Would you buy a house where a murder took place?
Some people would buy the discounted house and joke about the foolish superstition of the other buyers. Some would not buy due to the spiritual taint.
In May of 2008 five bodies were discovered in a house in San Clemente. Fingerprint experts were required to identify the bodies as they were in an advanced state of decomposition, a grizzly sight that required extensive clean up for a subsequent sale. The house sold in 2012 for $820,000, which was about $350,000 under comparable sales at that time.
Would you buy it?
How much discount would you require?
How would you feel about living in this house?
If a murder took place in a house, would you want to know? Do you have a right to know?
One thing home sellers have to disclose to buyers is whether a murder or a death related to the condition of a house occurred in the home.
The requirement varies from state to state, but that’s the general rule of thumb.
Deaths related to the condition of the home is a no-brainer – the buyer should know about these.
But the murder disclosure raised questions around our water cooler. Is this an anachronism – a nod to the superstitious? It is a useful gauge for the buyer?
There’s a world of information online as to whether a neighborhood has a crime problem – does disclosure really tell if a neighborhood is dangerous?
Is there some kind of irrational concern about the house being haunted?
And how far back would you worry? What if the event occurred 100 years ago?
If the disclosure about a murder had a sunset clause (meaning you don’t have to disclose after enough time passed), then the house would have more value to an owner who planned to own until after the sunset clause than someone who was not; after all, the long-term owner could buy at a discount and sell for full market value to an unuspecting buyer after the sunset clause terminated.
Could you fix those problems with a blessing or other ceremony?
This water cooler discussion spilled over into the newsroom, and we decided to share the opinions of several HousingWire staff members.
If I find out that someone died in a house I’m looking at buying, I’m out – right then and there – regardless of the way the person died. It’s an ender, pun not intended. That house is scratched off the list with the most permanent of permanent ink.
Some might argue that the passage of time might make it easier to accept, and that’s probably true for me, to a certain degree. But I’m still out on that house, regardless of when it happened.
If someone died in the house recently, I don’t want to live there – not now and not ever. I can’t imagine sleeping in the same room where someone died or showering in the same shower where someone died. Plus, if the person was the victim of a violent crime, that’s not the kind of neighborhood I want to live in, even if it was a wholly isolated incident.
That’s just a feeling I would never be able to ignore. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in karma and living in a home where someone died is just bad mojo. No thank you.
Just for the sake of argument, what would you do if you found out someone died in your dream home after you bought it and lived in it happily for a few years? Is ignorance bliss? It’s one thing when you know going in about the issue, but is it any different when you find out after the fact? Since you were happy before you knew, would the knowledge of the terrible and violent murder make a difference?
When it comes to murder, no matter how you spin the death or whatever situation you come up with, I wouldn’t live in the home, or even apartment. There’s no long explanation for why, other than the fact that I have a vivid imagination, and as safe as I feel with my fierce guard cat Kikko patrolling the home, I still would let my mind wander. It’s not a ghost issue or a paranormal problem, but I would steer away from this type of home like I steer away from scary movies.
I would rather not walk around my home constantly visualizing scenes from Law and Order, and with how my creative imagination goes, it would happen all day long.
I lived in Gainesville, Florida, not long after a series of apartment murders where the perpetrator broke in through the sliding glass door. Every apartment in Gainesville has a bar the comes down to prevent forced entry through sliding glass doors due to this event.
One day, I went out onto my patio in the morning not fully dressed for the day. When I closed the door behind me to keep in the air conditioning, the bar fell down and locked me out of my own apartment. If any of you watched Birdman, you know what I went through.
It depends on how long ago and the circumstances of the event. If it was a home intruder shot by a homeowner, it won’t bother me – I’ll know I’m moving into a neighborhood with my kind of people. If it was more than a few decades ago and there had been owners in the interim, I also wouldn’t care.
But if it were some kind of horrible event – like a Helter Skelter mass murder, or there were kids killed – yeah, that would bother me. I don’t want to wake up in the night and see children’s handprints glowing on the walls as I hear ice cream truck music, only there’s no ice cream truck.
What if your subdivision was created atop an old burial ground?
I’ve worked in home care and I’m familiar with hospice care, so the thought of someone dying from natural causes in their home would not bother me at all in buying a house. If there was a violent incident involving kids, I probably couldn’t get over the sadness associated with that, but a murder in the house wouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker for me. I think it’s right to require that disclosure, although I’m apparently hard-hearted enough not to let it bother me if it was a good deal.
The property at the lead of this article sold for a 35% discount to current comps, and it was the site of multiple murders and decomposing bodies. The discount is a result of people like the reporters above. Three out of four wouldn’t consider the property, but one would, and that person would obtain a large discount due to their different beliefs.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Is it a big deal and why?
Is it important to you to know if there was a murder in the house you’re buying?
People discount properties all the time for environmental problems like proximity to a freeway. Columbus Grove in Irvine is built on an old airbase, and the disclosures recommend people don’t eat the fruit off yard trees because the roots get down to the soil toxins covered over when the subdivision was created. It’s not Love Canal, but it’s not a positive feature of the community.
What makes the murder scenario different is that there is no identifiable environmental hazard. If you don’t believe in ghosts, spirits, or other residual effects from past actions, violent or otherwise, then the property should be worth full comparable value, but we all know it isn’t. Are people giving in to superstition?
I have mixed emotions on this one. The left-brained, rational, scientific person in me would buy the house and enjoy the discount; however, the right-brained, empathic, spiritual person in me would recoil at the thought of living where such a dreadful crime took place.
My left-brain would try to convince my right-brain that everything is okay, perhaps even consenting to have some ritual performed — you know how the rational left-brain would be rolling its inner eyes at the foolish emotional right-brain and try to placate it. Perhaps this ruse would work, or perhaps not. Either way, the two parts of my personality would be in conflict, and living with this conflict would probably remove the property from consideration for me — unless the discount was large enough… everyone has a price, right?