“Zombie home” exists in neighborhood of trophy homes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – An upscale neighborhood in North Buffalo is finding that no community is immune from bank foreclosures, and especially dilapidated vacant houses known as “zombie property”.

An abandoned house has now become an eyesore among the trophy homes on Starin Avenue, owned by lawyers, judges, and other Buffalo professionals. But the biggest issue for Benjamin Siegel is a big dead tree that could come crashing down at any moment.

When Siegel and his wife moved into their home next door, back in January, everything was covered with snow.

“I had no idea the property next to us, behind us, was completely vacant,” said Siegel.

It was not until the spring thaw that they discovered the house next door was an empty hulking monstrosity.

“As the snow started melting, we learned what was in this house, and it turned out nothing was. The roof was falling apart, everything was falling apart on it,” including a massive dead tree, in the backyard inside a wooden deck, with big scary limbs just inches from Ben’s home.

“Standing under it, right now, I always worry–especially heavy rainfall, lots of snow. It is the house, but it is our safety–walking through here, driving here–that this could fall at any moment.”

Siegel and others are interested in possibly buying the property, to stabilize it, and even “flip” it, but Ben has learned the deed is held by a California bank, and the mortgage is being serviced by a third party. Neither company has been responsive to Ben’s inquiries, or his neighbors’ calls.

“The gentleman across the street has been interested in doing the same. He is a contractor, I am an architectural designer. We briefly talked about partnering on such a venture.”

But after hearing the bank might be asking for more than $200,000 Siegel worries conditions will only get worse.

“It is really falling apart–a lot of rotting, issues in the backyard, rats in the backyard that are slowly creeping into our yard. I don’t see it getting any better.”

News 4 reached out to the California-based bank, and the mortgage servicer, but so far without success; however, News 4 has learned the zombie property was in Buffalo Housing Court, on Friday.

Court sources were not available to answer questions about what code violations, inspectors might have found. The only with the holding the bank accountable to the code violations: The long arm of Buffalo City Court doesn’t reach California.

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