There’s been a rebound in home-buying demand in recent weeks, as evidenced by mortgage application data. But first-time buyers aren’t behind the surge.(Getty Images)The latest data from
Real Estate To Die For: Would You Ever Live in a Murder House?
Dated: October 28 2021
The homes may look like all the others on their quiet blocks—except, there’s something indefinably dark about them.
Everyone who grew up in the communities in which these homes sit—and in several towns over in all directions—have heard the grisly tales of the atrocities that took place within their walls. And around this time of year, carloads of true-crime fans and ghost hunters descend in some sort of macabre pilgrimage to these legendary houses that still make headlines, years and sometimes decades after the gruesome crimes were committed.
What happens to the nation’s most infamous murder homes, places that became fixtures on evening news broadcasts around the world? Do new families really move in and sleep each night in the same bedroom where somebody else’s life was violently stolen? And can these notorious residences ever recover from the stigma of the violent tragedies that occurred inside once they’ve become part of the local lore?
The reality is some of these properties are sold to folks who either aren’t bothered by living in homes defined by abominable acts or wanted to get a real estate deal—or some combination of the two. These residences typically take much longer to sell—sometimes years—and can come with discounts of between 10% and 25% off the market value, says real estate appraiser Randall Bell, of the Landmark Research Group in Laguna Beach, CA.
Many never resell at all.
“It takes a special buyer, one who wants to save money and isn’t freaked out by what happened there,” says Bell.
He specializes in stigmatized real estate, and has appraised the homes of JonBenét Ramsey, the site of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide, and the condo where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered along with Ron Goldman.
The more infamous a home, the longer it can take to sell.
There are simply fewer people who are comfortable moving into a place where someone was killed. Some worry about lingering dark energy and ghosts, while others are simply too disturbed by what took place there to consider moving in themselves.
Many don’t want the hassles of owning a home that’s famous for all the wrong reasons. New owners typically have to contend with the steady stream of looky-loos taking photos in front of their home or trying to get inside to see for themselves where the crimes occurred.
“I wouldn’t be in business today if people didn’t care about death in their homes,” says Roy Condrey, president and founder of DiedinHouse.com.
Users can type their addresses into his website, which launched in 2013, to find out if someone passed away there (or if the property was the site of other unsavory activities such as meth production).
“People care about a tragic death like suicide, murder, or even a bizarre death like someone who died unexpectedly in their house [such as] drowning in their pool,” says Condrey.
The JonBenét Ramsey house at 749 15th Street in Boulder, CO(Realtor.com)
Sometimes these properties eventually do get sold to buyers who live in them. They include the Boulder, CO, home where the body of JonBenét Ramsey, a 6-year-old beauty queen, was discovered in 1996.
But often, the most notorious locations are razed, with new homes erected in their stead.
Such properties include the Brentwood, CA, house where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in 1994, and the Rancho Santa Fe, CA, mansion where 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide in 1997.
The Beverly Hills, CA, home where actress Sharon Tate and four others were killed by Charles Manson‘s followers in 1969 was also torn down and a new home erected on the property. But the 2019 Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” thrust the crime—and the site where the mansion once stood—back into the public eye.
“The problem with tearing things down is the stigma then goes to the site,” says appraiser Bell.
Sometimes something entirely different goes up on plots of land where heinous acts were committed.
The three-story brick building known as “Murder Castle” in downtown Chicago(Public Domain)
A U.S. post office sits on part of the site of the famed H.H. Holmes “murder castle” in Chicago. Holmes was considered one of the first documented serial killers, murdering at least nine people—although he claimed to have killed more than 200—at the end of the 19th century. The building was gutted by a fire in 1895 and then torn down until 1938 to make way for the postal location.
The Newtown, CT, home where Adam Lanza killed his mother before taking the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was demolished and left as vacant land.
The Cleveland home where depraved bus driver Ariel Castro held three young women he kidnapped captive for more than a decade was knocked down and a garden was planted on the property.
