50
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$20.50$26.50
Total monthly cost per unit$20.50$5.30

SparkRental Ultimate

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$39.00$39.00$39.00$39.00$39.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Rent collection setup$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Cost per screening (3 reports)$27.00$27.00$27.00$27.00$27.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.13$5.63$11.25$56.25$112.50
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$40.13$44.63$50.25$95.25$151.50
Total monthly cost per unit$40.13$8.93$5.03$1.91$1.52

For more information, see our SparkRental Property Management Software Overview.

Tenant Cloud Basic (max 75 units)

# of units151050
Monthly subscription$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Rent collection* $43.80$219.00$438.00$2,190.00
Rent collection setup$1.99$1.99$1.99$1.99
Cost per screening$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.58$7.92$15.83$79.17
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$45.42$226.95$453.87$2,269.20
Total monthly cost per unit$45.42$45.39$45.39$45.38
*based on $1500/mo rent, Stripe or PayPal only

Tenant Cloud Standard

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$9.00$9.00$9.00$9.00$9.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Rent collection setup$1.99$1.99$1.99$1.99$1.99
Cost per screening$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.58$7.92$15.83$79.17$158.33
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$10.62$16.95$24.87$88.20$167.37
Total monthly cost per unit$10.62$3.39$2.49$1.76$1.67

Tenant Cloud Advanced

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$35.00$35.00$35.00$35.00$35.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Rent collection setup$1.99$1.99$1.99$1.99$1.99
Cost per screening$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.58$7.92$15.83$79.17$158.33
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$36.62$42.95$50.87$114.20$193.37
Total monthly cost per unit$36.62$8.59$5.09$2.28$1.93

Visit Tenant Cloud for more information or to Sign up for one of the Tenant Cloud plans for free.

Buildium Core

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$47.00$47.00$47.00$78.00$156.00
Rent collection$1.00$5.00$10.00$50.00$100.00
Rent collection setup$99.00$99.00$99.00$99.00$99.00
Cost per screening$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00$15.00
Avg screening cost per month$0.63$3.13$6.25$31.25$62.50
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$50.28$56.78$64.90$160.90$320.15
Total monthly cost per unit$50.28$11.36$6.49$3.22$3.20

Buildium Pro

# of units151050100
Monthly subscription$156.00$156.00$156.00$156.00$208.00
Rent collection$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Rent collection setup$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Cost per screening$18.00$18.00$18.00$18.00$18.00
Avg screening cost per month$0.75$3.75$7.50$37.50$75.00
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$156.75$159.75$163.50$193.50$283.00
Total monthly cost per unit$156.75$31.95$16.35$3.87$2.83

For more information about Buildium’s pricing, learn more at our Buildium Overview page.

RentPrep Background Check

# of units151050100
Cost per screening (background check plus criminal/sex offender and credit decision)$32.90$32.90$32.90$32.90$32.90
Avg screening cost per month$1.37$6.85$13.71$68.54$137.08
Total monthly cost per unit$1.37$1.37$1.37$1.37$1.37

RentPrep SmartMove Full Credit Report

# of units151050100
Cost per screening (SmartMove full credit report)$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00$38.00
Avg screening cost per month$1.58$7.92$15.83$79.17$158.33
Total monthly cost per unit$1.58$1.58$1.58$1.58$1.58

For more information, see our RentPrep Tenant Screening Software Overview.

Apply Connect

# of units151050100
Cost per screening$28.50$28.50$28.50$28.50$28.50
Avg screening cost per month$1.19$5.94$11.88$59.38$118.75
Total monthly cost per unit$1.19$1.19$1.19$1.19$1.19

Learn more and Create your free account at Apply Connect today.

PayRent

# of units151050100
Rent collection*$3.75$18.75$37.50$187.50$375.00
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$3.75$18.75$37.50$187.50$375.00
Total monthly cost per unit$3.75$3.75$3.75$3.75$3.75
*0.25% per transfer, $1500/mo rent

Learn more or Sign up at PayRent.com.  

ClearNow

# of units151050100
Rent collection$14.95$22.95$32.95$112.95$212.95
Total monthly cost (landlord + tenant)$14.95$22.95$32.95$112.95$212.95
Total monthly cost per unit$14.95$4.59$3.30$2.26$2.13

For more information, see our ClearNow Rent Collection Software Overview.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash

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About Chris Lee

Chris comes from a family of real estate investors, and remembers well his childhood of helping to prepare apartments between renters. He now manages his own property, apartment complexes, and condos. He has particular insight into the issues around short-term rentals as he manages those for himself and for other owners.
View all posts by Chris Lee →

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