The Amster Brothers
On April 30, 2014, the retaining wall of Hudson Courts, a 110-unit co-op building on Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, collapsed onto the Metro-North train tracks. The co-op had long been in dire need of repairs — the retaining wall alone would cost more than $3.2 million to repair, and the co-op faced physical and financial collapse. Residents and building owners were helpless to find a solution. But Prime Locations, Inc. (PLI) came on board as the co-op’s new management company in September 2015 and tackled each issue head on.
The 30-year-old firm, which specializes in managing co-op, condominium, and rental properties, recommended Hudson Courts hire a new engineering firm to save money on repairing the 60-year-old wall, while also helping to re-finance their mortgage. (According to The Journal News, Hudson Courts had three mortgages at the time of the collapse; by re-financing these mortgages, PLI helped Hudson Courts save millions of dollars in repairs.)
“Hudson Courts was an extreme case,” says PLI founder and CEO Lloyd Amster. “There were a lot of critical problems but we looked at it as being a very exciting challenge.”
That mindset is an integral part of PLI’s sterling reputation. The company prides itself on its approach to property management, which focuses on helping to secure financing, control repair costs, and increase property value for shareholders and tenants. PLI manages some of Westchester County’s largest co-ops, including Sadore Lane Gardens, Westchester Towers, and Bryn Mawr Ridge, all of which are in Yonkers.
Amster runs the Yonkers-based business with his brother, David, who also serves as company president. While PLI manages larger properties, most of their properties are between 80 to 140 units, and they’ve built their clientele entirely through word of mouth.
“We’ve built our business one client at a time,” Lloyd Amster says. “We have roots in Westchester County for 30 years and we’re very well-established.”
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“We keep our clients’ best interests at heart,” David adds.
Oftentimes, those interests are best served with some tough talk. The brothers credit their success in property management to their willingness to take chances with clients. “We’re not afraid to tell our clients that improvements need to be done,” Lloyd states. “You can’t keep deferring maintenance. You have to balance a budget. We tell it like it is.”
This frank approach has helped PLI increase the value of its properties, and is part of what David Amster believes has led to PLI’s success in its field.
“In this business, a lot of firms are reactive and we try to be more proactive,” he says. “Our goal is to turn around bad situations and make them good, and increase the property values. A well-run property is very important in being able to increase value.”
Even with the construction boom hitting Westchester County, the Amster brothers believe older co-ops can still appeal to buyers. In some ways, the newest high-tech buildings can actually increase the value of co-ops.
“You can’t build a new building today for less than $400 a square foot,” Lloyd claims. “They’re quite expensive.” In this respect, older co-ops provide better value for residents looking to save money. In addition, the competition from newer apartments can push the older apartments to improve: “Many older buildings are doing modern updates to keep competitive,” he adds.
The Amster brothers’ eagerness to serve their clients also comes from their deep roots in the Westchester community.
“We love Westchester,” Lloyd says. “We’ve lived in Westchester a long time and it’s a great place to work.”
That love is what drives PLI in trying to better the county by saving properties from bankruptcy and despair. In the case of Hudson Courts, the retaining wall was completely repaired by December 2017 and the final financing was completed in March.
“It’s very rewarding because this co-op building was on the verge of going nowhere, into bankruptcy, into foreclosure,” Lloyd says. “Now the shareholders’ units have value again.”