If the suspected East Area Rapist's home went on the market, would you buy it if you got a deal?
The question is academic for now. The tidy three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home on a quiet suburban street in Citrus Heights is not for sale.
But the arrest last month of Joseph James DeAngelo at his long-time home has prompted a lively discussion among Sacramento real estate brokers and appraisers.
Given the hot local market, where affordable homes are scarce, some say the house at 8316 Canyon Oak Drive might be snapped up quickly at no discount.
"No way I would buy that house, but I could see an entry-level buyer aced out of 10 other homes making a full price offer now," said Joe Lynch, president of the Sacramento chapter of the Real Estate Appraisers Association.
He was among several hundred responding to an online poll by Ryan Lundquist on the Sacramento Appraisal Blog. Comparable homes in the area are going for about $370,000. Most respondents said the house would sell at a discount of at least 10 percent, given its owner's notoriety. A few said they think the price would have to be cut in half.
DeAngelo stands accused of 12 murders, and is suspected of 48 or more rapes in the 1970s and 1980s. Police have not said whether they believe crimes were committed in the home. But investigators searched the home, probed the ground in the backyard and took bags of undisclosed evidence away.
Lundquist, an appraiser who assigns estimated values to homes, said he is fascinated by what would happen should the home go up for sale.
"My sense is buyers are not willing to buy anything at any price," Lundquist said. "They are desperate, but they are more aware than ever about what they are buying."
The house's sudden fame has not appeared to dent prices in the neighborhood. A slightly larger, completely remodeled house down the block just sold for $400,000 and got multiple offers, after the sensational April arrest.
The real estate agent, Veronica Hunter, said potential buyers were told what had happened. Her motto, she says, is "disclose, disclose, disclose."
"It would be awful if they were unloading the moving truck and the neighbors said, 'Hey, did you hear about the house down the street?'"
State regulations require sellers to tell buyers about anything that could affect the value or desirability of a home. Those regulations spell out the requirement to tell people if the home is in an airport area, or a flood, extreme fire or earthquake zone, as well as if the house has lead-based paint or contaminated soil.
The law doesn't explicitly say a seller has to mention that an infamous person lived there. But Fair Oaks-based real estate broker Barbara Lebrecht says the rule is: If you wonder whether something should be disclosed, then you've answered your question. Disclose it.
Some in real estate say they wonder if the home's notoriety could prompt someone to offer a premium price out of some morbid attraction.
They cite the house at 1426 F Street in downtown Sacramento, where Dorothea Puente, aka the "Death House Landlady," infamously killed boarders and buried their bodies in the backyard. The house has since sold several times at market prices and recent owners have publicly promoted it as a tourist attraction.
One of them, Tom Williams, said, "terrible things happened at 1426 F Street ... (but) the house was innocent."
It's unusual for an infamous home not to go down in value, said Randall Bell, an expert in dealing with such homes, including the condo where O.J. Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson was murdered, as well as the Jon Benet Ramsey, Sharon Tate and Jeffrey Dahmer residences, and Southern California homes in the methane-gassed Porter Ranch development.
Typically those homes go for 10 to 25 percent discounts and take longer to sell, he said. Even though it appears that no crime occurred in the Canyon Oak home, the price would take a hit if the house were to go on the market, he said.
"This property is so closely associated with horrible crimes," he said, "it has the crime scene taint to it."
Several local real estate agents said they have sold homes where headline-making murders occurred, and it requires jumping through some hoops.
"I grit my teeth every time I have to do it," Realtor Sue Olson said. She had a priest bless one such house before she sold it. Sometimes, insurance companies renovate houses to clean up the crime scenes, but also to make them more marketable.
Agents say some buyers of known crime houses conclude the neighborhood is safe, the home is good, and past incidents don't affect them.
But other home shoppers even refuse to buy a house if someone died there of natural causes. The state civil code requires sellers to disclose if an occupant of the house died on the property within three years of the sale.
Brokers say they are seeing more buyers of all cultures who make a point of changing the energy in the house before they move in, regardless of what happened there before. That sometimes involves a "saging" ceremony where the homebuyer carries a sprig of burning sage from room to room to cleanse each one.
Lundquist, the appraiser who launched the discussion about the East Area Rapist suspect's house, says he believes in the rationality of the market. That means people typically buy at the right price for the house in question. If the house has baggage, the price is lower.
He thinks the house on Canyon Oak Drive can make its own history if it goes up for sale. "I think it is going to be something that is written about in real estate textbooks."