Maintaining an overview of various investment properties and their performance can get out of hand quickly because of steadily increasing paperwork.
I am saying this out of my experience because of four commercial properties I need to oversee.
For these use cases that are rather relevant to long-term buy-and-hold real estate investors, several software solutions on the market can streamline investment performance information, accounting needs, and overall property management.
At least when it comes to performance and accounting needs, Stessa may have crossed your path, and in today’s article, I will take a closer look at this completely free software product.
You will learn…
…what it is
…about the features
…whether it can collect rent and work with Quickbooks
…if it can also manage Airbnbs
…about its safety
…if it is really free and how they make their money
…and about eight alternatives and direct competitors
What Is the Stessa App?
Stessa is an automated and cloud-based bookkeeping software for buy-and-hold real estate investors that own various rental properties.
The Stessa App is also available for mobile devices such as Android and iPhone.
As a real estate professional such as an investor, you usually find out how you are doing once a year; that is when you need to do your taxes.
And once you own several rental properties, your paperwork may feel like it will explode. Secondly, it’s hard to know month to month how you are actually doing because of many different inputs and data coming in. Sorting this out can take a lot of time.
It tracks income and expenses and helps real estate investors understand how they are doing on a month-to-month basis. The software’s main focus is on rental property owners.
It is ideal when you have more than two rental properties. Then the software can help you grow without bringing on additional people to your team.
Stessa brings together performance metrics, reporting, everything financial, and the paper trail that comes in with investing. So they are all accessible from one place.
The software can also sync your bank and mortgage accounts.
But the heart of the software is tracking income and expenses, including rent payments, all expenses, mortgage payments, mortgage balances, and cutbacks.
There is also a full rent-roll feature where you can put in all the expiration dates. This feature will notify you automatically via emails and alerts once an expiration is approaching.
The reporting feature gives you sophisticated financial reporting tailored to real estate.
Stessa Features at a Glance
To summarize the earlier mentioned features from the prior section, I put them together in one list, so you have them all at a glance.
- Automated income and expense tracking
- Real-time performance insights
- Personalized recommendations and custom alerts based on your portfolio and investment strategy
- Document management from one place
- Bank and mortgage account synchronization
- Rent roll with automatic notifications of expiration dates
- Tax prep with email packages you can send out to your CPA with all necessary links
- Mobile app for Android and iPhone with receipt scanning functionality
- Team collaboration with customizable visibility (keeping partners of different deals separate)
- Data integration from property managers
- Works for both short-term and long-term rentals
- Machine-learning based categorization of transactions
- Third-party software integration with Propertware or AppFolio (property management software)
- Market rent reports
Does Stessa Collect Rent?
Stessa itself doesn’t collect rent. However, it monitors the rent collection provided your bank accounts are synced with the software.
It indirectly collects rent through the third-party software integration of property management software Propertyware and AppFolio.
The latter two can collect rent for your tenants.
Does Stessa Work With Quickbooks?
Quickbooks is a competitor software product to Stessa, and thus by definition, it doesn’t work with Stessa.
Both have significant differences in terms of functionality. While Quickbooks is an extensive and more generic accounting software, Stessa is tailored to the use case of real estate buy and hold investors.
In a later section of this article, I will go more in-depth into the key differences.
Stessa for Short-Term Rentals Such as Airbnb?
With Stessa, you can track both expenses for long-term and short-term rentals such as Airbnb.
The software features an Airbnb file importer to pull all your short-term rental income and expense data.
You will then need to use Stessa’s short-term rental categories to get an overview of your investment performance.
To set this up in Stessa you will need to:
- Get your Airbnb transaction history file in CSV format and download it.
- Change the rent roll to “Short-Term Rental”.
- Put in the expected monthly operating expenses.
- Connect the respective bank accounts where you receive the short-term rental deposits
You can learn more in-depth about how all this is done here.
Is Stessa Safe to Use?
Stessa uses several industry standards to maintain a high level of security for its platform. So it can be considered safe to use.
It uses multi-layer key management encryption and multi-factor authentication.
In the rare case that suspicious activity occurs, you get notified immediately of changes.
These credentials aren’t stored in Stessa’s database.
Finally, they regularly scan their website and application for vulnerabilities and malware via Norton/Symantec.
Is Stessa Really Free? If Yes, How Does Stessa Make Money?
Stessa is really free except for the market rent report feature mentioned above.
Free tools can often be used as a marketing method. Just take a look at all the free apps that come with Google, but the real money they make with Google Ads.
It is a strategy that is more and more applied and, in a smaller version, is what Stessa is doing.
The company provides a nice free-to-use tool, but the actual money is made by referrals to service providers that real estate investors often need, such as insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and others.
I assume the smaller portion of income comes from the rent report or rent estimate feature.
There is not much to say about Stessa’s pricing. The core features are all free. Only the rent estimate service costs $19.99 per report.
So the only cost that may occur is when you use their rent estimation service.
Referral fees to real estate-related service providers will be paid via commission on the backend by the providers.
Stessa vs. Quickbooks
When we compare Quickbooks with Stessa, you will easily understand that Quickbooks is much more generic accounting software with various features.
As earlier mentioned, it is not tailored to the use case of real estate investors.
