UB alumnus Marlon Browar makes a living leasing houses to UB students
Browar first began leasing houses during his sophomore year at UB
Marlon Browar knows the reputation of University Heights landlords.
The neighborhood located right off South Campus has been plagued with absentee landlordism for years. UB students often live in unsafe houses with broken locks and black mold without things like working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
But Browar, a recent UB grad and landlord of more than a dozen properties in the Heights, sees potential in the neighborhood and the City of Buffalo in general. He said landlords who don’t care about their properties are the ones who are dragging the Heights down.
“University Heights kind of gets a bad name and I think there’s a ton of potential in the Heights,” Browar said. “I think Buffalo in general, there’s a lot more opportunity out there. You can really build up a business there.”
Browar started renting to UB students when he was still a student himself.
He first realized he could make a living out of real estate in the Buffalo area after sitting down with his friends during his sophomore year.
Browar, who graduated from the university in 2013 with a degree in business management, had friends who lived in an apartment in Heights and was always curious about what they were paying for rent and what the property values of the houses were.
After checking what the houses in the Heights were going for, Browar – now a licensed real estate broker – said he felt like he came across a business opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
After receiving a loan from his father, Browar purchased some properties in the Heights while he was still a student himself, and has been leasing them to UB students ever since. He said he is currently leasing out more than a dozen properties in the area.
He said the properties in the Heights area don’t typically come up for sale and when they do they’re sold quickly, so often times he’ll hear about listings by word of mouth or referrals. He also said that since becoming a real estate broker, more people approach him with properties.
Browar said convincing his father to help him with the business venture wasn’t hard, since his father also felt it was a great opportunity.
“When I told him originally what the houses were going for he didn’t really believe me that properties were so low compared to New York City where one apartment costs a million dollars and compared to University Heights [the apartments are] a lot smaller,” Browar said.
Shannon Eaton has been renting through Browar since 2015. She said she and her two roommates were able to find Browar by a web search and found his Facebook page. The house, which is located on West Northrup Place, has three bedrooms – one for each girl.
“I don’t rent out bedrooms individually. I know some landlords do that,” Browar said. “I also don’t have anyone living in the attics or basements and stuff like that.”
Browar knows that if he split more areas of his houses up and rented out attics and basements, which is a fire hazard, like other landlords, it would bring in extra money. But he said it isn’t worth it to him to break the law and risk another person’s life.
Most of the homes Browar rents out are two or three bedrooms, and he said his tenants are “100 percent UB students.” Prior to renting the houses, Brower said he likes to meet each potential tenant as well as perform credit checks on each person. Tenants are also required to take out renter’s insurance.
“We’re definitely careful who we lease to,” Browar said.
And while most tenants don’t cause an issue for him, Browar said he has not always had great experiences everyone he’s rented homes to.
“One night I was hanging out in my apartment in my roommate’s bedroom and he was reading The Spectrum and he starts reading out loud and goes, ‘Three kids busted in drug ring at 51 West Northrup,’” Browar said. “I wasn’t really listening and all of the sudden I go, ‘Wait a minute, I think that’s my house.’”
After going to the home, Browar realized the three tenants who lived there were selling narcotics out of the home. He then had to go through the process of removing the tenants from the house before fixing the damages and releasing it.
He also said he had one instance of students turning off the heat before they went back home during winter break and he had to pay approximately $5,000 in damages after the pipes burst and flooded the house.
Browar said whenever there is damage in a home he tries to fix it right away rather than leaving it for the tenants to deal with.
While his friends were staying in apartments in the Heights when they were students, Browar said their landlords would often neglect taking care of issues, such as broken windows or heating that wasn’t working.
Eaton said she and her roommates have had a couple problems while living in their apartment, but Browar had them quickly taken care of.
She said at one point the washing machine stopped draining water and another time the fireplace wouldn’t turn on but Browar sent someone to fix these issues within a few days.
Eaton, who graduated from UB in May with a degree in exercise science, pays $500 a month in rent, which covers “just water and trash.” Eaton said she and her roommates pay for electric, Internet and gas. If they wanted cable they would have to pay for that as well.
Browar said he determines the cost of rent on the location and size of the house as well as the finishes inside the house. Typically, he said, rent ranges between $350-500 a month.
Tenants must also abide by certain rules while living in the homes. Pets are not typically allowed in the homes, barbeque equipment cannot be on the patios and tenants in a fraternity or sorority are not allowed to have parties at the house.
Browar said although he does not ask anyone up front if they are involved in Greek life, he said it’s obvious if the students living in the houses throw parties. He said something like having cups in the basement is a sign that the tenants had a party.
Browar is focused on overseeing his proprieties and improving the reputation of landlords in the Heights. He understands his student tenants’ needs – after all, he was once a student and landlord at the same time