Andre El-Amir has been serving Syracuse students for over 25 years, but he’s been a member of the community for far longer.
El-Amir’s family emigrated from Syria when he was a child in 1970. He grew up on Lancaster Avenue and hasn’t strayed far since. Growing up in the shadow of Syracuse University, he learned skills from his carpenter father that would pay off a great deal later in life. El-Amir purchased his first house in 1989 and was able to kickstart his housing business ten years later. His biggest asset in the student housing business is the knowledge and ability to keep his properties well-maintained.
“I get a lot of referrals because from my current tenants, and I pride myself on my reputation,” he said recently in a conversation with Rent College Pads. “I don’t ignore issues. I take care of them. I don’t get a lot of problems at all anymore, not as much as when I first started because everything has been renovated. All of the porches have been knocked down and rebuilt, all appliances are new, plumbing has been updated, electrical is all new.”
New interiors were a necessity, as he’s run into a situation that many landlords across the East Coast have experienced: aging homes. Many of the homes built on or near East Coast campuses have stood for a hundred plus years. But aging doesn’t have to mean deteriorating. Andre’s experience in carpentry has helped him stay current on maintenance and given him an eye for what to look for when hiring on help.
“What they are really now is houses that are a hundred years old that were built in those locations, but everything in there is brand new inside,” he said. “If you look out for all the campuses around the east coast like Tufts University or the University of Temple, all of those campuses are all built back almost 100 years ago and all of the housing around there too.”
He originally did maintenance himself, but as his property count grew, he knew he needed to start bringing on some help. That’s where a background in maintenance helped out once again. A carpenter can always tell if another carpenter’s work is up to par.
“The trouble for me was finding dependable people that I could trust, and that took time,” he said. “Because when you know how to do it, you know how it should be done. And so if you don’t know how to do it these contractors are going to take shortcuts.”
Fortunately, he was able to find reliable assistance, and he’s kept some of his same staff members on for over 15 years.
“My biggest asset is my electrician,” El-Amir said. “He’s 89 years old, and when I need him, he is there.”
El-Amir and his electrician have re-wired and modernized many homes, literally shifting them away from classic gas lamp lighting to newly wired ceiling fans and light switches. He’s seen lots of change over the years as student housing has turned from a way for a family to make a few extra bucks to a thriving, profitable nationwide market.
“It used to be a small mom and pop business,” he said. “I grew up right on Lancaster Avenue, and there were a few families that had a two family house and they rented one out and the lived in one and all of sudden over time it kinda became a business landlords started buying one after another. All of sudden you had companies and LLCs and now there is this massive influx of builders coming in and there knocking theses buildings down and building them in six or seven months. It has changed a lot.”
“I think what makes me different than the others is, sure, you can go over to these buildings like the 44, and you’ll have all of your own all inclusive theater and WiFi, but it just does not have the cozy character of a house in a neighborhood with a sidewalk. You can walk to campus, and there is a front porch and back porch. The biggest thing is people love the houses with the porches. I know how much value those porches have.”
If you’re the kind of student who values a porch and a prime location to share with a handful of your friends, Andre’s University Area Apartments & Houses may have just the place you’re looking for.