Fireside Chatter

Kindling and sparks from Cozy.

We’ve Partnered with the Northern Virginia Apartment Association

Written on July 13, 2016 by Lucas Hall

We’re excited to announce our newest industry partner, the Northern Virginia Apartment Association.

Earlier this year, we launched an innovative partnership program to encourage landlords and property managers join and participate in their local rental housing associations. Nationwide, these state and local associations provide strength, guidance, and a unified voice for the industry. They operate under the belief that we are better if we stick together—a core belief that we share at Cozy.

With NVAA as our newest partner, we’re excited to promote its services, and bring Cozy’s online rent collection, screening tools, and educational resources to its members. Cozy is proud to support NVAA and its efforts to improve legislation, provide mentoring programs, and offer premier educational tools to its members.

The Northern Virginia Apartment Association serves individuals and companies which collectively own or manage about 40,000 rental properties in the greater DC Metro region. Like most landlords and property managers around the country, NVAA’s members still regularly deal with late rent, paper checks, and tenants who slip through the screening process. By providing NVAA members with modern property management tools, Cozy will help them avoid these pitfalls, save money, and keep their residents happy.

This partnership with NVAA is one of many we’re building nationwide in an effort to bring peace of mind to property managers, landlords, and renters everywhere. Please join us in celebrating this partnership and the value that NVAA brings to the industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about our partnership program, send us an email at hello@cozy.co. And remember, no matter where you own properties in the U.S., you can manage your rentals for free with Cozy.

The Most Competitive Zip Codes for Renters

Written on July 12, 2016 by Lucy Burningham

Most people know what makes a neighborhood great, whether it’s parks and affordable housing or public transportation, quality schools, and walkability.

Here at Cozy, we know a desirable neighborhood is a place renters want to live. We examined our rental listing data and found which zip codes receive the most applications per property listing. These are the most competitive neighborhoods in the country for renters, the places everyone wants to live.

1) 94114: San Francisco, CA

Photo by torbakhopper / CC BY-ND 2.0

  • Neighborhoods: Duboce Triangle, Corona Heights, The Castro, Dolores Heights, Noe Valley
  • Average applications per listing: 8
  • Median rent for a 1,000-square-foot place: $3,810
  • Median home price: $1,617,900

Why everyone wants to live there: Located on the western edge of the Mission District, this zip code holds some of San Francisco’s most well-known neighborhoods, including The Castro District. Don’t miss the 16-acre Mission Dolores Park with its grassy slopes and city views, as well as Noe Valley’s neat rows of Victorians.

Claim to fame: The lavish Castro Theater, which was built in 1922 and still shows films and hosts festivals.

Hot spot: Cervecería de Mateveza serves empanadas and small-batch beers brewed onsite.

2) 97203: Portland, OR

Photo by Amy Meredith / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Neighborhoods: St. Johns, Portsmouth, University Park
  • Average applications per listing:7.41
  • Median rent for a 1,000-square-foot place:$1,530
  • Median home price: $315,600

Why everyone wants to live there: In this part of North Portland, a bluff filled with quiet residential neighborhoods peppered with parks overlooks the Willamette River, and the University of Portland adds a collegiate vibe. In St. Johns, which feels more like a small town than a neighborhood, you can find an old-school diner and a kombucha bar.

Claim to fame: The Gothic-spired St. Johns Bridge was a considered a feat of engineering when it was completed in 1931.

Hot spot: The Lombard Food Carts, a cluster of food trucks encircling an outdoor fire pit, has live music and pints from the St. Johns Beer Porch.

3) 60608: Chicago, IL

Photo by Connie Ma / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Neighborhoods: Lower West Side, McKinley Park, Bridgeport, Heart of Chicago, Pilsen
  • Average applications per listing: 6.09
  • Median rent for a 1,000-square-foot place: $1,900
  • Median home price:$210,300

Why everyone wants to live there: Known for its diversity, history, and affordable housing, this area—just 4 miles from downtown Chicago—is experiencing a rebirth. German and Irish immigrants came to the area in the 1840s, followed by Mexican immigrants in the 1950s and 60s, which eventually led to the creation of the National Museum of Mexican Art. New restaurants, galleries, and shops are popping up in neighborhoods like McKinley Park, which has long been known for its manufacturing.

Claim to fame: The Pilsen Historic District was once home to Bohemian immigrants who built brick homes after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Hot spot: Thalia Hall, a 1892 performance hall modeled after the Prague Opera House, re-opened in 2013 after sitting empty for 4 decades.

