Is the Dexter Next Door Ruining Your Home’s Value?
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- By Jennifer Calonia
- December 17, 2012
Everyone’s favorite vigilante blood-splatter analyst, Dexter, is back along with his dark passenger in the show’s seventh season which premieres tonight. With it Dexter die-hards will encounter a new round of serial killers and criminals who will inevitably meet their end on Dexter’s table.
While Dexter’s kill room leaves no trace of a criminal activity at the end of the day, the same can’t be said about the impact of crime on home values in the surrounding neighborhood. Crime and home values – especially with regard to violent offenses by murderers and sexual offenders — not only bring down property values on the home where the crime took place, but has a ripple effect that extends to other homes in the vicinity.
The Correlation Between Crime and Home Values
Criminal activity takes on a number of offenses, and often these unfortunate incidents have a detrimental effect on the home values of the property involved, as well as the immediate property valuation of homes within close range.
In a report called The Effect of Proximity to a Registered Sex Offender’s Residence on Single-Family House Selling Price, researchers found that properties within a tenth of a mile from a convicted sex offender’s home sell for 17 percent less compared to other comparable homes in the neighborhood. Furthermore, the study found “significant differences” among homes that were even a third of a mile away from an offender’s property.
This domino effect happens quite often due to the stigma associated with a home that housed a murder, and even on account of the outrageous behavior of a sex offender next door.
Even Dexter noted the effect of what real estate industry professionals call a “stigmatized property”, when Dexter’s sister, Debra Morgan, snagged a deeply discounted deal on a beachfront property, immediately after it was the site of a murder-suicide scene.
Fortunately for the beach house’s landlord and other local beach-side home owners, Debra wasn’t squeamish about sleeping under the roof when a violent crime had transpired. Despite her low-ball offer, the owner of the stigmatized home would find it challenging to find tenants to occupy the property.
For example, Nicole Brown Simpson’s home, the site of a double-murder in 1994, didn’t immediately sell at the already reduced asking price of $795,000. Instead of selling within the first three months as it would have had it not been for the heinous crime, the property was left on the market for over two years. Eventually it sold at $200,000 less than the initial price tag.
With so many homes already sitting stagnant in the slowly recovering housing market, being tied to a stigmatized property can not only ruin the experience of buying a new home, but can potentially leave buyers on the losing end if the property should be resold.
How to Avoid Low Home Values
Proactive sleuthing is necessary to ensure that what you perceive to be your dream home doesn’t suddenly turn into a property valuation nightmare. Before committing to a house, find out the crime and property values in the area and ask the right questions in the process.
Ask Your Agent
Most real estate agents have the moral inclination to disclose whether a crime has taken place at a property, but depending on which state you live in, they are not necessarily required to divulge nonstructural issues with the home (i.e. homicides, suicides and reported paranormal activity). A few states, have a short window of time that requires disclosure about a property’s past.
In California, sellers are only required to divulge if a crime was committed in the home if it took place within the last three years by law. But other states, like Colorado, don’t even have a similar requirement in practice.
Homeowner Anthony Bucklew, purchased a $525,000 property in Broomfield, CO; unfortunately, the agent failed to inform him of the home’s grizzly history.
Scott Lee Kimball was the last resident in the home where he murdered five people and almost got away with killing his own 10-year-old son.
“My wife and I want out of this house,” said Bucklew in an interview with AOL. “We don’t want the stigma with it. People are driving by the house staring, taking pictures, calling us psychos. It has gotten out of hand.”
There’s an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule when selling stigmatized homes in areas that don’t have a full disclosure law, so make sure you asking about any unsettling aspects of the property before you take on a mortgage for the home.
Search the Address Online
Who knew that Google could possibly keep a potential Dexter next door at bay? By entering the property’s address, you can learn more about whether your potential home was a crime scene at one point in time.
If even living on the same block as a notorious serial killer’s past residence still spooks you, perform an “in the block of” address search to get the scoop on suspicious history in the neighborhood.
Request Official Records
Public city records can uncover a wealth of information about a home and the immediate neighborhood. For example, house hunters can find out if a home has recently been torn down and rebuilt, which is sometimes the case with famous murder homes, like the property that belonged to actress Sharon Tate who was brutally murdered by Charles Manson.
Official city records also point to whether a plot of seemingly inoffensive land was once an old cemetery, which can be a big deciding factor for some buyers. Some properties even have its address legally changed to disassociate itself from the crime, and neighborhoods can petition to have the street name changed to bury the crime.
While watching Dexter’s escapades can be thrilling, living in it — or even across the street from it — is by far another story. Don’t let a tragic crime ruin your home-buying experience and risk putting your finances against stigmatized home values. If you have an eerie feeling about a home, it never hurts to research to give yourself some ease before committing to a home purchase.