How a pair of landlords turned a side business into a successful property management franchise
by Suzanne Bowness
Husband-and-wife team Tyler (31) and Erin Cooze (27) were already landlords of their own residential properties when they started thinking about whether they could make the property manager side hustle a bigger part of their lives. Maybe even a business. Yet as he started to look into it, Tyler, who investigates all projects extensively before jumping in, realized that the potential for costly missteps, especially early on, was massive. Could franchising be the answer?
By the time he scheduled a discovery call with Real Property Management, Tyler was fairly convinced that joining an established organization would put him on the path to success. Conversations with other franchisees confirmed this feeling. “Meeting with people in the trenches, hearing what we would be doing with onboarding, that made the decision that franchising was the business model to go with,” he says.
Tyler and Erin signed on with the franchise in August 2022. By January, they had a growing roster of clients in their town of Sarnia, Ontario. By early June, they were almost overwhelmed by business growth, so Erin joined the business full time. They decided to pull back a bit during the summer to reassess before starting to grow steadily again in the fall.
On startup, the Coozes decided to focus on the market that was most familiar. “Residential single-family homes are what we know and loved and started with, so we kept going there,” says Tyler. They found a ready customer base. “Our first clients were people who had poor experiences trying to manage their properties themselves or didn’t feel like they were getting the services they needed from their property managers. These were people who were in distress.” In Ontario, property management is unregulated outside of the Residential Tenancies Act. Provinces west of Ontario require licences, so there are more regulations.
As the largest residential property management company in North America, Real Property Management oversees tens of thousands of properties, yet franchisees tailor services for each customer. When they onboard a client, one of the Coozes’ first priorities is to figure out what help they need. Services include everything from rent collection to maintenance management, and everything in between. Some clients want to hand the full management off to the property manager, while some want to be more involved, and still others want to be contacted only if an expense goes past a certain threshold, so each client has unique needs.
Getting the lay of the land
Neither Tyler nor Erin had a background in real estate—she was a dental assistant, and he worked as a mechanic and then in manufacturing—but the weeks of training the franchise offered plus their own landlord experience brought them quickly up to speed. They also knew immediately how to split the business responsibilities—Tyler is the talker who enjoys client interaction, business development, and maintenance, while Erin excels at tasks like bookkeeping, marketing, and administration. Since rentals follow a monthly cycle, their schedules vary by the week. The first day of the month is busy collecting rent, mid-month is occupied with ensuring homeowner clients get paid, and client applications and invoices happen every week. Maintenance queries can also arise at any time, even on a Saturday morning.
If you read that Saturday morning reference as a challenge for this business, you’d be right. “You’re always on call,” says Tyler, “there’s lots of problem solving and the hardest part is to manage expectations for your clients and tenants.” Another challenge has been the uncertainty of the real estate investment market.
Another potential challenge is their youth, but Tyler says that being young franchisees hasn’t had much effect.
“Some older people just see us as young and assume we don’t know what we’re doing, but that goes two ways. I enjoy working with young businesses, and they aren’t complacent like some long-term businesses. Some people see that in me, that I’m young and hungry and enthusiastic. It’s more positive than negative,” he says.
Some challenges also have a positive flipside; for example, the unpredictability of a broken water main on a Friday night (true story) is balanced out by the flexibility that this business offers. With two young children, this is one of the things about the business the Coozes love the most. “It’s about finding that balance, as there are always times where you do a bit extra in the evening or morning, but then there’s also the freedom to go for lunch or take kids out for the day,” says Tyler. “Being self-employed in general is really rewarding, although you get out what you put into it.”
As he expected, Tyler says that the biggest benefit of franchising has been the coaching from the franchisor and the connections with other franchisees. Weekly 30-minute check-ins help the Coozes stick with their goals. The monthly two-hour calls with the entire franchise network allow business owners to compare notes. “It’s great for me as a new office to get to ask questions and get answers, and also to hear about what they’re going through at established offices—that’s so helpful to learn what to expect down the road,” he says. Now that he’s more established, he’s starting to give back too. “I’m that person who always helps, so now I’m offering advice to others.”
So, what’s his best advice for incoming franchisees? In this business, Tyler says it’s helpful to have a passion for real estate investing, and also to look for a community where you want to get involved. While you might think that the focus would be mostly on client owners, Tyler says it’s equally important to support tenants. “You want to see tenants take pride in the house they’re in, and provide them with a quality experience. At the end of the day, you’re providing housing. Your tenant is also a customer and you want to treat them like a customer so they’ll tell friends about their experience,” he says.
For newcomers to franchising, his best advice is to reach out when you need to. “It can be difficult to ask for help, but there’s no such thing as a silly question, so I reach out to everyone I know within our franchise. Even if you’re not comfortable asking on a call, then ask a franchisee friend, someone local you can trust. Rely on the network.”
For the Coozes, the most rewarding part of this franchise is the satisfaction they get from serving clients, something they appreciate even more deeply with their dual role as landlords. “Seeing owners being successful and happy with their real estate, and on the tenant side, seeing joy on a family’s faces when get to go into new house is great,” says Tyler.
Erin agrees. “We get to make meaningful connections and form good relationships with both tenants and owners.”
The couple tries to make the experiences special by leaving welcome baskets for new tenants and looking for additional ways to surprise them (they recently put groceries in the fridge for a new tenant who is coming from out of country). “I’d love the day to come when we get a client who was a tenant and buys a home and invests in their own real estate,” says Tyler, “so that process can come full circle.”