From roommates to business partners, three Binghamton University alumni have teamed up to take on the student rental industry in Binghamton. The company, 4Cproperties LLC, was founded in 2017 and is named after their former suite, 4C, in Seneca Hall of College-in-the-Woods.
Nicholas Catrone, ‘16, Cory Zelniker, ‘17 and Antony Haines, ‘16 became co-founders of 4Cproperties LLC after buying their first property in 2017 and now own three houses. Catrone said the idea started in 2016 when the group was discussing BU’s new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SOPPS) and started looking into houses in the area to see if they could rent properties to pharmacy students.
“We figured buy now before the prices go up,” Catrone said. “But when we realized that the amount of students at BU would lead to increased student rental opportunities, we wanted to expand our potential renter base.”
Later, they decided to turn their idea into an actual company.
“Working long hours together, studying and living in the same suite, we really became a strong team each with various strengths and something unique to bring to the table,” Catrone said. “Toward the end of our senior year, we thought why not become a team, or company, that helps generate income and gives back to the students and keeps us tied to the rapidly improving Binghamton community.”
Zelniker said he was optimistic about their new venture the day they purchased their first house.
“The first day we received the keys to the first house, we knew we were embarking on an exciting and challenging adventure,” Zelniker said.
Catrone said the three of them would drive around neighborhoods on the West Side and keep an eye out for “for sale” signs. They were looking to see which realtors were the most popular, as well as calculating the distances from the houses for sale to BU’s properties and Downtown Binghamton.
Since they were students living in a rental house, Catrone said they understood how to market to their peers and aimed to raise the community around them.
“We also saw how much of an impact BU had on the improvements of Downtown Binghamton and we wanted to remain tied to the community to see and contribute to the development ourselves,” Catrone said.
Zelniker said maintaining good quality of the properties is paramount for the team, and helps prepare them for random housing problems that could arise.
“There are always obstacles when managing properties and a handful of tenants because a lot of things that happen are out of your control,” Zelniker said. “We try to be proactive and keep our houses at a high quality because we knew what it was like to be in their shoes.”
4Cproperties LLC owns and manages the properties they show to students. The company is responsible for generating the leases, communicating with the tenants, handling rental payments and coordinating construction and repairs if needed. Catrone said there were challenges when starting the business.
“The saying ‘You need to have money to make money’ couldn’t be more accurate,” Catrone said. “When we started off, we had absolutely no capital, which led us to performing our own construction work and being very frugal with our business expenses.”
Although the three were roommates and friends, there was still a learning curve, and Catrone said they needed to learn how to be business partners.
“From the beginning, we knew that going into business together meant we needed to trust each other, hold each other accountable and understand our own strengths and weaknesses,” Catrone said.
Besides the financial expenses, Catrone said the distance between the three of them can be a challenge at times since none of them are currently living in the Binghamton area.
“We do the best we can,” Catrone said. “The three of us meet up monthly and have calls weekly to discuss the current situation and our action items list. We have been tirelessly networking with owners, managers and contractors local to Binghamton to help shape our managing strategy as we continue to expand.”
Although they’ve faced obstacles over the years, the friends said it’s important to stay true to your goals and to never give up.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” Catrone said. “The three of us wanted to get into the real estate world in order to generate a source of passive income for us. We wanted our money to work for us. If it wasn’t for that original risk we all took to pay the first down payment, we wouldn’t be here three years later.”