Neighbors help “zombie properties” come back to life

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – America’s wave of mortgage foreclosures has spawned a new plague on neighborhoods: they are nicknamed “zombie properties” or “zombie homes.”

These homes have been abandoned by their owners, and the bank does not take title to the property, making the home almost impossible to sell.

“Zombie properties” can be a blight on any neighborhood, city or suburb, and homeowners in both Buffalo and the Town of Hamburg are fighting hard to prevent zombie homes from bringing down their neighborhoods. Now neighbors are working to resurrect those properties.

Zombie home #1: a long-vacant building on Linwood Avenue, near West Utica, in Buffalo. Until last week, its owner was a Buffalo expatriate living in California, who couldn’t sell the property. It was neglected, and housing code violations piled up in Buffalo Housing Court.

Joe Daham, the property’s co-owner, said it was originally a carriage house, “a big 3,000-square foot carriage house. Unbelievable!”

Daham, an engineer, and his friend Jeff Bochiechio, an attorney, had been eying this former residence-turned-office building for a year, and finally pooled their resources to buy it – a decision that just a few years ago, would not have made much sense in Buffalo.

“There’s been a lot of houses on this street that are also having renovations done to them. I think it is a great area, and I think this is a really promising property,” said Daham.

Daham and Bochiechio believe the carriage house was built in the early 1900s, behind an even larger residence that was destroyed by fire. The house was removed and the space paved over.

The 20-something partners are now renovating the building from top to bottom to convert the property back to a high end residence split into two luxury apartments or condominiums – a throwback to its golden years.

“This was ‘Millionaire Row,'” said Bochiechio, who believes bringing the property back to life as apartments, houses, or businesses is, “a great step toward revitalizing Buffalo.”

Zombie home #2: an abandoned house on Glenwillow Drive in the Town of Hamburg, where homeowners are fighting similar blight. The property was foreclosed by a bank, and the owners fled, but neighbors took care of it until Fannie Mae, the largest purchaser of bank mortgages in the country, took it over.

Dick Conklin ran an extension cord from his house to keep the sump pump running, so the basement would not flood, when the power was shut off.

Conklin said his son did a lot of mowing, and his neighbor on the other side of the vacant house “used to trim the bushes and mow the front. I had power for the pump until they locked me out.”

Fannie Mae hired a realtor to manage the Hamburg property, and the realtor has hired contractors to landscape the yard and make the split-level ranch livable again.

The realtor told Conklin and his neighbors she is planning to plant a “for sale” sign on the property in a few weeks.

The owners of the carriage house on Linwood Avenue say bringing that zombie back to life will take a little longer: about six months to a year to make that property livable again.

blog comments powered by Disqus