Residents of the downtown Buffalo apartment building replied and said they wanted a fitness room in the building, since gyms had been closed to try to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Management responded, turning part of a large community room in the basement into a workout space, said Artie Vanderpool, senior residential property manager with Ciminelli Real Estate, which owns The Sinclair.
Whose Your Landlord is an online platform for apartment reviews. One part of the platform is for residents to rate landlords, property management companies and apartment units. The other part is for landlords, like Ciminelli, to get feedback from residents to increase tenant satisfaction and retention.
“Our whole focus is on putting humanity at the heart of housing,” Whose Your Landlord founder Ofo Ezeugwu said. “I think there’s been too much of a focus on the profit and the property, which is understandable. It’s real estate. But the people part is left off of that.”
Bringing transparency to housing
Ezeugwu was a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia and vice president of the student body when he got the idea for Whose Your Landlord after hearing countless stories of students struggling to find good rental housing in the city.
Many of the landlords his fellow students were renting from did not live in the city and weren’t very hands-on in the management of their properties, he said. Students struggled to get problems such as mold and infestations taken care of.
So, he created a platform where people could leave anonymous reviews of their apartments to increase transparency in housing and launched his company in 2015.
It has been growing ever since.
In 2019, Whose Your Landlord won $500,000 in Buffalo’s 43North startup contest, and in February, Ezeugwu announced his company had raised $2.1 million from investors. The platform now has reviews of more than 25,000 home providers in 425 cities across the country.
Since 2019, the company has grown from three employees to 16, with four based in Buffalo. For Ezeugwu, Western New York has proven to be an ideal place to grow his business. As part of his 43North win, he was required to move himself and his company to Buffalo for a year. But because of the personal and professional support he’s gotten in Western New York, he still lives part time in Buffalo more than two years later, splitting his time between here and Brooklyn.
“What was supposed to be a year commitment has turned into very much part of the future for our business,” he said.
Ezeugwu has further plans to build up his team in Western New York, as well, and sees Buffalo becoming the company’s tech hub.
“There’s a lot of great talented people here,” Ezeugwu said. “Because of 43North’s halo effect, there are a lot of folks here that are great people that also love the tech industry.”
Growing into a global company
Ezeugwu said one of his main focuses is recruiting more landlords to the home provider portion of the platform. The company is running a 12-month pilot program for home providers in Buffalo. Those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanderpool thinks working with Whose Your Landlord has made Ciminelli a better home provider. Whose Your Landlord handles all the administration of the surveys, compiles the data and provides it to the home providers, who then can use the resident feedback to improve resident happiness and retention.
“The smartest way to be a good home provider is to invest in the resident experience,” Vanderpool said. “Now that we have Whose Your Landlord surveying our tenants and providing us with such positive feedback and actionable items, we can take our capital and use it in the best way to make that home for them, to create a sense of home. “
Ezeugwu also has goals to grow the resident review part of his platform – the concept that launched his company in 2015. He wants Whose Your Landlord to be known as “the go-to place for resident reviews, analytics and insights.” To do that, he needs to achieve major saturation in the company’s top 20 markets by growing the number of reviews in those cities, he said.
In five years, he sees Whose Your Landlord as a global company, with apartment reviews in cities around the world.