Bill Morris in Board Operations on February 13, 2020
This article is part of our occasional series, “The Previous Lives of Property Managers.”
Tasos Magoulas was running a thriving hotel in his hometown of Athens, Greece, when the country was convulsed by a coup and the Turkish invasion of the island of Cyprus in 1974. Forced to sell the hotel, Magoulas and his Greek-American bride, Maria Abazis, left for New York City, where they rented a home in Jackson Heights, Queens, and began building an American life.
After working the reception desks in hotels in Queens and Manhattan, Magoulas started listening to a cousin who was enjoying success as a real estate broker. “He said to me, ‘You know all about buildings, tenants, construction. Why not manage small buildings?’” Magoulas recalls. He listened to the advice, and in 1983 he founded All Area Realty Services, which started out managing two- and three-family homes before riding the wave of co-op conversions that began to crest in the 1980s. At night and on weekends, Magoulas attended classes in law and finance at New York University.
Today, Magoulas is the CEO, his daughter Eleni is the president, and son Gary, an engineer, is the vice president of All Area, which employs 28 people and manages 80 co-ops and condos, most located in Queens, with a sprinkling in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
“In the early days of the company there were a lot of co-op conversions – plus a lot of sponsor defaults,” Magoulas says, referring to the devastating market crash of 1987 and its aftermath. “We did a lot of emergency management back then.”
Oh, how times have changed. Not only has the value of New York real estate gone from the basement to the ionosphere, but the pressures on boards and their managers, fueled by city regulations, have risen in tandem. “Every year we have to comply with new regulations,” says Magoulas, 73. “The city is the worst – 11 agencies writing violations. We had to create a compliance department a few years ago – three people who do nothing but take care of violations. Otherwise, the penalties are astronomical.”
A property manager’s challenges don’t stop there. “Some boards drive you crazy,” Magoulas says with a gruff laugh. “The problem is that most boards don’t know how to run a business. You tell them water and taxes are going up – but they still don’t want to raise the maintenance. We get the accountant involved. Then, after no maintenance increases for several years, they have to raise maintenance by 15 percent. Nobody likes that – and suddenly the board realizes they made a big mistake.”
Happily, there are more than a few exceptions that prove this rule. “Some boards are active, and those buildings are much easier to run,” Magoulas says. “Active boards are not just involved in the finances – they’re involved in compliance, they communicate with the residents, and they’re not going to get hit with a crazy increase that nobody was anticipating. There are no surprises. If there are no surprises, everybody’s happy.”
Especially the property manager who got his start running a hotel in Greece a lifetime ago.
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