Could Buying a Home with a Stigma Be a Great Deal?

Home in old neighborhood.

Looking for a great deal on your next home? How about buying some old creepy place!

There is a hush-hush phenomenon in real estate that prospective house hunters should be aware of. Although they may not be present in every neighborhood, there are homes to be had for much less than they are worth because they were the scenes of unsavory incidents. In this author’s own neck of the woods, there is a valuable piece of property that has been on the market since 1999. A brutal murder took place there and in spite of the home being demolished and several price reductions, it remains unsold. Given the opportunity, could you take advantage of a set of unfortunate circumstances in order to secure your dream home? Those house hunters willing to let the past die are finding some deals out there.

From homes that once belonged to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, O.J. Simpson, or child-killer, Andrea Yates, those buyers willing to forgive and forget are laughing all the way to the bank. Just ask Peter Muller, who purchased the Yates home on Beachcomber Lane in Houston. In 2004, he bought the charming Spanish-style home now thought to be worth $125,000.00 for a mere $87,000.00. “It’s in a good location,” Muller said. “Plus, it’s got a great layout. There’s a living area and combined dining area.” He went on to explain to an AOL Real Estate representative that the home’s history does not bother him, because he does not think about it.

Of course living in a home that is a former CSI site is not for everyone; a few studies show that they can be outstanding bargains. The real estate consultant firm, Bell Anderson and Saunders, specializes in disaster and crime scene properties, such as the Jon-Benet Ramsey home in Colorado. They suggest that a buyer can save as much as 25 percent on a home that carries a stigma.

A case in point is the Los Angeles mansion of O.J. Simpson. It sold for a trifling $590,000.00 just two years after the gruesome double-murder. That price was a whopping $200,000.00 deduction from the original asking price. Another example is the Southern California home where the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide took place. The 9,200 square foot mansion, situated in a prestigious gated community sold for $668,000.00, two years after the tragedy. Compare that to its original asking price of $1.6 million and you may be able to understand how someone in the market for such a home would have jumped at the deal!

There are also those who have been able to profit from their property’s storied past. Both the Lemp Mansion, site of 4 suicides in St. Louis, MO and Lizzie Borden’s former home in Fall River, MA have been transformed into very successful bed and breakfasts.

It undoubtedly takes a buyer with a certain amount of chutzpa to set up housekeeping in the former residence of a serial killer, such as Jeffrey Dahmer. Chris Butler purchased a split-level ranch that’s nestled into a wooded 2-acre lot in Akron, OH. It was the site of Dahmer’s first brutal murder and the victim’s dismembered body was buried throughout the lovely wooded area surrounding the peaceful retreat.

Reflecting upon his purchase, which was around $100,000.00 less than comparable homes in the neighborhood, Butler said, “It may have a terrible history,” he added. “But the house didn’t kill anybody.”

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