Selling Homes With Notorious Histories: Price Takes a Beating

PHOTO: The former home of Jeffrey Dahmer.
Courtesy Zillow

Nothing ruins a property's value like murder.

That was made clear when Catrina McGhaw of Missouri recently broke her lease when she discovered while watching television that her house was once owned by a serial killer who tortured as many as 20 women in the basement.

It's a problem felt by other owners of buildings with notorious pasts.

"With that kind of history, I would plan on the home being at least 20 percent below market value," Zillow real estate expert Brendon DeSimone said. "It also shrinks the pool of buyers. Many customers simply won't make an offer. For obvious reasons, most buyers will just move onto something else."

But even those willing to live with a lurid history will expect a deal, DeSimone said.

"Basically the value is so much lower because you are losing a huge amount of market share," DeSimone said.

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Despite the challenges of marketing a home with a bloody history, the best practice for a property owner is to disclose these details, DeSimone advised.

"A smart buyer will do their homework. Nowadays with so much real estate information available online, if a murder took place in recent years, there would be records and knowledgeable neighbors," he said.

One website, DiedInHouse, will reveal if someone has died in a house for a fee.

Read More: Website Tells Who's Died At Your House

Carmen Jones, a Redfin real estate agent in Dallas, helped her client buy a home where a stripper had been murdered. The homicide was only revealed after her client had put in an offer on the house. The revelation didn't bother her client enough not to buy the home, however.

"Other clients of mine might have reconsidered if it were a natural death, but murder is different," Jones said. "Most people are disturbed by the thought of a spirit or ghost of a person that met a terrible traumatic fate. Most are truly mortified at the thought of ghosts, but especially one living in their home."

While it might not be a deal breaker, it would certainly narrow down the number of buyers interested, Jones said.

Here are some homes of either accused murderers or scenes of gruesome crimes.

PHOTO: The former home of Jeffrey Dahmer.
Courtesy Zillow
Jeffrey Dahmer

The home where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer committed his first murder in 1978 is on sale for $295,000. The house last sold in December 2005 for $244,500, according to property records. The home was listed for sale in 2012 for $329,000. There was a price cut to $299,000 in July 2013, then the listing was removed in November 2013. It was re-listed in March 2014 for $295,000 and is still on the market.

Mesa, Arizona

PHOTO: Travis Alexanders home in Mesa, Ariz., is shown in this Sept. 16, 2008, file photo.
Jonathan Moffat/Zuma Press
Where Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander

The home where Jodi Arias killed former boyfriend Travis Alexander in June 2008 had become a tourist attraction, to the dismay of its owners. Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder in May 2013.

The homeowners learned about the home's history after their offer was accepted, about a month after Arias' verdict, the Arizona Republic reported.

Alexander bought the house in July 2004 for $249,918.

Records indicate the home was foreclosed to the lender in February 2009 for $286,216, then listed the next month for $225,420. After being removed from the market, the home was listed again in June 2009 for $199,900, a drop of more than 11 percent. The latest owners bought the foreclosed house in August 2009 for $206,000.

The newspaper withheld the couples' names to protect their children, who did not know the full details of Arias' case.

“I was a little nervous about it," the wife told the Republic. "My husband, though, it didn’t bother him. He said, ‘This is a good deal. It’s a beautiful home. It’s in a great school district,’” she said. “When we signed the papers, we didn’t realize this was going to be that big of a case.”

Beverly Hills, California

PHOTO: Where the Menendez brothers killed their parents in 1989.
Menendez Brothers

This home in Beverly Hills, California, is where the Menendez brothers killed their parents in 1989. Records show the home was purchased the year before the murder, for $4 million.

Family members who inherited the house sold it around February 1993 to William Link, who co-wrote Columbo, Murder, She Wrote and other TV shows and films. Link tried to sell the home in April 1997, listing it for $3.995 million. It sat on the market for two years before it was de-listed around December 1999. It was listed again in April 2001 for $4.15 million. It sold in November 2001 to a telecommunications executive for more than $3.7 million.

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Los Angeles, California

PHOTO: Where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in June 1994. Nicole Simpsons estate sold the home to Paul Crane, a lawyer, in 1995. He sold it to Diane Frome-Elden and David Avrum Elden on Dec. 27, 2001. They still own it today.
Nicole Brown Simpson

This home in Los Angeles, California is where Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were murdered in June 1994. The home was purchased about six months earlier in January 1994 for $625,000, records show. Nicole Simpson's estate sold the home in December 1996 for $525,000 to an attorney. He later sold it to a designer and her husband around 2001. The couple listed in 2005 for an unknown price, but took it off the market after it didn't sell for about a year.

Eventually after apparent renovations, the home passed to a new owner on Oct. 30, 2006 for a whopping $1.72 million, records show.

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