4) 80218: Denver, CO

Photo by Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Neighborhoods: Capitol Hill, Cheesman Park, City Park West
  • Average applications per listing: 6
  • Median rent for a 1,000-square-foot place: $2,180
  • Median home price: $390,800

Why everyone wants to live there: A mashup of sections of different neighborhoods, this part of the Mile High City is home to artists, families, and politicians. Cheesman Park, once the site of the city’s cemetery, sits next to the Denver Botanic Gardens and a cluster of historic mansions. The Colfax Avenue section of Capitol Hill boasts bars, clubs, music venues, and restaurants, where politicians and lobbyists from the nearby Colorado State Capitol hold power lunches.

Claim to fame:Humboldt Street Historic District, also known as Humboldt Island, is made up of 26 houses that were built near the turn of the century.

Hot spot: The Denver Bicycle Cafe serves beer and coffee alongside its full-service bike shop.

5) 53211: Milwaukee, WI

Photo by Kayla Clarke / CC BY 2.0

  • Neighborhoods: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Upper East Side, Whitefish Bay
  • Average applications per listing: 6
  • Average rent for a 1,000-square-foot place: $1,080
  • Median home price: $266,800

Why everyone wants to live there: This zip code is all about University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It’s not that the parks and river of the River Greenway aren’t lush and beautiful. And the posh, architecturally-significant homes in Northpoint will always be a draw. But most people who call this area home are involved with the university, and they like to show their panther pride.

Claim to fame: The North Point Lighthouse, a 74-foot tall lighthouse tower built in 1855 to protect and guide ships on Lake Michigan.

Hot spot: The sandy Bradford Beach fills up with beach goers and volleyball players on sunny days, and on January 1, brave swimmers enter the lake’s icy waters for the Polar Bear Plunge.

Here are the 5 runner-up zip codes:

6) 98122: Seattle, WA

  • Neighborhoods: Madrona, Mann, Squire Park, Pike/Pine
  • Average applications per listing: 5.18

7) 90026: Los Angeles, CA

  • Neighborhoods: Silver Lake, Echo Park, Angelino Heights, Westlake North
  • Average applications per listing: 4.27

8) 92104: San Diego, CA

  • Neighborhoods: North Park, Altadena, Burlingame
  • Average applications per listing: 4.19

9) 19146: Philadelphia, PA

  • Neighborhoods: Forgotten Bottom, Grays Ferry, Schuylkill, Southwest Center City, Graduate Hospital, Point Breeze, Newbold
  • Average applications per listing: 4.07

10) 20002: Washington, D.C.

  • Neighborhoods: Eckington, NoMa, Stanton Park, Edgewood, Ivy City
  • Average applications per listing: 3.87

*Median home prices sourced from Zillow.com

Moving On: What I learned at Cozy

Written on July 08, 2016 by Piet van Zoen

Today is my last day at Cozy. 😢 My wife and I are flying to the Netherlands to start a new adventure close to my Dutch family.

I started at Cozy in January 2014 as a front-end engineer. I have an agency background, and after spending several years working on client websites, I was excited to have a chance to do something different—to work on one product with a cool team.

I can’t possibly write about all the things I learned while I was at Cozy; I’m trying to keep this short. But here are the things that stand out when I think about what I know now versus what I knew then:

Process is fluid

One of my favorite things about working at Cozy is that we allowed our processes to evolve as our team and company evolved. No methodology is one-size-fits-all. In fact, most methods for organizing and prioritizing work don’t match any team perfectly. So, rather than sticking to a process that didn’t fit us, we developed our process to fit our needs as we grew. Try, tweak, repeat.

Teams are like family

Sometimes you disagree. Sometimes you have arguments. And sometimes you’re wrong. But that’s all OK. Tensions happen, but the end of the day you’re still a team and you still have the same goal. Then you can drink beer together.

Choice of work fosters ownership

At Cozy, engineers often have the opportunity to choose what to work on next. For me, this fostered a sense of ownership of my work. And with ownership comes pride, not just after the fact, but during the process of pushing yourself to produce excellent work.

Always be learning

During my first year at Cozy, I was constantly learning and being exposed to new ideas and concepts I hadn’t encountered before. I learned by just doing my job. But eventually that passive learning started to taper off. At that point, I started reading technical books and articles during my bus ride to work. Those 20 minutes of reading each morning helped broaden my ideas about the work I was doing at Cozy, while making me a more well-rounded engineer.

Fight with the tech you have…

…not the tech you want. New ways to build a product can be shiny and exciting. But often enough, you have existing code that’s doing a good job. There’s no need to replace it wholesale when what you have fits your needs. If the way you’re building your product seems like it isn’t working in some way, try to evolve and improve it before throwing everything out. There’s a lot of value in something your team knows how to use, something that’s worked in the past.

