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Exploring the Effect of 'Satanic Worship' on Home Values

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Ever wonder how the JonBenet Ramsey home fared on the open market? How about the resale value of the Rancho Sante Fe mansion where the Heaven's Gate cult committed mass suicide? The man to ask would be real estate appraiser Randall Bell, who can count these infamous properties and many more on his storied and morbid resume. Profiled this week in the L.A. Times assessing the financial toll rumors of mob executions and subsequent hauntings took on the value of a Las Vegas mansion, Bell clearly knows a thing or two about property stigma.

For that property's owner, Keith Resnick, it all began when the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures featured his home on an episode before he moved in, alleging that a there was a "nasty, evil spirit" in residence. Then came the gawking motorists, the break-ins, the pentagrams and upside-down crosses scrawled by devil-worshipers or, more likely, thrill-seeking teens. Resnick sued the Travel Channel and brought in Bell, who scoured public records to compare prices on Las Vegas homes that were sold after murders, treating the mob killings as if they were real despite finding no evidence to back them up. In May, Resnick sold the roughly 5,000-square-foot mansion for $300,500, about $40,000 less than he paid to buy it foreclosed. The new owner's real estate agent suggested that the stuccoed villa would have fetched anywhere from $450,000 to $500,000 were it not for the trumped-up depravities.

Apparently, the house where Charles Manson's followers murdered Sharon Tate sold at full market value two decades later, so this kind of stigma does fade, albeit a good deal slower than the headlines. Bell's tips for clients who can't wait that long? Renting the home for two to five years is often the best course of action before trying to sell. Tearing down a home is a waste of time, because, like the fictionalized angry spirits of Native American tribesman, market aversion gets attached to the land rather than the structure. The takeaway here is that when it comes to matters of beyond-the-grave importance, perception, not reality, is what's vital.

Spencer Peterson

· Does Satan worship lower a Las Vegas mansion's value? [LA Times]
· Mapping Twenty of America's Infamously Spooky Houses [Curbed National]