Unit Commander

David Fucci says he goes to work every day with a fire hose

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

fucci-2014David Fucci of The Fucci Co. in Rutland owns the 121-unit Regency Manor, the only Section 236 project in the country that is still family-owned by the original general partners. In all, his company manages over 300 rental properties around the state.

David Fucci calls Burlington a mini Boston. “You can’t compare it to the rest of the state,” he says, meaning the real estate market in particular. “You’ve got a property in Burlington, especially in a multi-family unit, they put it on the market and they get $200,000 overnight. In Rutland, it sits for years. It’s the nature of the beast.”

Fucci is president of The Fucci Co., a Rutland real estate management firm founded by his father, Ronald, in 1972 as ReMco Management. The name was changed to The Fucci Co. in 1986.

The elder Fucci had an interest in “basically anything that put a roof over your head: real estate, building, property management,” says Fucci, who adds that he is more of a hands-on person than his father was. “I worked with his construction crew building houses from the time I was 12 or 13. I built my first house between my junior and senior years in high school.”

After graduating from Mount St. Joseph Academy in 1977, he attended New Hampshire College in Manchester, N.H.. “Only one year,” he says. “I realized school was not for me.”

He returned to Rutland and started building homes full time. He and his crew built mostly single-family homes in the Rutland area. “Back then we built spec houses: You built it and either lined up a buyer or sold it when you were finished. Those days are long gone,” he says.

It wasn’t until 1989 that he joined the management company. “I was still also building, so I had the building and management end going at the same time. The last house I built was for myself in North Clarendon, and that was back in ’06 or ’07.”

Joining the management company was a significant move for Fucci. His father, who would die in 1991 of cancer, wanted to make sure things went smoothly after his passing. “I’ve seen more families broken up when they start divvying things up,” he says. “Dad said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ So when he did pass away, he divided everything between my sisters and myself.”

He laughs as he mentions his four sisters, all of them older than he. “I have five mothers!” he exclaims. They were happy to have him buy them out of their shares.

Slowly, Fucci began to put his own mark on the business. His father had started a real estate company called Rutland Realty in 1954, which he had sold in the 1980s. Fucci bought it back “in probably 1994 or ’95,” he says, changed the name to Century 21 Premier Properties, and ran it until the first of this year, when he sold it. “It was time to step back a bit and have a little extra free time.”

These days, The Fucci Co.’s focus is managing property for 320 units of housing in Rutland County. Responsibilities include marketing, lease negotiation and enforcement, financial reporting, federal housing compliance certification where required, and maintenance administration and supervision.

One hundred twenty-one of those units are apartments at Regency Manor, the largest apartment complex and home to the company offices.

The elder Fucci launched the management business when Fucci was in high school. “Most of the properties they were initially involved with were federally subsidized Section 8 program properties,” he says. “And then it kind of snowballed. From there, we built other projects, managed stuff for other people, but this first project [Regency Manor] was built under the government’s Section 236 program.

“The premise of that program is to have mixed income streams of all different levels. Out of the 121 apartments here, only 45 are Section 8. Then you have two other levels, which are basic rent and market rent.

“Under Section 236, tax credits were sold and they got built. Once the tax credits end — they call it recapture — then you’ve got to start paying and start giving credits. Most of the Section 236 builders were big developers who built five or six of these and flipped them once the tax credits came due. And a lot of them had probably been razed. Compare it to Forest Park here — built after this and they’ve already torn it down,” he continues.

“That’s where the difference was: The developer was still here on-site. My father and I took pride in it. This is the only 236 left in the country still family-owned by the original general partners — from my father to me. I guess when you own it, you take a little more pride in it. That’s why I come to work every day. And we take pretty good care of the place.”

Of the 320 units the company manages, Fucci owns about 60 percent. “The rest, we do a lot of work for out-of-state owners. They need somebody that’s right here to collect the rents, find the tenants, and take care of everything else.”

To accomplish this, Fucci employs three people in the office and seven in maintenance. In summer, that number bumps up a bit with help from friends or college students. “I still have one of my key carpenters, Scott Young, from my homebuilding days,” he says. “He’s been with me almost 30 years.”

Fucci is still very much a hands-on manager, he says, often out working with the guys. “In the wintertime when we move snow, I’m in one of the trucks. That’s why I come in early, to get rid of the paperwork. The paperwork is important, but there’s not a lot of self-satisfaction.”

“I say, ‘I go to work every day with a fire hose,’” he quips. “It depends on whether it’s the two-inch line or the six-inch line. You can go from dealing with a broken water main on one of the properties to dealing with a tenant issue. It depends on the day.” Two maintenance workers are on-call around the clock.

“You’ve gotta keep up to date,” says Fucci. “The regulation end obviously never goes backward, especially here in the city. We’ve got to get certificates of occupancy. Every turnover, somebody from the city has to come and inspect the unit to see that the electrical’s up to code, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers — a lot of inspections. I know November 1, there’s a new code that deals with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Some days I say we get inspected to death.”

Times have changed, he says. “Seven or even six years ago, we would go months without an empty unit, but in the last three-four-five years, we probably have at least 15 units on average that we’re turning over.” He adds that at one time, he knew almost every single tenant by first name, but the increased turnover has changed that. “People sometimes come for a year and then move on. It’s a different world.

“David puts a lot of thought into what he does,” says Lee Turner, the general manager of F.W. Webb Co., a plumbing supply wholesaler. “I think David is 10 years younger than me, so I’ve known him since he was a little kid — 4 or 5 years old — when one of my friends dated his older sister.”

Turner admires the fact that Fucci does a lot of research and planning before he tackles a project. “That makes it easier to do business with somebody,” he says.

An example of such a project might be the buried fuel oil tanks. Although most of Fucci’s other properties burn propane, Regency Manor is heated with fuel oil. Should the time come when a natural gas pipeline reaches Rutland, he says, “I’d switch to natural gas in a heartbeat.”

Regency Manor has 15 buildings on slabs, and each one had a buried, 2,000-gallon oil tank. The state and the insurance company were urging Fucci to get them out of the ground. “We hired a couple of firms to come in,” he says, “and their answer was to dig them up and put them back in the ground. I said, ‘You didn’t hear me: What are my other options?’”

He came up with the idea of creating a front porch on each unit — “a nice little portico. We dug down, poured a slab, built frost walls, and put the tanks in there under the porches. They’re encased, so if they leak, it’ll be in a concrete vault.

“We went from 15 to 57 oil tanks. Then we decked them over, added a nice post and a roof over the top, and an access panel like a little trap door.” The insurance company and the state loved the idea, he says, adding that the project also dressed the buildings up.

Fucci has never married, but lives with a woman he met through a mutual friend. He enjoys golfing and has a boat on Lake Bomoseen. He serves on several boards, including the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Southern Vermont (he’s a past president) and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST).

“My big hobby is snowmobiling — my mental escape. I go up to Quebec for a week at a time on a saddlebag tour. We trailer up to the Laurentians to Saint-Zénon and go for a week, 1,500 to 1,800 miles, sometimes up the Gaspé Peninsula.”

VAST named him 2012 Snowmobiler of the Year. “That’s because I donate a lot of my time. I have heavy equipment — excavators, dozers. After Irene, we spent months out there putting culverts and bridges back in.

“Lots of times I’ll get out my excavator and go play someplace, do a project for the club or whatever is needed.” •