Bill Morris in Building Operations on December 27, 2018
This article is part of our occasional series, “The Previous Lives of Property Managers.”
If it involves running or maintaining a building, Cody Masino has probably done it. Growing up in Middle Village, Queens, he worked fill-in summer shifts for painters, porters and doormen at properties managed by his father. After graduation from Franklin K. Lane High School, a stint in the Army Reserve, and a brief taste of college, Masino got a job as a unionized elevator operator in a white-glove co-op on Fifth Avenue.
“Overnight shifts were kind of boring,” says Masino, now 44. “I did a lot of reading to stay awake – I love Elmore Leonard novels. But when I worked day shifts, I learned about day-to-day building functions, relations with the residents. That taught me that a co-op is managed quite differently from a rental. It’s a totally different atmosphere.”
But Masino, a fast-talking kinetic man, grew restless. He had earned his real estate salesperson license and started moonlighting with a new brokerage called Citi Habitats. But in those pre-cell phone days, real estate was a time-gobbling, shoe-leather hustle, and Masino decided to leave the elevator cage behind and pursue real-estate full-time. His timing proved atrocious. Four days after he quit his union job, the 9/11 terrorist attacks shocked the city and the world.
“Wow,” Masino says, remembering those dark times. “The phone was not ringing. People were not looking for apartments or planning to move.”
It was time to scuffle. He went to work for a mortgage bank, where he learned the mortgage business but wound up selling adjustable rate mortgages that gave him “mixed feelings” – and proved to be a prime driver of the 2008 collapse. By the time the crash hit, Masino had married Patricia Miscicka, a laser acupuncturist, and they’d had a daughter.
“I needed to find something more stable,” Masino recalls of those dicey times. Stability arrived in the form of a job managing co-ops. “It was a small mom-and-pop company, and I handled 12 co-op buildings. I still don’t know how I did the job. I had no support from the back office, and I had to learn everything on the fly.”
That’s how most property managers learn their craft, and Masino proved to be a quick study. Plus he’d amassed some valuable experience. “I already knew how buildings run,” he says, “and I knew about application packages, sales, and sublets.” He also understood mortgages and brokers, painters and porters, elevator operators and doormen. “But I had to learn how to manage personalities,” he says. “The management business is not about the properties, it’s about the personalities of the people on the board, and the shareholders. The hardest part is communicating with people and guiding them to a goal.”
The final step in Cody Masino’s long journey came in 2014. His father’s employer, Bronstein Properties, had recently bought David Associates, which owned buildings and managed four co-ops. Bronstein needed someone to take over management of the co-ops, and Masino jumped at the opportunity. Since then, as vice president, he has tripled the portfolio to 12 buildings with more than 2,000 units, most of them in Queens. Masino sees this as a niche with unlimited potential – they’re properties that Manhattan management companies tend to regard as too small or insignificant, but they’re too big for a mom-and-pop companies to handle.
“I’m in a good position to double this company in size,” Masino says, citing Bronstein’s robust back office as a growth enabler. “I’m building a company and I’m having a good time doing it. The thing I love about property management is that no two days are alike. I like to go out to the properties, deal with the super and the residents and the staff – I could never be strapped to a desk 9 to 5.”
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