Around this time of year, horror houses are a dime a dozen. Unless it's a real horror house, in which case the price is $589,000.
That's how much agent John Weinrich is asking for the Pennsylvania home that his parents fell in love with and bought nearly 25 years ago. In an interview he gave to ABC News, Weinrich told the tale of the home's gruesome history.
In 1986, the year before his parents plunked down $239,000 for the five-bedroom house, it was the site of a grisly double murder. The owner, a prominent Islamic scholar and peace activist, and his wife were slashed to death; their pregnant daughter was wounded but survived the attack. Although at first thought to be a burglary, nothing was taken. Police investigators later described the incident as an "assassination."
Weinrich has no problem telling prospective buyers about the place's violent past, he told ABC. "No one has ever raised the issue," he said.
Asking a Realtor whether the house you're about to buy has been the site of a murder isn't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind for most people. Consider it the real estate version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"It's not a piece of information that brokers can or have to give out" in most cases, Jeffrey Kitchen, regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors in Beaver Dam, Wis., told AOL Real Estate last year.
Unless your state requires it -- and most don't -- sellers do not have to disclose murder, suicide or other violent crimes that would make the home a so-called "stigmatized property." There are more of these than you might think. In just the past year, at least three of them hit the market: the Long Island, N.Y., home of serial killer Joel Rifkin; the Dutch Colonial where the "Amityville Horror" took place; and the Colorado home of Anthony and Rita Bucklew, who unknowingly purchased a serial killer's crime scene.
If the idea of living in a stigmatized house gives you the willies, here are five ways to, um, dig up some information.
1. Ask the question directly.
In most states that have formal seller-disclosure laws, sellers and their agents do not have to reveal if a death occurred in the home, if you don't ask. And in some states, they do not have to reveal it if it occurred more than a year or so ago, or if the death was due to AIDS-related complications.
If the agent won't say -- or doesn't know -- your best bet is to ask the neighbors. Neighbors generally know if a home has been the scene of a grisly murder. They might also know if grandpa passed away peacefully in the place and his heirs put the house on the market.
2. Request police records.
Police precincts serving that neighborhood generally would charge you a nominal fee to give you a printout of any police calls made to a given address going back a few years. Discover whether the home was a meth lab, a site of frequent domestic disputes, was burglarized or had body parts stuffed under floorboards.
3. Research the address.
Sometimes you'll discover newspaper articles written about the home or incidents that occurred there. In addition to the exact address, also try searching the street and city name with the words "in the block of."
4. Check city records.
Just as you might want to know if the cross street is going to be turned into a major highway, you can find out a lot from city records, such as if the plot next door used to be a cemetery, or if the former house on the site was torn down and rebuilt. If it was, try to find out why. For instance, serial killer John Wayne Gacy buried 29 of his victims in the walls and crawl spaces of his house in suburban Chicago. The place was later demolished, and the lot sat empty for about a decade until a new home was finally built there.
Click here to see the Weinrich house listing.
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Old Haunts, New Buyers: How to Handle 'Stigmatized' Property
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