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Embarking on a zombie home purchase – Democrat & Chronicle- December 22, 2015

Embarking on a zombie home purchase

By: Mary Chao

When John and Lisa Sanchez first visited the contemporary-style home at 20 Sewilo Hills in Irondequoit, it had been empty for years with the pipes frozen and birds nesting in myriad spots. But they saw potential in the 1,345 square-foot house and decided to take a chance on the zombie property.

With help from Nothnagle agent David Barnes, who is with the Cathy Bianchi team, the couple purchased the home assessed at $152,000 for $90,000.

“I couldn’t afford a home like this fixed up,” said John Sanchez, who owns a contracting business.

After closing on the deal in November, John and Lisa Sanchez are embarking on their own version of Extreme Home Makeover, gutting the home while adding  their own personal touches. The living room is being painted in a neutral mud hue, the bedroom is being readied for their daughter to move into and Lisa has visions of replacing a dated 1980s style Tiffany lamp with a contemporary chandelier to match her taste.

Buying an abandoned property isn’t easy but it can pay off as a home buyer is getting a bargain, Barnes said.

“They take a long time but you can get a house cheap,” Barnes said.

The offer was placed in June and was accepted in August, closing in November. The challenge was getting the bank to respond, Barnes said. The seller had moved out of state and was difficult to reach, he said, adding the seller left the home in 2008 and had rented it out for a few years before it became vacant.

Zombie homes could be a short sale or a foreclosure, Barnes said. In this case, it was a short sale as the home was still owned by the seller. In a foreclosure, the home is owned by the bank and the process typically moves along faster, Barnes explained.

The lender normally will initiate a mortgage foreclosure after the borrower has not paid their mortgage for 90 consecutive days. This is at the discretion of the lender, said Duncan O’Dwyer, managing partner at Forsyth Howe O’Dwyer Kalb & Murphy.

John Sanchez has budgeted $40,000 in materials for the renovation of the home. This particular project is not for the faint of heart, he said, adding that investors who flip homes passed on the property.

There are varying levels of difficulty when it comes to renovating zombie homes, depending on the condition, Bianchi said. It’s best to consult a professional to find out exactly what is involved.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” she said.

For the Sanchezes, they don’t mind the time and expense as it will be their family home. Lisa Sanchez enjoys decorating and wants to style the home in an eclectic fashion and John Sanchez and his crew are demolishing the old and putting in the new.

“I like doing the work myself,” John Sanchez said.

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