I’m super excited for the new adventure ahead of me, but I’m sad to be leaving Cozy. My time at Cozy has been formative, and it’s been my absolute pleasure to work with such an amazing group of people. I’m gonna miss them. 👋 😢

New: Share Your Cozy Renter Profile with Any Landlord

Written on July 05, 2016 by Jonathan Kuipers

We know it’s getting harder to find a great rental. Not only is the application process competitive, but every time you apply for a new place, you have to dig around for all that information you shouldn’t have to remember. Cozy can help!

Cozy Renter Profiles are detailed, easy-to-read resumes you can share with any landlord during your lifetime as a renter. Think of them as the last rental application you’ll ever fill out. Your profile goes wherever you go.

Your Cozy Renter Profile can include the info a landlord needs to say yes, including:

  • A short bio about you
  • Your employment and income history
  • Your rental history
  • Endorsements from references
  • Answers to key screening questions

Your profile is yours to update and share, and we’ll keep your info safe and secure. Don’t worry about your profile ending up in the wrong hands.

It’s easy to get started! Create your Cozy Renter Profile here.

Sizing Ourselves Up at the 2016 NAA Education Conference and Expo

Written on June 23, 2016 by Dave Handlong

Last week, Cozy attended the National Apartment Association (NAA) Education Conference and Exposition in San Francisco. With more than 425 exhibitors and 9,000 attendees, the NAA Expo is the largest apartment conference in the country, and one of the biggest events of the year for the multifamily housing industry.

It was our first time attending, so we were excited to find ourselves alongside much larger, well-established companies as well as newer startups like Cozy that are dramatically changing the renting landscape. Our experience reinforced that our focus on independent rental owners and smaller property management companies is by far the larger opportunity.

Getting Personal

Many giant property management companies from around the country attended the conference, so we ended up meeting people who worked for companies managing 10,000, 50,000, and even 400,000 units.

Managers working with that many units don’t land in Cozy’s sweet-spot. Since we launched, we’ve focused on tailoring our services to independent rental owners and smaller property managers. We’ve always strived to build a simpler, more focused, and more cost-effective product compared to what’s been around for the past 15 years.

We were delighted to meet these folks in person and show them something radically different from what they’re used to.

Along with the big property management companies came the big property management software companies. Yardi, MRI, Entrata, On-Site, and RealPage had lavish, lounge-like booths, vacation giveaways, and full teams of salespeople. Less gargantuan (but still big) companies like Appfolio and Buildium were also there with smaller, more human-scale booths.

Most of the managers who came to Cozy’s booth used one of these larger software companies (mostly Yardi). When we asked them about their experiences, we almost always got the same answer: “It’s okay. It does what I need it to, but it’s painful to use.”

It became clear that people weren’t being put first—something we strive to do at Cozy with everything we build.

The Power of Free

As we delivered our Cozy pitch to people who stopped by our booth, we noticed a theme: they were genuinely shocked that our services for managers are completely free. Our conversations went something like this:

Cozy: “We provide payments, applications, screening, and listings. For free.”

Property manager: (skeptical eyebrow raise) “You’re free? What’s the catch?”

Cozy: “There’s no catch. We charge residents for screening reports only if they run them, or if they pay their rent with a card. We’re always free for managers.”

That’s when the “A-ha!” moment would happen. People lit up a little. They became more engaged and wanted to know more. How big were we? What did the product look like? How come they’d never heard of us?

In an industry tailored to big fish, with property management software that costs anywhere from $100 to $1,000 a month for managers with 100 units or less, people were intrigued by the fact that not only are our services free, but we might deliver a pleasant experience to our customers.

We’ve always believed in leveling the playing field. That’s something Lucas Hall, Chief Landlordologist at Cozy, talked about during a presentation at the conference about all kinds of free services for managers. (For a great list of free and paid services for property managers, check out Landlordology’s Services & Resources Directory.)

What We Learned

We’re not for everyone, and that’s okay. We’re not interested in being a product with 1,000 features, when only 5 of them are useful.

We want to keep building a meaningful service that gives managers more time and makes their jobs easier (for the low cost of $0). Maybe they’ll feel more efficient because of Cozy. Or less frustrated. We like thinking about those moments.

Cozy will be back at the next NAA Expo. And who knows? Maybe we’ll have a huge fancy booth and give away a jet ski, but if all goes well, probably not. Either way, you should stop by and say hi. We’ll shake your hand and explain how we can help you.