Sex, Murder and Real Estate: Notorious Homes a Hard Sell

Director Roman Polanski was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl at this Hollywood Hills home in 1977.

Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills home of Heidi Fleiss -- the "Hollywood madam" indicted in 1993 by a Los Angeles grand jury for operating a call-girl ring out of the house -- sold in 1994 for its $1.8 million asking price.

Christie Brinkley and her ex-husband, Peter Cook, haven't been as lucky. After Cook's affair with a teenager made intense tabloid headlines for weeks, the couple removed from the market the $15 million house where the trysts allegedly took place.

The North Haven, N.Y., property has returned to the market several times since then with an asking price as high as $16 million. But it has yet to find a buyer.

"The real estate market out here a slowed a bit," says Hamptons real estate broker Neil Bersin. "But I suspect as things continue to pick up, a home like that will get sold despite all the fanfare."

But if similar scenarios are any guide, the values of the Cook-Brinkley home may not ultimately suffer. In 1997, newspapers reported that Michael Kennedy, a son of Robert F. Kennedy, had had an affair with his children's teenage baby sitter in his home in Cohasset, Mass.

Six months after Kennedy's death in December 1997 in a skiing accident, the home sold for $2.3 million, more than double the $874,000 that he and his wife had paid for it six years earlier, public records show.

The East Hampton estate of Ted Ammon shows the impact of a high-profile murder. Ammon, a well-known Wall Street financier, was found bludgeoned to death in the six-bedroom home in October 2001.

The murder occurred days before he was to divorce his wife, Generosa.

The case attracted coverage in the New York media through 2004, when Daniel Pelosi, Generosa Ammon's boyfriend at the time of the murder (she later married him), was convicted of the crime.

The home has been off and on the market with a $10.5 million price tag since Generosa Ammon died of cancer in 2003. For the past few years, it has served as a summer rental for $250,000.

The property has not been offered for sale since Generosa Ammon's death, according to an attorney for the estate.

The Boulder, Colo., home where JonBenet Ramsey was murdered has sold several times since her 1996 death.

Time also softens most stigmas, say experts. The Boulder, Colo., home where 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found strangled in 1996 received an avalanche of gory press. The home has sold three times since 1996, appreciating 60 percent over the three transactions, public records show. That is nearly three times Boulder's rate of appreciation in that period.

The same is the case with Gianni Versace's South Beach, Fla., mansion. The fashion designer was shot to death by serial killer Andrew Cunanan on the doorstep of the home in 1997.

Versace paid a combined $6.6 million for the property in 1992. It was bought three years after his death for $19 million and turned into a hotel and members-only club.

Today, the South Beach, Fla., mansion where designer Gianni Versace was murdered is a hotel.

Stigmatized properties make up a small portion of the overall real estate market, but they have been the subject of research, embroiled in high profile lawsuits and posed a challenge for brokers.

Appraisal groups regularly include the subject in seminars, and the National Association of Realtors publishes a handbook on how to market and sell stigmatized homes and deal with buyer reluctance to own them.

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