“That’s such a beautiful tribute to the victims,” says Christina Van De Water, a Southbury, CT, real estate agent and co-host of “The Real Crime Podcast,” which is focused on the intersection of true crime and real estate. “More and more I’m seeing the home is torn down and they try to erase the history of it.”
The Lizzie Borden house at 230 Second Street in Fall River, MA(Creative Commons)
Then there are enterprising buyers who purchase these homes to turn them into businesses. The infamous Lizzie Borden house became a bed-and-breakfast in Fall River, MA, changing owners earlier this year. Then there’s the “Conjuring” house, in Harrisville, RI, where reports of paranormal activity inspired the popular movie of the same name. The owners rented out rooms for the night to ghost hunters before they put the house on the market last month. It was pending sale as of last Thursday.
The Villisca Ax Murder House is a local tourist attraction made famous by the homicide of the entire Moore family, which occurred here on June 10, 1912.(Creative Commons)
Visitors can tour the Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa or even stay overnight—for a fee. In 1912, eight people, including six children, were found bludgeoned to death in the still unsolved crime. The victims were the Moore family and two houseguests.
“There is a buyer for every house,” contends DiedinHouse.com’s Condrey.
Buyer beware: The challenges of living in an infamous murder home
Not everyone who buys a murder house is troubled by the gruesome history. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems that can crop up.
In an attempt to deter the crowds driving by—or worse, stopping to take selfies— many owners attempt to change the addresses of the homes and make cosmetic changes so the place doesn’t look like the photos seared into people’s memories. This can be as simple as a coat of paint or as complex as a complete overhaul of the exterior landscaping.
“It’s not uncommon for someone who buys the home to ask to get the number of the home changed,” says Steve Lehto, consumer protections attorney in Detroit and author of “American Murder Houses: A Coast to Coast Tour of the Most Notorious Houses of Homicide.
It doesn’t always work, he says. “The problem is people [really] looking for the house are still going to find it.”
True-crime aficionados have the internet, online forums, and all of the locals knowing the location to thank for that.
In certain instances, these homes can become the most famous tourist attractions for miles, attracting visitors from all over the world. That can take a toll on entire neighborhoods that have to deal with the morbid curiosity of strangers.
The Colorado house where Chris Watts strangled his pregnant wife before leaving to murder his two young daughters(Weld County)
A neighbor of the Frederick, CO, house where Chris Watts strangled his pregnant wife, Shannan Watts, to death before murdering their young daughters in 2018 (as later depicted in the hit Netflix documentary “American Murder: The Family Next Door”) told Realtor.com that on some weekends three to four cars with out-of-state plates will drive by the vacant house each hour. Neighbor Chris Burr said he even saw some people stop by the home with a ladder they were using to try to get into the home. It’s not uncommon for the police to be called
“I’ve seen peoples’ lives absolutely wrecked,” says appraiser Bell. “They buy the property, and they’re just harassed so much with people trying to break in and knocking on the door. There are even Satan worshippers who try to break in to have their rituals inside the homes.”
Buying an infamous home and then reselling it later can be difficult
Buyers may also want to consider the resale value of the property if they don’t intend to make it their forever home. Generations after a high-profile murder, the stigma on the home often lingers.
“Should you want to sell that property in the future, you might have a challenging time,” says Albert Armieri. He’s the co-founder of HouseCreep.com, a crowdsourced, international website where folks can type in addresses and find out if anything unsavory happened there or the property is rumored to be haunted.
Some real estate agents will actually hire someone to do a spiritual cleansing of the property, to clear out any lingering, malevolent energy, before putting it on the market, says agent and podcaster Van De Water. New owners may perform their own rituals.
However, real estate is worth only as much as what someone will pay for it. And the inconvenience of living somewhere that’s famous for the worst possible reasons is a steep drawback.
“It’s not the house’s fault—the house hasn’t killed anybody,” says author Lehto. “The only [real] drawback is people at the end of my driveway taking photos of my place.”
Source:Clare Trapasso - Realtor.com
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