Real estate is an excellent way for you to make money. Rental real estate in particular has an amazing potential for passive income; work hard, acquire enough properties, and watch the rental dollars flow in.
But despite tons of real estate gurus touting the “passive income as you sip piña coladas on the beach” potential of real estate investing, you may soon find yourself in over your head with everything you need to do to keep your business running well.
So how do you manage your growing real estate empire without burning out and giving up?
You have two choices: hire a property manager or be your own landlord and manage the property yourself.
Hiring a property manager takes a lot of work off you, but costs you a lot of your profits. Plus, you’ll miss out on opportunities to learn about several aspects of property management.
So that leaves you with 1 option: managing your own property.
As your own landlord, you’ll be in charge of everything: screening new tenants, dealing with lease contracts, rent collection, bookkeeping, maintenance, and anything else that comes up.
Whew, sounds like a lot of responsibility for one person.
But with a good property management software program, you can complete most or all of these tasks in one place and save tons of time while you do it.
Time that can go back into growing your business.
Buildium is one of these property management software programs; it’s touted by many as one of the best software programs on the market.
Does it live up to the hype?
Get the full details in our Buildium review below.
Our Building Review
What is Buildium?
Buildium is a property management software program created in 2004 by Buildium LLC. Buildium LLC was founded by two landlords named Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulos.
Michael and Dimitris saw that back in the early 2000’s, there wasn’t a good app or program at the time that streamlined property management. Thus, they founded Buildium LLC and created the eponymous software program to address this problem.
Now, it’s grown to be able to provide all sorts of services that make managing your properties and succeeding in real estate a lot easier. More on these features next.
Builidum’s goal is to streamline the property management process to the greatest degree possible. To accomplish this goal, it offers numerous features in several areas of property management.
Leasing to Tenants
Buildium’s abilities in the area of leasing are impressive. You can use Buildium to automatically list the rental property on various high-profile websites such as Trulia, Zillow, and Craigslist.
On top of that, Buildium can be used to accept tenant applications and screen those tenants. You can use its screening abilities to see reports and history for credit, evictions, and criminal record for every tenant that applies; very useful for determining which tenants you want residing in your rental property.
Naturally, Buildium supports electronic leases, making the leasing process easier and potentially cheaper on both sides of the renting equation.
Don’t have a website? Of course Buildium is helpful here, too. It’ll help you build your own website for your real estate business; this is great for marketing, giving both current and prospective tenants as well as other real estate businesses a central area online to access more information about you and your properties.
All the aspects of managing rental real estate operations are moving online, and Buildium is a leader in this area. Buildium provides an online portal where tenants can pay rent, view their lease, look at other documents, and submit maintenance requests. You can also use this portal for your side of all these functions.
You can even view all your financial reporting in this screen from either the web or from a mobile device for maximum convenience.
But back to maintenance requests for a second. Tenants love maintenance requests because they’re free repairs they don’t have to think about, so you’ll inevitably receive a lot.
You can complete the entire process right on Buildium. When a tenant submits a request in Buildium, you can generate a work order in Buildium based off their request and send it directly to a vendor to take care of it, all without ever leaving the Buildium dashboard.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
Nobody likes to do the bookkeeping and accounting, but it’s a fundamental part of business success. Fortunately, Buildium is ready to take on your accounting and bookkeeping; it’s able to perform the accounting and financial reporting for your properties as well as your company as a whole. There are some 50 different reports that Buildium can generate for you for your own purposes and for others.
In addition, Buildium handles rent payments and bills. Tenants get to choose a preferred payment method and then pay their rent via an online portal. Once a tenant pays their rent, money is withdrawn from their chosen payment method and direct deposited into your account.
The bookkeeping side of rent collection is handled as well: payments flow directly to the general ledger, performing the tedious bookkeeping tasks so you don’t have to.
All in all, the bulk of your bookkeeping tasks will involve rent, meaning Buildium can automate most of your bookkeeping tasks.
Buildium pricing depends on the amount of units you’re managing. In addition, they offer two levels of subscription: their Core plan (the standard plan), and their more comprehensive Pro plan.
Buildium Core starts at $47 per month for 1-20 properties. After that, pricing seems to go up in arbitrary increments; it ends at 141 – 150 units for $234 per month. Buildium Core does not allow you to exceed 150 properties.
For your convenience, they do have a slider/calculator on their pricing page that you can use to see what you’d pay monthly if you manage X amount of units.
There are several other fees and charges to be aware of with Buildium Core, though. These fees can add up, so factor them into your business budget when considering Buildium as your property management software.
Online Payment Fees
Buildium charges several processing/transfer fees:
- $1.00 per incoming EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) transaction
- $0.50 per outgoing EFT transaction
- 95% per credit card transaction
Business Bank Account Setup
Buildium charges you $99 per business bank account your set up.
For mobile inspections, you’ll pay a $99 setup fee at the start. From there, it’s $40 per month for up to 20 properties.
Each electronic lease you create will cost you $5.
Each tenant screening you perform will cost you $15. These are only basic screenings, meaning the applicant has to answer several questions regarding credit, criminal history, and eviction history.
Buildium Pro starts at $156 per month for 50 properties and $208 per month for 100 properties. It maxes out at $5,200 per month for up to 5,000 properties. You unfortunately can’t exceed 5,000, although we suspect you won’t acquire that many properties in your real estate career unless you become a billionaire.
Buildium Pro has all the features of the Core plan, but with some important enhancements and cool new features.
Buildium Pro doesn’t charge anything for incoming EFT transfers. They do still charge the same $0.50 per outgoing EFT transfer and 2.95% per credit card transaction, though.
Business Bank Account Setup
Buildium lets you set up 5 business bank accounts for free. They don’t state how much 6th and subsequent business bank accounts cost, but hopefully, you won’t need more than 5 until you’re making great real estate money.
