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Congratulations, you’re a real estate investor! Now what? Will specialized real estate investment software help you be more successful? Find out some of the software you need to use as an investor and can make your job a lot easier.
Why Do I Need Real Estate Software as an Investor?
Generally, computer automation makes everyday processes easier, faster, and more efficient. While that’s certainly true with real estate investing, you don’t need to go crazy purchasing expensive software programs if you’re just starting out. There are cloud-based software solutions that cost very little or are free. And you may not need anything more than everyday programs, like an Excel spreadsheet if you’re managing your first property investment. This article takes a look at some of the more popular software solutions among real estate investors.
How to Choose the Software You Need
As a serious real estate investor, you’ll likely find yourself regularly needing to do things like tracking expenses and screening tenants. But you can usually get software to help you. In fact, there are software programs to help you:
- Find and analyze deals
- Estimate after repair value (ARV) using comps (including rental comps if you are buying and holding)
- Track income and expenses and create financial documents for taxes
- Pre-screen and place tenants, collect rent, and manage maintenance issues
- Manage contacts and marketing outreach via a customer relationship manager (CRM)
The software you need, in large part, depends on your investing strategy. If you’re going to buy and hold rentals, tenant screening and income/expense tracking are key. If you’re flipping, deal analysis software that helps you quickly decide on which properties to make an offer is ideal. If you’re a wholesaler, you need a good CRM system, as well as deal analysis software.
Software for Real Estate Investments Analysis
If you’re actively buying and holding or flipping properties, the key to success is finding possible deals as soon as they’re available and then quickly analyzing their potential.
With access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a real estate agent is an excellent resource for finding deals. They can easily set up a search that automatically emails you properties matching your target criteria as soon as they hit the market. An agent can run sales and rental comps for you as well. While your agent will provide listings and opportunities, you need to quickly and competently analyze them.
There is a software developed for real estate investors that helps you find and analyze deals by collating and enhancing MLS data. Some have affordable annual or monthly access fees. Others are geared for commercial investors who do a lot of business and are quite expensive.
When I first started out, I used Privy to find and analyze potential deals. Privy is like having 24/7 access to an MLS database that is customized for investors. The software offers property history, comps, neighborhood investor activity, and other pertinent information that you’d have to dig for from many other sources.
At $97 a month ($930 a year), it provided me with detailed information in one place, and significantly reduced my research and analysis time. That meant I could look at more deals and make better decisions faster. I would still be using that service if I wasn’t an agent with unlimited MLS access, which I already pay for as part of my realtor dues.
RealData’s software helps you evaluate potential real estate investments at an in-depth financial level. You’re also able to quickly compare specific opportunities against each other in terms of key return measures like IRR, PV and cash on cash.
The software allows you to project operation expenses, debt payments and income on a short-term or long-term basis. RealData offers software bundles ranging from $209-$1,499.
RehabValuator is a very powerful and comprehensive deal analysis software platform. It has built-in calculators useful for specific deal analysis based on the three most common real estate investment strategies: wholesaling, rehabbing to flip, or rehabbing to rent.
Input the specifics you know, and RehabValuator analyzes the deal, calculating your maximum offer or ceiling acquisition price. It stores a mini-accounting system for each project and has some sales presentation features, including a deal marketing flyer for wholesalers. RehabValuator costs $49/month for one user with unlimited usage of all capabilities, but there is also a free version with lighter features.
Property Evaluator is an Apple app that’s extremely user-friendly. You can evaluate properties by quickly accessing the three key financials necessary for comparing multiple properties: cap rate, ROI (return on investment), and cash flow. You can run “what if” scenarios and there’s a free version you can try out to see if you want to upgrade to the $19.99 or $49.99 levels.
Roofstock Cloudhouse offers a free program that helps investors project the financial performance of single-family rental homes. Using their rental property calculator, you can enter the address and it forecasts potential return including cap rate, cash flow, cash-on-cash return, annualized return and gross yield. You can customize the forecast based on adjustments to your down payment, holding period and rental income.
Landlord’s Cash Flow Analyzer
Landlord’s Cash Flow Analyzer is a program that runs on top of Excel, which helps you choose the right properties to acquire by calculating key financial benchmark formula. Input a property’s financial information and the real estate investment software automatically calculates cash flow and rates-of-return every year up to 20 years.
