There are many free property management website and software tools available out on the web and for download that may seem like a good deal, but are they really free and safe to use? As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. In this post we will examine several reasons why free may or may not be good for your business.
There is always a risk of any company going out of business, especially in today's economy. For a company that is offering something for free and doesn't have a clear path to making money to add new features and maintain the software, it's worth your time to think if they will be around for the length of your business needs. If they suddenly do shut down you may experience costs such as loss of data, reprinting of paper advertisements and signs that you may have printed to market your business and rental properties, and having to start the process all over again to find a new property management software provider.
When using a free tool, it can be tough to know just how reputable it is and if it provides enough security to keep your business safe. There are also different considerations that you need to be aware of for free software that you download and websites that you use. Downloaded software can sometimes contain viruses that can infect your computer and lead to serious problems. It is important to always have anti-virus software enabled and updated to prevent you from becoming infected, and this includes both the Windows and Mac. If you use a free website that doesn't maintain strong security, encrypts your data, and applies regular software patches and updates, you may risk infection by both viruses and having your password and data compromised. For the average person understanding computer security can be a complex task so sticking with a tried and true solution can be the safer approach.
Many free tools are financially supported through advertising, which can be good and bad. If advertising is both minimal and effective a free tool can be a good choice for a new or smaller property manager to get a presence on the Internet. This model provides an alternative for paid software by creating revenue for its owners by displaying pop up ads and sometimes selling information collected from people who use the website, for example demographics, location, and patterns of use. Some of the more reputable advertising-supported websites do provide usable tools and we suggest that if you choose to use them that you do your homework and read reviews to get a good understanding of how they work. Finding objective third-party reviews on the Internet can be a big help to understand what others think about the software you are considering for your business.
If you are a small property manager or just starting your business, free property management software may be the right fit, especially if you are on a tight budget. As long as you do your research and make sure that the software is reputable, by all means go ahead and use it. If you are growing in size and want to maintain a great customer experience and have the security of knowing that technical support will be there when you need it, a paid approach may be best.