Posted 4 months ago

Return of the Zombie Condo Listing

In 2014 a client of mine asked me to inspect a condominium he was considering for purchase at 2546 W Haddon in Chicago. It was a 2 unit building constructed circa 2002 which, at first blush appeared to consist of a 'duplex up' and a 'duplex down'. The condition of the building was typical of modern masonry construction in our fair city i.e. slapped together hastily and at risk for leaking through the roof and walls with every rain.

As per usual I set my ladder on the rear balcony and clambered up it to see the condition of the roof. My jaw nearly hit the top rung of the ladder when I was presented, not with a roof, but with another level of living space which was inaccessible from the top floor of the upper or duplex up unit. From the interior, there was no indication that another, and therefore third, level of living space was present above the top floor of this upper condo unit.

The listing agent, who was present at the inspection, claimed to have no idea about this zombie fourth floor of the building which would have, were it accessible, made it a 'triplex up' out of this upper condominium in this two unit condo building. My client, the buyer, walked away from this extremely strange situation and continued his search for a suitable place to live.

Flash forward to today and, in between a couple of inspection appointments, I had the notion of taking a drive past the zombie condo just to see if any changes were evident from the exterior. When I saw the 'For Sale' sign attached to the front fence my curiosity took hold and I looked up the listing. Sure enough it is the upper unit that is for sale and, according to the listing, it appears to be marketed as a 'triplex' unit. That means the zombie top floor level has been resurrected and has joined the land of the living (space).

Now, the City of Chicago isn't historically known for open and transparent government but I have to give them kudos for the ease with which any of us can track down the building permit and code violation history for pretty much any address. I went to the city's D.O.B. site ( and typed in 2546 W Haddon. Having lived in Chicago for over 60 years and having been exposed to it's seamy underside while wearing several different hats, I was not surprised when my search revealed that the last permit taken out for work on this building was in 2013, i.e. a year before my 2014 inspection uncovered the vacant zombie level. That indicates that the miraculous resurrection of the third floor, performed after the 2014 inspection, was most likely done 'on the sly'.

I'm tempted to call the listing agent and ask for a showing to see what has changed since 2014 and if indeed that former 'duplex up' is now a 'triplex up' thanks to something which transpired like a scene from the Walking Dead. Home inspectors who work in and around Chicago are never bored due to the variety of construction styles, vintages, conditions, and apparently, the occasional zombie we are prone to seeing in the course of our work.

The photo shows the rear door of that upper zombie level. 

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