The Owl House Story

Published 4/14/2021

Hi, I’m Ben Bahorich, and I’m a Rice mechanical engineering graduate (class of 2010). I’m also an alumni of Will Rice College – WILL RICE WILL SWEEP! Those who know me personally understand that I have a strong passion to develop and manage the best homes and apartments within walking distance of Rice. I garnered this passion while living off-campus on Bolsover Street when I was a junior cramming for Mech-E finals into the wee hours of the night. I loved living on Bolsover because I could get to class in 3 minutes. No joke – I used to hop on my bike and clock my time from my door to my classroom seat. After graduating, I followed my wife, Alyssa, (Hanszen 2010) up to Dallas and worked as an engineer for a few years. When Alyssa accepted a medical residency position at Texas Children’s, we moved back down to Houston and lived on Bolsover Street again while renting part of our home out to Rice students. Alyssa and I even had our first child, Emma, in that Bolsover home. That’s about the time I caught the bug, and I’ve been working hard to develop the best off-campus housing options in the Rice area ever since. Up until December 2018, my little family and I were living on Bolsover and managing a few properties. In early 2019, we expanded significantly by adding more properties, and we found out over the next year that we were ill-prepared to handle the increased workload. That’s roughly when the first couple of Rice Thresher articles were written.

The Rice Thresher has been helpful to us because they have pointed out problems we needed to rectify as a small, young company that needed to rise and meet the expectations of our residents. We have taken every criticism to heart and have made changes. Here are some specific issues we have addressed in the past year or so:

  • There were concerns about our lease terms, so we replaced our previous lease with a standard Texas Apartment Association form.
  • In 2018 and 2019, we had some property management personnel issues. Our solution was to bring in new professionals who enjoy working with college students and have strong customer service backgrounds.
    • We also hired two Rice students to help us stay directly connected to the student community.
  • In 2019, we hired a general contractor (GC) who did not finish their renovation work on time as promised. These delays were a great inconvenience for some of our residents and unacceptable to us. While we were able to accommodate the affected residents with a variety of solutions (i.e., rent reductions, different nearby properties, nearby temporary housing until move-in), we made a major decision to hire our own in-house team for general contracting that now builds all of our projects. The in-house GC team provides us with greater accountability in every aspect of our service for residents.

The final thought I want to leave you with is that we really care about our residents, and we are diligently building amazing off-campus properties. If you’re curious about our next development project, please go to to see what we’re working on. I am really proud of our work with the Southgate Civic Club regarding this project. It will be a state-of-the-art 18-unit, 4-story apartment designed specifically with Rice and medical students in mind. Planned amenities include fully furnished units, common area study rooms, plenty of bike storage, gated entry, elevator with key fob access, covered parking, contactless package locker system, dog run, BBQ pit / picnic area with garden lights, and best of all – every bedroom has its own bathroom.

If you saw the Rice Thresher article that was published 4/13 and want to dig in a bit more, please see the written Q&A we had with the author below:

  • Had you heard of the new website that Rice has launched for off campus students to find housing?
    • Yes. Rice did an excellent job with the website. We applaud Rice Housing and Dining for their hard work – making it easier for Rice students to connect with off-campus housing providers.
  • What was your response to learning that Owl House’s properties will not be listed on the site?
    • We were very disappointed to learn that we would not be able to feature our listings. Our properties are close to campus, in safe areas, and the vast majority are newly remodeled and updated.
    • That being said, we value our relationship with Rice University, so we immediately met in person with Rice Housing & Dining operations staff to learn how we can improve. We understand there is room for improvement for a small business like ours striving to meet expectations and maintain a personal touch. Our number one goal is to take care of the concerns and needs of our residents on a timely basis and in an appropriate manner. 
  • The SA president sent a survey to students asking if they would consider Owl House a safe, reliable, responsible group to rent from and based on these responses the university has chosen not to add the company to the website. Do you believe that this is unjustified?
    • We do take issue with implications regarding Owl House on safety.  Owl House was built around addressing this very problem.  Houston is a large, dangerous city with an F rating for crime according to While crime can happen anywhere in Houston, there are big differences between neighborhoods, and students should be able to evaluate safety first when choosing an off-campus property. Below is a map made using showing our property locations in relation to violent crimes (assaults, sexual assaults, kidnapping, murder). As you can see, we have chosen to manage properties in some of the safest areas around Rice.

    • Regarding the survey, we have not seen the survey data, so it is difficult to respond specifically to these findings about Owl House or how our results might compare to other off-campus housing providers. My understanding is that no other data was gathered on other housing providers because surveys were not sent to students currently in the other off-campus housing options listed on the Rice website. This means that over 96% of students in off-campus housing were not asked about their current living situations regarding safety and the reliability and responsibility of the companies or people that manage their homes or apartments.
    • Hopefully, the SA will send the data gathered about Owl House soon so that we can continue to improve by reviewing any criticism and making necessary adjustments. We regularly send out surveys to all of our residents because we value their opinions and realize we can’t continue to improve without solid feedback. Our end-of-year 2020 survey showed 92% of our resident respondents were somewhat or very satisfied. Additionally, we increased the portion of “very satisfied” from 26% to 42% year-over-year. In a year when a myriad of COVID issues have been such a large part of everyone’s lives, we are proud of having attained a 92% satisfaction level.
  • Many students have complained about issues with reliability and ability to respond efficiently and respectfully to complaints of tenants. How do you plan to address these concerns?
    • Over the past year, we have made significant strides to address maintenance concerns.
      • We adopted a high-end, cloud-based property management system that aids with communication and tracks important maintenance request details and survey results.
      • We added a 24/7 maintenance hotline that is monitored by maintenance professionals from Appfolio. Residents are encouraged to call this number if they have a maintenance emergency.
      • We added additional complimentary pest control visits and replaced our pest control service with a provider that has proven to be detail oriented and more responsive to resident concerns.
      • In 2019 and previous years when our company was smaller, we lacked a full-time maintenance technician. We solved the pressing need to provide timely service by hiring two full-time maintenance technicians. With the additional staff, we have been able to address requests more efficiently resulting in an average year-to-date maintenance survey satisfaction rating of 4.3 out of 5.
      • We strive to identify and respond to all maintenance requests within 24 hours; therefore, many maintenance requests are inspected and repaired within a business day or two. That being said, depending on the severity of the required repair, we sometimes need to bring in professional third party vendors which typically extends timelines.
  • What do you think Owl House can improve on so that in the future Rice can consider adding these properties to their website?
    • When we met with Rice H&D recently, they recommended we communicate expectations clearly with our residents and work through any student-resident issues directly with the Rice community and the SA.