Large companies and real estate investment trusts typically hire professional property managers, and generally speaking, that’s probably the right choice for on-site management at a large complex. But if you own a handful of units, deciding whether or not to hire a property management service can be a tricky question.

First, what does a property manager do?

Mostly, they act as a first line of defense for any issues that may arise between you and your tenants. Managers will usually market and advertise your rentals, meet with prospects to host showings, collecting rent, deposit money to your bank account, and coordinate repair issues.

That’s a lot of help that can be valuable, but it frequently comes at a price. In many cases, property managers either take one month’s rent or 4-10% of the rental income as their fee. For a lot of small landlords operating on low margins, that’s simply too expensive.

Free property management tools like Cozy can help – Cozy is free, but still offers some of the most important services property managers provide:

For independent landlords that live relatively close to their rental units, that’s enough to make life a bit easier. The automatic rent collection alone is invaluable, because the automatic recurring payments help ensure all your tenants pay on time, without any intervention from you. It gives you more time to focus on the other pieces of managing your properties, and of course, your day job.