Two local 24-year-old entrepreneurs, who started their HMO agency back in May 2020 at just 21 and 22, have gone on to create an incredibly successful business where they now manage 256 rooms and tenants across Liverpool.
Both sacked from their jobs on the same day, Joe Duggan and Olivia Maher from West Derby, took the plunge to initially create J.O. Property Group, but have recently rebranded to Cosi Living after the business’ development into HMO management, to reflect the brand’s modern, fresh and tenant-focussed approach.
Cosi Living works with both landlords and investors to renovate, refurbish and maintain their properties, whilst also finding suitable tenants to occupy them. The company then also liaises directly with tenants, including professionals and students, to source suitable homes for them.
Setting themselves apart from others within the industry, the couple’s core focus is on quality and ensuring that every property they manage is finished to an affordable yet high standard.
Taking student accommodation and turning it on its head, Cosi Living believes that it’s the little things that make such a big difference with beautiful finishes throughout including the kitchen, bathrooms, flooring and finer details such as paintwork.
Since starting the business during the UK’s second national lockdown, Joe and Olivia have gone on to win The Best Master Lease Operator at the HMO Awards 2022; a fantastic achievement for the young company who were up against stiff competition after there were 377 nominations, 121 finalists and 18 winners at the awards.
Prior to starting the business, Olivia worked for an estate agents whilst Joe had studied Business, Economics and Sport in college. The pair then met whilst working for the same PPI complaints contracting job after sitting next to each other during training for the role.
Joe’s passion for business continued and outside of work, he focussed on self development and after spending a few years enjoying holidays, in October 2019, the couple decided to save to put themselves in the best financial position possible.
When Covid hit, both Joe and Olivia were furloughed and they started thinking of how they could spend their free time. With Joe’s passion for business and interest in property, combined with Olivia’s background in property sales, the pair considered a new direction and a change of industry altogether.
Entering into Property was their goal and after extensive industry research, Joe and Olivia decided to take the plunge into HMO management and lettings, spotting what would be their first property – a 10-bedroomed house in Sefton Park – on Gumtree!
The landlord was struggling to fill the property with students because of the lockdown. Managing to double prices of the rooms, Joe and Olivia refurbished as much of the property themselves as they could, but the timing coincided with the easing of restrictions and the couple were called back to working from home where they also needed to hit tough daily targets.
“We’d spend so much time at the house renovating it, and later into the night we’d panic and think it’s nearly midnight and we’ve not done any work! We needed to put a few cases through so that we’d hit our target. We’d put the cases through and then continue finishing the house, and then in the early hours of the morning, we’d do the work on the cases so that we wouldn’t get in trouble.
“Just six weeks later, our first property was finished and fully tenanted with 10 bedrooms occupied. We were so proud of ourselves as not only was it our first property but we’d also managed to double the rent on the rooms, as well as fully letting the property during a time when other agents and landlords were really struggling to fill rooms at all.”
The 10-bedroom Sefton Park house was then being purchased from an investor in London who, after seeing the transformation of the property on a tight budget and how Joe and Olivia had doubled the rental income, asked the couple to manage another property he was renovating.
In January 2021, after 10 months of managing the 10-bedroom property, and breaking the ceiling of rent in the area of the second property which was home to seven bedrooms, their employer had announced that 50% of staff would be made redundant.
“At the time, we thought that one of us would lose our job given the amount of sick days, last minute days off and failed cases we’d had due to us focussing so much on our property business. Judgement day came and we found out that we were both sacked on the same day. The two properties combined didn’t cover one of our monthly wages at the time and we were a bit worried. We had conversations about Olivia going back to an estate agents but something just told us to take a risk and go for it properly. It was go time.
“Within a week or two, we signed our third property which we found on Facebook Marketplace. It was a six-bedroom house in Kensington. Students had left, we came in and refurbished it with all of the profits we’d made from the first two properties, and put professionals in there. After this refurb, we were down to zero, but the builder who was looking after the maintenance on the house in Kensington had recently finished the build on his own HMO and wanted us to take a look. We secured this too and this was our fourth property.
“The builder was also finishing the renovation of what would become our fifth property and at this point we knew that we were clearly onto something.”
Having secured five properties to manage and represent from Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and word of mouth, Joe and Olivia continued to offer unrivalled service whilst focussing on impressive renovations to benefit both the landlord and tenants.
This has seen the young couple grow the business substantially, now managing 256 rooms and tenants across the city, with more properties on the horizon.