What is the first thing ghost hunters usually ask when someone calls them about a potential haunting in their home? Usually it’s “Has anyone ever died there?” Most of the time, a homeowner will not know the history of the house, especially if it’s an older home. But now a South Carolina man has created a website where potential home buyers (and, umm, well, ghost hunters) can check the history of the home to see if anything gruesome ever occurred there.
Roy Condrey is the co-CEO and president of Diedinhouse.com, which shows homeowners — or potential buyers — whether or not someone died inside a residence. It’s an especially ghoulish line of work for some, but for those purchasing or selling a home it could mean thousands of dollars.
It’s harder to sell a house for top dollar — even one with every modern amenity — when a buyer knows that something grisly has happened there. It creates a headache for realtors and sellers alike.
The inspiration for the site came when a tenant renting Condrey’s Columbia, S.C., property told him the house was haunted. Condrey just assumed there was a law to require disclose a death in a residence, but discovered there is not. He also found that some states have laws that permit sellers and agents to not disclose such information.
“It occurred to me that a service which told people who died in their homes before they moved in would be popular,” says Condrey. “It’s harder to find things like this out than you think.”
Houston real estate agent Danelle Reed with Martha Turner Properties reminds that Texas is a non-disclosure state.
“Per the Texas Association of Realtors Seller’s Disclosure form it is not a requirement to disclose a non-violent death that occurred on the property. However, a violent death — like a murder — must be disclosed,” Reed said.
Reed adds that it is her company’s policy to instruct sellers to disclose any and all material facts that pertain to the property in order for the buying public to make an informed decision.
California and Texas are where Condrey says he gets the most traffic. In California, there are many famous murders and deaths and a fascination with the macabre.
In Texas, you can find the Clear Lake home where Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub in June 2001. You can also find the Fort Worth home of Chante Mallard, who in late 2001, hit a homeless man while drunk driving and left him bleeding to death on the hood of her car in her garage while she continued to party. She was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2003.
You can look up reports on the homes of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, murder victims Jose Menendez and Kitty Menendez, and actor Phil Hartman. Condrey shows me records on the house where the Clutter family died in Kansas, the case that was detailed in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
Condrey and his small team of developers had been working on the site for a year before launching it on June 1.
Condrey says they’ve processed thousands of information requests. After a user plugs in an address, his site scours a multitude of sources to deliver information on previous owners and whether or not anyone met their demise inside the residence.
The stigma of a death in a home, especially a violent killing, can linger forever.
“It would bother me if I knew someone died in my house,” says Condrey. “For instance, I couldn’t live in a house where there was a murder-suicide.”
A quiet death, Condrey says, would be easier for some to deal with.
Some realtors shun what Condrey does, he says, mainly because he costs them money on what they call “stigmatized properties,” but he says he’s just providing a needed, legitimate service to the public. He’s begun to notice some realtors coming around to the site and even running searches on their own, which means tides are turning.
There was the story of Janet Milliken who moved from California to Pennsylvania in 2007 with her two children, after her husband had died. She bought a house for $610,000, which she later found out had been the site of a murder-suicide a year and a half earlier.
The Milliken family was still reeling from their own experience with death and having curious kids coming by on Halloween to gawk at their home as the place where a man killed himself and his wife didn’t help matters.
Milliken sued for fraud and misrepresentation, claiming the owners and real estate agents duped her. The judge ruled against her, saying Pennsylvania state law does not require agents to disclose such events to buyers. She’s since appealed to the state Supreme Court.
“Some people don’t have a problem with knowing someone died in their home,” says Condrey. “But when you remind them that this knowledge could affect their home values, they change their tune.”
Condrey has been a guest on numerous morning shows, and he’s even done Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, which was a shot in the arm for business. Response has been positive, Condrey says.
Nearly 8,000 likes on Facebook and 54,000 page views aren’t too shabby for a site that works on what Condrey calls a small budget with only three people on staff. Of course, not everyone buys the $11.99 report, but they still gawk.
Aside from prospective home buyers, Condrey also hears from ghost hunters and those with a morbid curiosity looking for new places to visit.
People are more apt to be OK with a death in home decades and decades back. After all, people spend hundreds of dollars to stay at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, he says. A more recent or gruesome death is harder to deal with, it seems.
I’ve checked my own apartment and it’s clear, if you were wondering. Would it change my mind about my Montrose two-bedroom space? I would probably think twice about staying another year.
Of course there is a fee to actually find out the information you’re looking for, for each address you want to look up. With a little hard work, you can probably Google the answers for yourself, but if you’re not too web savvy, this is a good alternative, I suppose.