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Custom developed vs. Out-of-the-Box: Which is better for tenant experience software?

In this blog, we explore the pros and cons of out-of-the-box solutions versus custom software development, helping you make an informed decision. Learn about the benefits of constant updates, ready-to-use deployment, and dedicated support with out-of-the-box apps like Chainels. Compare these with the tailored functionality and direct developer access of custom software. Whether you prioritise budget, timeline, or unique needs, our guide will assist you in choosing the right path for enhancing tenant satisfaction and streamlining operations.

To buy or to build? Anyone in the early stages of real estate digitalisation will ask themselves this question at some point.

It doesn’t really have an easy answer. The best option will depend on the resources available to you, the exact nature of your operation and how much time you have. 

If you’ve been chewing on this question for some time, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we’ll take you through the various pros and cons of both strategies and, hopefully, guide you to a more informed decision. 



Constant updates

Out-of-the-box apps are continuously improved by their providers. Regular updates ensure the app stays current with technological advancements and industry trends. With a custom developed platform you’d have to make these updates yourself, which is costly and time consuming. 

Ready to install and use

These solutions are designed for immediate deployment, minimising the time and resource required to ship and implement a solution. 

Extensive development

Significant thought and resources are invested in the design and functionality, often incorporating feedback from a wide user base.

The Chainels app, for example, was developed from a wealth of experience in the real estate sector, and an intimate understanding of the needs of asset managers, property managers and end users.

Whether that’s efficient problem solving through repairs and maintenance reporting, operational efficiency through digital request forms or just smoother and more transparent communication - we consider the needs and desires of our users every step of the way. 

Dedicated support 

Out of the box solutions have a dedicated team of professionals behind them who know the platform inside out and have an interest in ensuring that the platform is meeting the needs of its users.

Take the Chainels team as a shining example. We’re made up of expert developers, designers, implementation specialists and customer support professionals all working towards a common goal: creating a platform that helps your assets thrive. The entire team works alongside customers to make this happen. 

A proven track record 

An established tenant experience app boasts a proven track record, demonstrating its value through the success of its clients. A reliable platform should feature a collection of customer testimonials showcasing how it has transformed their processes and enhanced their communities—Chainels’ customer stories page is a prime example.

Real testimonials from actual users allow you to make a more informed decision and minimise the risks associated with developing a solution from scratch. After all, how can you be sure it’s the right solution if no one else has used it yet?

In line with regulatory requirements 

Building an app involves meeting various regulatory requirements concerning data protection, security standards, accessibility, and end-user license agreements. Opting for an out-of-the-box solution ensures that all these requirements are fulfilled, helping you avoid potential penalties for non-compliance that could arise from developing your own solution.


Lack of customisation

Every business is unique, and off-the-shelf solutions may not cater to specific needs, leading to potential compromises in functionality. This, of course, depends on what solution you choose to adopt. Some platforms really are a one trick pony.

Chainels, however, has a range of feature packages, suited to different business cases. That means you can tailor the platform to your specific needs, without taking on a load on unnecessary bells and whistles. The platform also integrates with a range of partner software so you can tailor the platform to do exactly what you need it to. 

Pay per user costs 

As the number of users grows, costs can escalate. However, an out of the box solution is likely to have less bugs and better usability, so the investment can be justified by the increased tenant satisfaction and retention.

Custom Software Development


Tailored to unique needs

With a custom developed app, you can build exactly what you need. Custom apps are designed to meet specific requirements, ensuring all desired features and functionalities are included.

Direct access to developers

Having a dedicated agency, or even an in-house team, allows for easier implementation of changes and addition of new features. You can fix and identify bugs with more dynamism and align on your vision on what you want a platform to do and how.


Budget Constraints

Custom development is typically more expensive, and staying within budget can be challenging, especially if the scope of work changes. The costs associated with building a custom platform include the following,

  • Salaries—Hiring skilled developers, designers, and project managers.

  • Tools and Technologies—Purchasing or subscribing to development tools, software licences, and necessary technologies.

  • Infrastructure—Setting up and maintaining servers, databases, and other infrastructure.

  • Ongoing Maintenance—Regular updates, bug fixes, and performance enhancements.

  • Support—Customer support team for handling user issues and queries.

