“Who uses Cozy?” is our series spotlighting landlords and renters who use Cozy in interesting and innovative ways. In this edition, we talk to Lance, who also happens to be on our homepage from time to time. (All the people featured on our site are Cozy customers.)

Where is home? What’s the most interesting thing about where you live?
My family and I live in Union City in the East Bay Area. It’s a fantastic location– a quick train ride to Silicon Valley, a 20 minute shuttle to Palo Alto and a relaxing BART ride to San Francisco! I can work just about anywhere in the Bay Area and have a reasonable commute. Housing is affordable and the people are nice– it’s the Bay Area’s best kept secret.

How many rentals do you have, and where are they located?
My wife Tina and I currently have two rentals, and they’re both in Union City. When we were shopping for investment properties, we had considered Patterson, Antioch, Brentwood, Modesto and a bunch of other areas where our dollar could buy more, but we decided to pay a bit more, so that managing the properties would be easier. Now, when something goes wrong at any of our properties, it’s just a four minute drive. The time and money saved was well worth the initial investment.

How did you get into rental properties?
There are just some things that you just learn by watching your parents. They always had rental properties, so I just kind of figured it’s something you did. After we purchased our first home, we starting saving up to buy another. We didn’t really have a plan– we just started saving money and kept an eye key economic indicators like home prices and interest rates. Once everything seemed right, we had the cash, and that cash gave us options.

What’s the average number of tenants in your properties?
Five.

What tools do you use to manage your properties?
Aside from Cozy, which handles all of the tasks related to financial transactions, I tend to use a few different iPhone apps. The app I have been using the most lately is Redbeacon. This app, which is affiliated with Home Depot, is brilliant. A few months back, I was in Philadelphia on a business trip, and my tenants informed me that the water heater wasn’t working. I fired up Redbeacon and described my issue. Within a couple of hours, I had five bids. I reviewed their reputation ratings, their license and background checks, their prices and their comments. I was able to make a decision and connect the plumber with my tenants. The next day, I got confirmation that the water heater was installed, and I took out my iPhone and paid the plumber with my credit card on file– easy as pie!

What’s the single largest change to how you manage your rentals after using Cozy for six months?
I know that it sounds like a little thing, but depositing checks is one of those things that sometimes gets left behind in my daily routine. Even though it’s simple enough to deposit it with my iPhone, it’s just one of those things that stays in my inbox way too long. I think that one time, I left the check in my inbox for 25 days! That’s not very considerate to my tenants, and I felt so guilty when I found it. Now that both sets of tenants are on Cozy, rent collection is one less thing on my list. It’s also easier on my tenants, because they don’t have to take a trip to my house to give us the rent. Everybody wins!

What’s the craziest/funniest tenant story you can tell?
So, I am going to be a bit of a downer on this one. The truth is, there is nothing crazy or funny about being a landlord. When I deal in real estate, I’m all business. In the short time I’ve been a landlord, I can see the importance of the shelter that my business is providing. I have families that are growing and kids developing. Families go through their ups and downs and are making the memories they will carry for a lifetime. When the kids grow up and return to the old neighborhood, they will be able to drive by the house and reminiscing. I just kind of feel like it’s my job to run a tight ship. If something is broken, it’s fixed immediately. If an issue with the neighborhood arises, I am on the phone with the city or the mayor the next day. I have a single mission– to make my tenants LOVE their home. It’s a mission and a responsibility I take very seriously.

What’s your goal with your rental business?
First and foremost it’s to provide my tenants with the highest quality rental experience imaginable. In addition to the things that I mentioned above, I want to delight them with small touches that really make a difference. I plan to install an electrical outlet that has a built in USB charger– right where they charge their phones. I am also in the exploratory phases of completely outfitting the houses with a Smart Things home automation system. It might be a small investment that could reap huge returns in terms of tenant retention and overall satisfaction. The details matter. Assuming that I do that well, I will have happy tenants that will continue to pay their rent, so that the rentals can provide Tina and I with a steady income when I decide to retire.