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Sunday, May 01, 2005
By Tim Knauss
Staff writer

Carlotta Brown, a 56-year-old mortgage loan officer from the Bronx, made her first trip to Syracuse in July. She visited after hearing that Syracuse was a good place to invest in real estate.

By November, Brown had made commitments to buy six rental properties on the North Side an assortment of two-family, four-family and mixed-use buildings. She also bought a single-family home in Clay.

Brown is not alone. Out-of-town investors from all over the country are flocking to Syracuse to buy real estate.


Exact numbers are hard to come by, but real estate agents say the interest this year from outside investors has reached a high point after climbing for several years.

"I get probably 10 to 15 calls a day just from people who don't live in the area," said Eric Paparo, a commercial broker at 7

Pyramid Brokerage who specializes in industrial and office properties. "They're from New York City, they're from Florida, they're from California. I'm getting some investors that are from out of the country that are looking for opportunities."

The attraction is Central New York's bargain basement prices. Syracuse has some of the lowest real estate prices in the nation, and several widely publicized analyses have ranked Syracuse as one of the most "undervalued" markets.

On top of that, many investors say they think Syracuse is poised for steady growth.

The buzz about Syracuse has attracted seasoned real estate investors, but other investors coming to town are new to the game. Low prices make it easier to start here than in New York City, said Jose Rodriguez, who was shopping last month for properties on the North Side.

Rodriguez and his brother, Emilio, both of New York, said they chose Syracuse as a place to begin investing in part because of the low prices. They want to get their feet wet with properties priced $250,000 or less, Jose Rodriguez said.


"You don't want to make a million-dollar mistake, if you make a mistake," he said.

Nationally, real estate investing has picked up steam since 2000, when the fall of the stock market led people to seek alternative investments.

At least two real estate investment clubs - one in New York City, the other in Salt Lake City - focus on buying property in Syracuse. They bring groups to town regularly and work with local real estate agents, lawyers and property managers.


On top of that, individuals and investor groups from all over the country are vying for local properties, real estate agents say.

The trend appears to be pushing up the price of investment properties, agents say.

A few years ago, it was rare to see an apartment building sell for more than $25,000 per unit; today they sell for as much as $40,000 a unit, and sometimes more, said Joe Nastri, president of the Greater Syracuse Association of Realtors.

Peggy Cadaret, a broker associate at Prudential First Properties, said she recently listed a 13-unit apartment building on Meadowbrook Drive for $500,000, or more than $38,000 per unit.

"To tell you the truth, I thought it was high," she said.

But some 20 investors, mostly from Downstate, bid on the property, which sold for the asking price, she said.


Elijah "Eli" Quiros, the founder of a Syracuse-focused investment club, started investing in real estate several years ago.

At first, he and his wife, Marina Alvarado, of Queens, read books by real estate "gurus" such as Robert Kiyosaki, author of the "Rich Dad Poor Dad" series of books. Then they joined their local real estate investment club, the Ultimate Investors Real Estate Club.

They have bought properties in Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida.

About a year ago, David Lindahl, who sells books and conducts seminars showing people how and where to invest, spoke to the Ultimate Investors club and mentioned Syracuse as an emerging market.

Contacted at his office in Brockton, Mass., Lindahl said he first was attracted to Syracuse because of "the mall up there," referring to the proposed multibillion-dollar Destiny USA resort.

But Lindahl said further research into local job and population trends persuaded him that Syracuse is poised for healthy growth even if Destiny never is built.

That was good enough for Quiros. He sent out a flurry of e-mails to Syracuse real estate agents, and got a response from Fred Dambach of Gallinger/GMAC Real Estate in North Syracuse. Dambach showed Quiros around Syracuse.

In August, Quiros bought a large two-family house on the North Side. His appetite for Syracuse property quickly grew.

Two weeks ago, Quiros and Alvarado paid $324,000 for a mixed-use building on Pearl Street that houses the Freedom of Espresso coffee shop, another store and 12 apartments. Quiros said they intend to invest nearly $300,000 renovating the apartments.


More ambitious still, Quiros and his wife have a tentative agreement to buy the historic Gridley Building in Clinton Square and plan to put together a syndicate to finance the deal, Quiros said.

In July, Quiros organized a trip to Syracuse for members of the Ultimate Investors club. The trip sparked so much interest that, by October, Quiros formed a subgroup called The Syracuse Connection. The new group has about 50 members and sponsors group trips to Syracuse every seven weeks, Quiros said.

Dambach, his wife and son - all real estate sellers - work exclusively with The Syracuse Connection. The workload has gotten so heavy lately that Dambach is farming some of it out to other Gallinger agents, he said.


But The Syracuse Connection was not the first group to set its sights on Syracuse. RealSource, a private real estate research firm in Salt Lake City, has been bringing groups of investors to Syracuse since 2002, according to local professionals.

A company official declined to comment.


Out of sight, out of mind?


In Syracuse, the North Side has attracted a lot of investment from out-of-towners. Investors say the city's investment in North Salina Street, the expansion of St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center and the possible development of Destiny USA all make the area attractive.

Some North Side residents are nervous about the influx of buyers, said Richard Wiese, president of the Greater North Salina Business Association. The fear is that absentee landlords might not maintain their properties or pay attention to the quality of their tenants, Wiese said, adding that he was not aware of specific instances where that was the case.

Brown, the loan officer from the Bronx, said she bought six properties on the North Side because of its proximity to Destiny USA. She intends to fix them up, not let them deteriorate, she said.

"It's an opportunity, and part of the opportunity is from improving the property," she said. "I'm not traveling four hours (from New York to Syracuse) just to have a slum."

Dambach, the real estate agent, said the number of investors targeting Syracuse is making it more difficult to find bargains, although they are still available. Increasingly, he tries to locate properties to acquire before they go on the market.

"It's going to get more frantic, and more competitive," he said


I think it has happened, Syracuse has finally turned the corner and is on its way to growth. This is a exciting time in syracuse, Driving downtown i do not see as many "for Lease" Signs and i see the renovating of buildings. Me thinks that Destiny has made people excited about the area, so once you see a shovel hit the ground, i think the area will explode with development.
 

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CiceroClark said:
This is great news for Syracuse. I hope a boom is right around the corner. I've been waiting 20 years for this.

Seems to me the impressions I've been getting that the whole I-90 corridor in WNY is on the cusp of at least a small boom...

Let's hope!
 

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excellent news for the 'cuse. i only wish utica could get in on the action that WNY is starting to see.
 
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