Would you buy a house some­one had been mur­dered in?

The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - The Market -

Ev­ery old house has its se­crets. As a new owner, you will prob­a­bly never find out what went on within those four walls, and in many cases, there’s prob­a­bly much you wouldn’t want to know. But what if you found out some­thing about its past so dark, you couldn’t for­get? Is there any­thing you wouldn’t be will­ing to ac­cept for a nice house at the right price?

Last sum­mer, a gor­geous house came up for sale which we spent weeks de­lib­er­at­ing over. Sit­ting on the end of a red­brick ter­race, it seemed to have ev­ery­thing we wanted and more. The main bed­room spanned the width of the house with two big sash win­dows flood­ing it with light. It was nicely ren­o­vated with the orig­i­nal pe­riod fea­tures re­tained, and out the back was a large west-fac­ing gar­den lined by tall trees.

Leav­ing the first view­ing, I spot­ted one of my aunt’s wa­ter­colours hang­ing on the dining room wall, which she re­mem­bers sell­ing a few years back. I don’t usu­ally have a jot of su­per­sti­tion in me but in ev­ery house we’ve liked, I’ve looked for signs. This was it.

But we couldn’t shake a bad feel­ing we had about the sur­round­ing streets.

The area it­self was very close to where we would ide­ally like to buy, but this house was at the end of a net­work of roads with a num­ber of boarded up build­ings. Even in the mid­dle of a sunny sum­mer’s day, I felt un­easy walk­ing around. A friend rent­ing nearby said they would not buy around there them­selves.

So when bid­ding climbed above what we were will­ing to pay, we were re­lieved for once. The de­ci­sion was made for us.

We’ve of­ten since asked each other whether we re­gret­ted not go­ing for that house, it be­ing so much nicer than any other that has come up in our price bracket since.

Stabbed to death

When the ad popped up on MyHome.ie again in Fe­bru­ary, my part­ner sent me a message. “Are you think­ing what I’m think­ing?” We made plans to view it that week­end. But over lunch that day, he did some googling.

Us­ing im­age search, he found a photo of the house with black bags over the door and win­dows. He thought it was a pre-ren­o­va­tion im­age, and clicked in, only to find a decade-old RTÉ news report about a man stabbed to death by a bur­glar on the stairs.

We had read about the case be­fore, and knew there had been a mur­der some­where on that street more than a decade ago. But it is a long road, and the house num­ber was never men­tioned in the news re­ports. Ten years is a long time ago. But find­ing out that it hap­pened in this very house, by a man who turned out to be liv­ing around the cor­ner, our re­ac­tion was com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

I have told this story to many peo­ple since and the re­sponses are po­larised. Some are hor­ri­fied by the idea, re­lieved on our be­half that we found out. But just as many oth­ers shrug and say, “For the right price? Well . . .” Es­pe­cially when they see a photo of it.

Hope­fully happy

They are right to a cer­tain ex­tent. Ev­ery old house has its se­crets and there is of­ten a like­li­hood some­one may have died there. The no­tion of an old per­son spending their last hours in one of the rooms doesn’t bother me re­motely; in fact, I quite like the idea of tak­ing on a home where some­one has lived a long (and hope­fully happy) life, even right to the end.

‘‘ Ev­ery old house has its se­crets and there is of­ten a like­li­hood some­one may have died there

But I don’t think I would be able to shake the im­age of that poor man’s vi­o­lent death ev­ery time I walked up­stairs.

Sinéad O’Con­nor spent al­most ¤2 mil­lion in 2007 on a house on Bray seafront where the body of 18-year-old Gil­lian Bishop was dis­cov­ered in a laneway out the back, 16 years pre­vi­ously. The story was well-known in the area, but O’Con­nor was re­port­edly un­aware when she bought.

The same could eas­ily have hap­pened to us, and the idea gives me the shiv­ers. The es­tate agent cer­tainly wouldn’t have vol­un­teered the in­for­ma­tion, and as we’re not from around there, who would have told us be­fore we moved in? It has been a good les­son in the im­por­tance of thor­ough re­search, and ask­ing a lot of ques­tions.

As far as we can tell, the sale has fallen through at least twice on this house. We won­der, was that be­cause the bid­ders found out about its his­tory, just in time?

The ad is gone again, so I pre­sume a sale is agreed. I hope for their sake the new own­ers are fully aware. If they are, and can ac­cept what went be­fore, fair play – they will have a gor­geous home.

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