You can also “solve backwards” for the optimal offer price, do an IRA investment comparison, or create reports for limited/private-money partners. There’s a version of the software specifically geared for flippers. Prices start at $99.95.
TheAnalyst Pro is a software program for commercial real estate investors. At $599 a year, it’s pricey for individual investors but is very comprehensive for the price if you do a lot of commercial deals.
The software runs sophisticated financial analysis projecting valuations, cash flow analysis and provides property-specific reports that include risk analysis, demographic details, and automatic calculations of CAP rate, IRR, GRM, and NPV. For institutional users, there are investment and fund management tools. There’s also a 1031 property exchange calculator which is helpful for individual and corporate commercial real estate investors.
Rental Property Portfolio Management Software
Placing a good tenant who pays rent on time, takes care of your property and is a responsible community member is one of the most important aspects of being a successful buy-and-hold real estate investor. A poorly selected tenant will cost you money in rent non-payment, court fees and expensive property repairs when they leave. Thankfully there is software that helps you prescreen applicants (although you still need to do your own due diligence) and keep track of your rental property performance.
TurboTenant is the software I currently use to screen tenants for my rentals. I set up the rental property details in their platform and the system generates an application link I can email to prospective tenants. When they apply, TurboTenant prescreens them (credit, rental history, income and other parameters) and sends me a report with an automated recommendation as to whether to accept or deny the application.
Using an independent system ensures I apply the same screening criteria to all applicants (which helps avoid possible discrimination) and I never have the responsibility of knowing a prospective tenant’s social security number. The tenants pay the application fee directly during the online application process, so there’s no cost to landlords to use the basic product. TurboTenant’s software also allows you to create leases and manage the tenant placement process online.
Stessa is a cloud-based solution, created and managed by Roofstock, that helps investors keep on top of the financial aspects of rental property management. The software allows you to automate your income and expense tracking, evaluate specific property performance, organize and store all your real estate documents, track unlimited properties and export financial documents for tax preparation.
This program is great for first-time investors and provides lots of helpful educational articles to get you up to speed. It’s absolutely free — and very comprehensive for a free service — so even if a professional property management firm is tracking the financials for you, you can use Stessa to keep everything in one place and track personal expenses specific to each property.
Rentometer is a great tool to figure out how much rent your specific property should provide. Enter the address and specifics (like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms), and Rentometer provides local comps to help you make sure you’re not limiting your tenant pool by asking too much or undercharging and leaving money on the table. Rentometer is free for the first seven days when you sign up, with plans starting at $79 a year.
Avail.co is part of the realtor.com network and helps you screen prospective tenants, manage the placement process and set the rent on your properties. Avail conducts income verification, background checks, rental history and other screening criteria. The portal also allows you to create rental leases for online signing and one place document storage.
Feeding from MLS data, you can access the local rental market data and trends, find benchmarks of comparable units and run a rent estimate report. Once tenanted, you can use Avail.co to track rent collection and other financials. You can also set up your account to allow tenants to request maintenance online, so Avail.co becomes a place where you can property manage as well. It’s free to sign up and then you can upgrade after seven days.
Simplifyem is another multi-purpose and robust software package. Extremely easy to set up and user-friendly, Simplifyem automates many property management processes in one portal, including tenant and lease management, tenant screening, online payments, income and expense tracking, maintenance requests, and unlimited file and document storage.
It’s a good choice for the smaller investor or newbie with a lot of training videos. Simplifyem offers customer support for everyone involved (tenants, owners and vendors) via text, email or phone. You can create a free account to test-drive the software and it’s affordable at $25/month for up to 10 units, or $100 a month for 100 units.
Buildium combines property management and accounting in one place, and works well for all types of rentals. It is easy to use, and includes online expense payouts, rent collection, maintenance request tracking, tenant screening and application processing, document storage, and a free customizable website for rental listings. And Buildium makes it easy for you to make sure tenants purchase renters’ insurance because they can do so right on the site. The basic cost is $50 per rental per month, and there are additional fees for add-on services such as electronic lease creation.