Mobile inspections are completely free with the Buildium Pro plan.
Buildium Pro electronic leases still cost $5 each, but you get 30 free leases per month. That’s 30 tenants that you can maintain a convenient electronic lease for without paying a penny.
Basic tenant screening is free with a Buildium Pro subscription. However, you also have the option of paying for a premium screening, each of which costs $18.
What is a premium screening, you ask?
Well, it doesn’t involve the applicant. See, during basic screenings, the applicant has to provide all their sensitive information to ensure security. This takes more time, but it saves the applicant from taking a credit score hit from a hard inquiry.
Premium screening performs a hard inquiry, and it also pulls eviction and criminal record reports. The result is less applicant involvement and a fast yet complete picture of the applicant’s qualifications for renting.
Your business first has to go through a one-time application process to perform premium screenings, but the time savings will be worth it. Plus, you can charge the tenant a fee directly in Buildium for a premium screening to cover your $18 expense.
Buildium offers additional features a la carte that are meant to save you money and eliminate headaches, all for a price.
Buildium offers you the ability to require renter’s insurance, as stated earlier. This service is completely free for you to use; policies that tenants can purchase from MSI directly through Buildium start as low as $12 per month, something you can advertise to your tenants.
Remote Check Printing
Tired of writing checks and mailing them by hand? You can pay extra to have Buildium print and mail checks for you. There is an initial $30 setup fee, then you must pay $0.80 per check printed and sent. If you can afford it, this is a huge time saver.
More automation. For $30 per month, Buildium can automate showing scheduling, showing follow-up, and all other aspects of prospective tenant management.
You can also use Buildium to e-file 1099s for both property owners and vendors you might be paying. E-filing services cost $25 per batch + $3 per form. Might sound steep, but e-filing 1099s makes tax time much easier.
Like the remote check printing extra, you can have Buildium print and mail resident and owner documents for you to take more of those tedious tasks off your hands. This services costs $0.80 for a single page mailing, and $0.15 for each additional page in one mailing.
Quick example if that’s not clear: a 3-page mailing will cost $1.10. That’s $0.80 for the first page, plus $0.15 for the second page, plus $0.15 for the third page.
Does Buildium Have a Free Trial?
Before we go any further, you should know that yes, Buildium does have a free trial that is 15 days long. This free trial is available for both their Core and Pro subscription plans.
You can get a free trial of their software within 30 seconds by providing them your first and last name as well as your email address. Possibly one of the simplest free trials to obtain.
As you can tell, Buildium seems like a great program. Let’s look at its many benefits.
Everything can be managed from one convenient place. That itself is a huge benefit in terms of time. Some services cost extra, but they bring about more convenience for your business.
Accounting is only exciting to accountants, and even that’s doubtful. Buildium saves you time and headache during the whole year (not just during tax season) with its great automated accounting features.
Tons of Reporting Tools
Buildium lets you generate an impressive 50 different kinds of reports. You’ll have a report for nearly anything your business needs.
Buildium offers two plans to increase access for property managers that want Buildium. “Smaller” (less than 150 properties) operations might find Core to be great, while giant real estate empires will reap great benefits by shelling out more for the Pro plan.
As mentioned above, Buildium offers you a 15-day free trial to orient yourself with the program and see if you like it.
It’s important to note that they don’t require you to even enter a credit card. Most subscription-based services of any kind do require a credit card for free trials so they can start charging you the moment that trial period is over.
Although done for convenience, many a customer of subscription services has forgotten to cancel their subscription before the trial period, resulting in a large credit card charge they didn’t want.
Disputing this charge usually fails, as companies write clauses into their agreements stating that subscription payments are final.
Buildium stands out by only requiring your name and email address, rather than a credit card number; not only is the free trial completely risk-free, but Buildium appears more trustworthy by doing everything they can to only charge you when you want their product.
Buildium seems very promising, containing plenty of features and benefits. But there are some areas where Buildium is lacking; most of these have to do with the financial side of things.
While Buildium has plenty of solid features for managing a real estate business, there are a ton of fees to keep track of. These can add up quickly for any real estate business, but especially a smaller one that doesn’t have a massive budget.
Cost-Inefficient for Smaller Businesses
From a cost efficiency perspective Buildium just isn’t that great an option for smaller businesses. Large real estate businesses can afford the relatively high pricing, but smaller businesses might struggle to pay the monthly bill, especially after factoring in the aforementioned fees and charges.
The Verdict: Should You Use Buildium as Your Property Management Software?
All in all, Buildium is an excellent property management software program. It’s great for landlords looking to move all their property management tasks into one convenient online location. Everything from leasing, to bookkeeping, to managing tenants and properties and more is all located on Buildium.
However, it’s not for everybody. All these features come at a higher price. Compared to rivals, Builidum is a bit more expensive.
But there are also the fees. They do seem to nickel-and-dime you for various additional services, although they probably can’t help it for some of them.
Larger landlords should be able to cover Buildium’s monthly subscription cost as well as all the fees. They could easily write them off as a business expense, too.
As for smaller landlords, these fees and the pricing will take up much more of their budget, even if they do write off Buildium as a business expense. If you’re a smaller landlord, you might have to seek out cheaper property management software programs. General accounting software programs like Quickbooks could work almost as well, given your property management business won’t be complex enough to require tons of advanced, real estate-specific features.
Don’t think Buildium is for you because you’re a smaller landlord? Check out our list of the best property management software programs on the market. You’re bound to find a good alternative there.
That being said, Buildium does let you try it free for 15 days without trying to reel you in by requiring you to put down a credit card. There’s no risk, so you may as well try it to see if it works well for your business (or at least get some temporary free property management software).
So yes, Buildium is great. If you can afford it.