  • Training—Effectively educating staff and users on the new software can be a significant undertaking, requiring time and resources to ensure everyone is proficient and comfortable with the new system.

  • Implementation: Seamlessly deploying the software within your existing infrastructure and integrating it with other systems can be complex and resource-intensive, often requiring specialised expertise to avoid disruptions and ensure a smooth transition.

Opportunity costs

Time to market may delay market entry and competitive advantage, while diverting resources from core business activities to software development can detract from your primary operations, potentially impacting overall business performance.


Development from scratch can be a lengthy process, potentially delaying the availability of the app. Whereas with an out of the box solution, well, the clue is in the name.

Training and implementation costs

Effectively educating staff and users on the new software can be a significant undertaking, requiring time and resources to ensure everyone is proficient and comfortable with the new system.

Furthermore, seamlessly deploying the software within your existing infrastructure and integrating it with other systems can be complex and resource-intensive, often requiring specialised expertise to avoid disruptions and ensure a smooth transition.  

Lack of oversight

Sometimes when you’re up close and personal with a problem it can be difficult to develop a solution that solves it in a truly effective way. As someone on the ground, you may be too bogged down in the details of a problem to really see the bigger picture and find a solution. You can’t see the forest from the trees, as they say.

Hybrid solution

A hybrid solution combines the rapid deployment and cost-effectiveness of starting with a pre-built, off-the-shelf solution as a foundation. This platform serves as a core framework that can be customised or extended to integrate unique features, functionalities, or customizations tailored to the organisation's specific requirements. It offers the flexibility to seamlessly integrate with proprietary tools and hardware, while also allowing complete branding customization. 

Key Considerations for Choosing Between Custom, Out-of-the-Box or Hybrid Solutions


Are your needs so unique that no existing solution can meet them? Many out-of-the-box platforms, like Chainels, are designed with the specific needs of asset managers, property managers, and tenants in mind and offer extensive integration capabilities to tailor the solution. 

Budget and Timeline

Custom software is generally more costly and has a longer time to value. Which can really eat into your net operating income. If your budget is limited or you need a quick solution that can make immediate impact, an out-of-the-box app may be more feasible.

Consider the return on investment. A powerful, well-designed app is essential, as a slow or buggy app can lead to tenant dissatisfaction and increased churn.

Implementation and Adoption

Custom apps may offer more control over implementation but can be complex and time-consuming to integrate into existing workflows.

Out-of-the-box solutions often come with dedicated teams to assist with implementation and user onboarding, ensuring smoother user adoption.

Competitive Edge

Having a tenant experience app can provide a significant competitive advantage. However, an underperforming custom app can quickly be outdone by competitors using robust out-of-the-box solutions.


Unless you have a top-notch in-house team of developers and designers, it is unlikely you will create an app superior to a well-established out-of-the-box solution.

Design is crucial. An app must be intuitive and user-friendly to enhance the tenant experience effectively. Often when building a custom app, design gets overlooked in favour of capabilities and viability. If you don’t have a dedicated designer, it may be better to consult an out-of-the-box solution that does.

5 reasons why you should choose Chainels 

  1. Proven track record: Over 10 years of enhancing tenant experiences in 17 countries and 500 communities.

  2. Scalability across portfolio: Deployable in retail, office, residential, and mixed-use real estate of any size, ensuring widespread adoption.

  3. Sophisticated technology: Our tool pairs a stunning, user-friendly design with cutting-edge, advanced capabilities, offering unmatched functionality and efficiency.

  4. Interoperability: An open API platform with an extensive array of pre-integrated smart building and proptech solutions.

  5. Your branded app: Deliver a seamless user experience with a top-tier tool, branded as your own, without revealing it was developed by Chainels.

Which road will you go down?

The decision between custom development and an out-of-the-box tenant experience app hinges on several factors, including your unique requirements, budget, timeline, and the importance of usability. Custom apps offer tailored solutions but come with higher costs and longer development times. Conversely, out-of-the-box solutions provide immediate functionality, regular updates, and professional support but may lack specific customization.

Real estate asset managers should weigh these considerations carefully. The right choice can significantly enhance tenant satisfaction, streamline operations, and ultimately, contribute to the overall success of the property management strategy.

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