Financial and Accounting Software
If you have a lot of investment properties, you’ll need a way to keep track of all of your cash flow. While you can use an excel spreadsheet, there are lots of cloud software that you can integrate with other software to make your accounting easier. And it can be useful come tax time when you’ll need to report your gains and losses.
AppFolio is a cloud-based property management portal for all types of rentals, including single-family, student housing, multi-family and even commercial. The software allows you to automate all property management financials, which makes accounting, tax preparation, maintenance and reporting very easy.
With a minimum spend of $280 a month, AppFolio is rather pricey if you only have a few properties. If you’re managing a portfolio of many properties, pricing begins at $1.40 a month per property.
Yardi is a complete real estate management solution with software for property management, accounting, marketing, leasing, market intelligence, energy management, end-to-end procurement, business intelligence, learning management and more. You can choose from multiple options for all portfolio types and sizes, from large multinational enterprises to small and midsize holdings.
You can access everything with Yardi Breeze for $100 per month for residential portfolios and associations, or $200 per month minimum charge for commercial or mixed portfolios.
ResMan is a software solution for investors who manage sizeable rental portfolios. It’s a one-stop-shop for financial projections and robust accounting, as well as property management — from tenant placement to maintenance tracking. It offers some nice features like SMS texting for rental residents and staff.
If you’re scaling a rental property business quickly (adding doors and complexity) and want to set up a system that does it all, ResMan is worth a look. The pricing is complex and tailored individually so it’s best to set up a demo and see what features make the most sense for your business.
Quickbooks is a robust and time-tested program for tracking small business operations. (Quicken is good for personal expenses but can’t do balance sheets or profit/loss reports.) It’s also extremely accountant-friendly (most accountants currently use a version of it) so you can create an accountant’s copy of your books that makes your tax preparation easy and cost-efficient.
There are several levels of Quickbook membership, and you can step up as your business grows. For example, the lower tier doesn’t track inventory or run payroll which you don’t need anyway when you’re starting out. You can set up an account on Quickbooks Online Essential for $20/month or use the desktop version for a one-time setup fee of $299. Both options allow up to three users at that pricing.
CRM for Real Estate Investors
Managing your leads, marketing funnels and calendar is crucial if you want to grow your real estate investing side-hustle into a career. Unless you’re scaling your business quickly and substantially, it may not make sense to spend money loading up on specialized real estate investing software. You can manage your calendar and contacts via Google for free, and with one hosting account on WordPress, you can run, modify, and optimize multiple websites tracking leads, mailing lists, site traffic, PPC and managing content outreach.
That being said, there are tons of CRMs to choose from (too many to review for this article). The CRMs below are specially designed for real estate investors.
Realeflow is a sophisticated lead source and CRM. You can run fresh lead lists on potential buyers — such as absentee owners and potential sellers, probate cases or cash buyers. The software automatically pulls public records and property history, then populates lead lists. The CRM function keeps all your leads organized while giving you access to targeted marketing materials, starting at $75/month.
RealNex is an all-in-one shop software package that combines real estate analytics with CRM software. You can customize marketing efforts, lead management and analytics within the same platform. It also includes property analysis, transaction management, sophisticated analytic tools, and even presentation preparation.
As a Mac user, I like that it’s compatible with Mac, Windows and most mobile devices. It costs $149 a month with an annual commitment.
Propstream is a combination of research and CRM software that’s extremely user-friendly. You enter any property address and MLS comps are served up along with the owner’s contact information, thanks to the built-in skip trace program. The software helps investors research properties, identify leads and reach out to those leads with customizable marketing materials. There’s a seven-day free trial and is $99 a month after, with additional add-ons.
How to Find the Best Real Estate Investment Software
There are many software solutions on the market for real estate investors. We touched on a few popular ones but there are many more available. While there are processes you can automate with basic computer programs like Excel, some of these programs developed for real estate investors add great value for little spend. There are also sophisticated programs if you’re a tech geek and/or managing a large portfolio of rental properties.
Every investor should choose software based on their investment strategy, growth goals, current budget and personal strengths and desires. The best approach is to determine exactly what processes you’d like to automate. Doing so can save you time, money and propel your business forward. Then take a more in-depth look at every software solution that’s available to fit those needs and test drive one or two. You’ll quickly discover what works best for you.