Accounting is just one of the products offered by Quickbooks. They also offer other software products for inventory management, payments, payroll, and time tracking.
In contrast to Stessa, the Quickbooks accounting software doesn’t come free, and monthly plans are priced between $12.50 and $90.
Since it’s not tailored to real estate professionals such as investors, you can expect a steeper learning curve to adapt the software to your individual needs.
You can learn more about Quickbooks here.
Stessa vs. Wave
Wave, in a sense, is direct competition to Stessa in terms of pricing because it is also completely free to use.
But the differences are still there. It is also a more generic accounting software, and you could call it Stessa’s brother in terms of functionality. Just instead of being tailored to real estate investors, it’s generic.
It includes the following features:
- Income and expense tracking
- Team collaboration
- A double-entry system
- Reports on overdue invoices and bills, profit and loss, and cash flow
- Bank and credit card connections
- Management of multiple businesses from one account
- Performance metrics
You can check out Wave here.
Stessa vs. Rental Hero
With Rental Hero, we come much more into a direct competition situation with Stessa.
Because apart from the fact that it’s not free, it basically does the same things as Stessa.
However, the difference I could find is a mobile app, data integration for property managers, machine learning-based categorization of transactions, market rent reports, and third-party integrations with property management software.
However, they lack about 40% of Stessa’s additional features. The core feature, which is income and expense tracking and tax preparation, is provided.
But overall, I would consider them the little brother that charges $9.95 monthly, which is billed annually for $119.
You can learn more about Rental Hero here.
Stessa vs. Cozy
You may have missed it, but Cozy is now part of apartments.com and can’t be compared directly with Stessa.
Why is that?
Because it is now a much larger property management software and not only a rental property bookkeeping software like Stessa.
Cozy’s former functionality can now be found as part of the apartments.com rental manager tool.
It includes the following features:
- Property listings
- Rental application management
- Tenant screening and background checks
- Online lease agreement creations
- Rent payment collection
- Resident management (document management)
- Expense tracking
- Property maintenance management
So we could compare Stessa only to the Rental Managers expense tracking and resident management feature.
Where it gets a bit dangerous for Stessa is that all the features besides the background checks are also free. One major part of the money they make is with rental property listing advertising.
You can check out Cozy/ the Rental Manager here.
Stessa vs. Buildium
Buildium is also a large property management and accounting suite similar to apartments.com. Comparing Stessa with it is, therefore, also challenging.
It features three software components: property accounting, business operations, and leasing.
The component that we can compare to Stessa is property accounting. In contrast to Stessa, it has native rental collection features and a feature that allows you to do 1099 eFiling.
Another key difference is its monthly pricing. There is no free version available and pricing is between $50 and $460 per month.
You can learn more about Buildium here.
Stessa vs. Avail
In contrast to Stessa, the software from Avail focuses more on property management, but still, it also includes rental income and expense tracking.
So it qualifies as a direct competitor.
It is part of realtor.com and has the following features for landlords:
- A rental property listing portal
- Online rental applications
- Tenant screening and background checks, including credit reports, tenant background checks, and eviction history
- Lawyer approved lease agreements
- Online rent collection
- Next-day rent payments
- Property maintenance software
- Rent analysis reports (including rent comps) to determine the best prices
- Rental property calculator
- Rental income and expense tracking
Pricing is also pretty competitive and is between $0 and $5 per unit per month.
You can learn more about Avail here.
Stessa vs. Landlord Studio
Landlord Studio is another direct competitor to Stessa. The first thing that drew my attention in terms of differences was the design which makes a pretty clean and minimal impression.
What it offers that Stessa doesn’t at least natively is rent collection. Another feature Stessa doesn’t have is tenant screening.
Here is a short overview of Landlord Studio’s features:
- Automatic setup of rent invoices and late fees
- Bank account linking and setup of recurring expenses
- Receipt scanner
- Tax prepping via reports for accountants
- Customizable income and expense reports
- Supplier expense reporting
- Rent collection automation
- Screening reports with automatic credit and rent history, background checks
- Rental application management
- Mobile app for Android and iPhone
The monthly pricing is between $5.99 and $29.99 per unit.
You can learn more about Landlord Studio here.
Stessa vs. Tenantcloud
Also, Tenantcloud includes property accounting as part of its overall property management software components.
You realize quickly that after taking a closer look at the property accounting component, it is rather tailored to overall property management operations and less on the investment performance.
The latter doesn’t mean you can’t get the data that Stessa offers.
With the reporting feature, you can also get a visual overview of your rental property business with financial performance data. So Tenantcloud is another serious direct competitor to Stessa.
The latter is more interesting for real estate investors.
Other features include:
- Tenant screening
- Rental application management
- Online leasing agreement with digital signing
- Multiple tenants/roommates and their respective payment tracking
- Maintenance requests to connected service providers
- Rental listing website
- Automated listing syndication with connected property rental platforms
- Online payments
- Reporting (e.g., investment performance data)
Monthly pricing is between $0 and $50, depending on the number of features you may need.
You can check out Tenantcloud here.
Stessa Competitors and Alternatives
To conclude, I will provide you with a short overview table of all the competitors earlier mentioned, including their pricing.
As you may have already seen, many of the alternatives are already property management software providers that just include further property bookkeeping and performance tracking features as part of their offering.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.