Schenectady

HERE FOR GOOD: Meet Mohabir ‘Mo’ Satram, a master Schenectady house-flipper and sage to countless others

Mohabir Satram stands in front of the house he flipped at 956 Albany St. earlier this month.
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Mohabir Satram stands in front of the house he flipped at 956 Albany St. earlier this month.

Former Mayor Al Jurczynski is fond of saying he wishes he could replicate Mohabir “Mo” Satram.

The Guyanese man, Jurczynski proclaimed, single-handedly rehabbed dozens of houses in the city. Satram said he did close to 30 homes himself, and partnered on countless other projects.

“He was just possessed,” Jurczynski said. “He’d go out looking for houses in Schenectady, and once he got them, he’d rehab and sell them, most of the time to other Guyanese people. I’d tell him, ‘I wish we had 10 people like you; we’d clean up this city in no time.’ “

Nearly 20 years since Jurczynski and city officials recruited Guyanese-Americans from Queens, the Guyanese have bought thousands of homes in Schenectady, said Queens real estate broker Herman Singh. Singh, as part of a delegation that met with Jurczynski, was part of the recruitment effort. He had Jurczynski on his radio program, on which the former mayor famously gave out his phone number.

According to Singh, mortgages for rundown Schenectady properties were so low at the time, sometimes $15,000, puzzled bank officials were reluctant to give mortgages. On behalf of Guyanese buyers, Singh said, he wrote letters and sent news accounts of Schenectady’s recruitment effort to lending institutions.

Subhash D. Sukhram, owner of Buy-N-Sell Realty on Street Street, is an independent real estate broker and has worked very closely with the Guyanese real estate community for the past 16 years here, and in recruiting many of them from Richmond Hill, Queens.

Business couldn’t be better, Sukhram said Sunday.

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“The fact that we have a community base here has been very attractive to the overall community in attracting more folks to Schenectady,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a thriving community in the near future.

“There’s going to be many more businesses as a result,” Sukhram predicted. “The Guyanese community is very entrepreneurial and we’re going to definitely need to grow that community base to support these folks. I think it goes hand in hand, the entrepreneurial side of things and the population growth. Both are dependent upon each other.”

Satram, who came to Schenectady in 2002, is now 64 and “semi-retired.”

But tales of Satram imparting wisdom to the next generation of Guyanese flippers, or just those looking to make a start here, echo throughout the Electric City.

Beeshram Ramdeo, who moved from Toronto to Schenectady to reunite with family in 2012, said he wants to transition from trucking to flipping homes full time. Ramdeo credited Satram for showing him the ropes in home remodeling.

“He’s the one who’s been helping us most,” said Ramdeo, who’s working on his fourth property. “He comes on his own time, uses his own gas and doesn’t charge anything.”

Ramdeo said he’s using Satram’s model of leveraging a network of Guyanese workers.

“We can do almost anything on a property,” said Ramdeo, who adds that he loves the city.

Helps in other ways

Satram doesn’t only help entrepreneurs.

Anand Sukraj said he moved to Schenectady from Guyana in 2016. At that time a renter, Sukraj said he didn’t trust anyone in the city, and he was a frequent victim of having his car’s tires slashed.

The 49-year-old maintenance worker said someone gave him Satram’s number, and Satram began to come over. Sukraj said the vandalism stopped, and he believes it’s because of Satram’s stature in the community.

Sukraj said he ultimately resolved to buy a house, and, again he turned to Satram for help.

“He said, ‘OK son, I’ll help you buy a house and help push you up,’ ” Sukraj said.

Satram accompanied him on house showings and helped him with paperwork.

Sukraj said he started calling Satram “pop.”

“He’s just a really good person,” Sukraj said.

Standing outside an Albany Street house that he flipped more than 10 years ago,  Satram said he came to Schenectady 19 years ago after noticing a friend had purchased a property for $30,000 or $40,000.

A schoolteacher in Guyana, Satram lived in Queens before coming here. He held a number of corporate jobs, including as a designer for Home Depot.

But Satram said he wasn’t fond of New York City’s fast pace, and of his visit to Schenectady, found it “more laid back, less hustle and bustle and more breathing space.”

His background at Home Depot in tow, Satram gave renovating homes a try when he moved here, and never stopped.

“I used to do two, three houses a year, back to back,” he said, noting he didn’t necessarily target the Guyanese as buyers of his properties. “I would do the dirty job — clean it, gut it — and get guys to come in to do the electrical and plumbing.”

Today, he lends advice to people, mostly as a result of word of mouth from Guyanese, but anyone who asks. He said he gives big-picture advice, telling people to pull permits and not “hide” from the city. He then helps fill out the permits and explains building codes.

Satram is a self-proclaimed salesman of Schenectady, always touting its affordability. If a couple owns here, the couple can continue to make ends meet if one partner loses a job. He said this isn’t always the case in New York City.

It’s also important to leave paid-off property to your children, another advantage for Schenectady, he said.

Satram said it’s satisfying to know he did something constructive with his life and helped his community.

He said he finds giving out advice therapeutic.

“It’s nice to get up in the morning, and you go here and there and meet someone and joke around,” he said. “I should be paying you guys for the treatment you guys are giving me.”

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Categories: News, Schenectady County

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