Nov.12, 2013 -- Shopping for a new home or apartment? Worried it might once have been the scene of murder, suicide or murder-suicide? Then there's a new real estate tool for you: DiedInHouse.com, which answers the question, "Has anybody ever died in this house?"
DiedInHouse is the brainchild of Roy Condrey, who tells ABC News he came up with the idea after a tenant of his complained that the property Condrey had rented him was haunted. Condrey did an online search to determine if anybody had ever died at the address, but it revealed little. Nor was a search of county documents productive.
Condrey says that prior to his website, there had been no "one-stop shopping" service to find out if anyone has ever died, been killed or committed suicide at a given address. DiedInHouse uses a proprietary algorithm to crunch data drawn from newspaper accounts, real estate records and death notices. The customer pays $11.99 for a report containing the answers to such questions as: Has someone ever died at this address? Who? When? What was the cause of death? It also gives the "vitality status" of any previous residents of the property.
Asked what "vitality status" means, Condrey says he tries to give customers more than just a simple yes or no as whether a death has occurred. "We don't have all the records," he says, "but we do have millions of them. This gives the customer a list of everyone who's ever been associated with the address—previous residents and their relatives. On that list, we tell you who's been reported as deceased." A customer can use the other names to ask realtors and sellers if they know these persons' status.
Neither the seller nor the realtor has a legal obligation to disclose deaths associated with a property, says Condrey. Yet death, he says, can very much affect the value of a home.
He cites the example of Janet Milliken, who in 2007, according to court documents, bought a home in Thornton, Pa., not knowing it had once been the scene of a murder-suicide. On eventually leaning the home's macabre history, she sought to void the purchase and to sue the seller and agent to recover her money. Although a court acknowledged the home's history caused it to be worth less than comparable homes untouched by death, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the trial judge's finding that there was no obligation by the seller to reveal its history.
Condrey, whose site was launched in June, says its traffic has grown dramatically since October, when it got about 61,000 unique visits. Unique visits now stand at more than 730,000 a month. He credits Halloween publicity in part.
Condrey says famed "doomsday appraiser" Randall Bell has estimated that a violent death can reduce the value of a property by up to 25 percent and increase by 50 percent how long it takes to sell.
Bell, whose firm, RealEstasteDamages.com, values both residential and commercial properties, tells ABC News that mass murder can be "very detrimental" to commercial value. He cites a case in Hawaii where a disgruntled employee opened fire on his colleagues in an office building. The difference, he says, between residential and commercial death cites is that the value of commercial ones tend to snap back more quickly.