Would you buy a home with a tragic history?



Tim and Carol Milner are still trying to sell their Colorado home - after six years on the market. Since they first tried to sell up in 2008, the Boulder Daily Camera has reported that the asking price has fallen from $2.98 million to just $1.985 million.

It seems that buyers have been put off by the home's tragic past.

The history

In 1996 it was the home of Patsy and John Ramsey, who lived there with their daughter JonBenet, a six-year-old girl who was known across the country as a successful beauty pageant star.

Tragically in that year it became the scene of JonBenet's murder. She was found strangled in the basement on Boxing Day. Her parents found a ransom note, but despite a high-profile investigation, no-one was ever charged with the crime.

Her parents moved out immediately after their daughter's death, and the house was sold to a group of investors. They changed the address of the house from number 755 to 749 and in 2004 they sold to the Milners for $1.05 million.

The couple have been trying to sell the property since 2008, but despite dropping the price three times, buyers remain elusive. According to the Daily Mail, it has now spent 127 days on the market at its lower price without finding a buyer.

The property itself is beautiful, with five bedrooms and eight bathrooms. It is immaculately presented with a luxury kitchen, a master suite which occupies the whole of the upper level, and views over the Flatirons. It seems to be its history which is putting buyers off.

Selling a home with a terrible past

Homes with grim histories are not easily sold, so what approaches do sellers take?

Some give up trying to sell through an agent, take the property to auction, and accept they will not get full value for the home. A Sacramento property for example, was sold at auction in 2011 for a knock-down price, because it had been a boarding house where landlady Dorothea Puente killed her guests and drained fluid from their bodies twenty years earlier. The buyers renovated the property, and added a number of unusual touches, including hanging a sign saying 'Trespassers will be drugged and buried in the back yard.'

The flat in Muswell Hill where Dennis Nilsen murdered and dismembered three men in the 1980s went went to auction last year. Buyers were advised to read up on the history of the property, and after failing to sell on the day it received an offer of £250,000 from a property developer - some £100,000 cheaper than similar properties in the area.

There are those who will simply hope that the buyer has no idea of the history of the property and market it at full value. The new owner of the Muswell Hill flat has renovated it and put it back on the market for £350,000 - with no mention of its previous owner. However, Randall Bell, who specialises in valuing properties with terrible pasts, says that a grim history usually means owners have to drop the price by up to 35% in order to sell.

He adds that over time the value of a property can return. He cites the case of the Benedict Canyon house where Charles Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others in 1969. It had been rented out to Tate, but after the deaths the owner moved back in, and when he eventually sold it twenty years later he received the full market value for the property.

And over the very long term, a grim history can even become a selling point. When Jamaica Inn went on sale in January, the owners made much of the fact it is considered one of the most haunted properties in the UK.