Houston homes with a dark past: What buyers need to know

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Realtors say selling a house where a death occurred all depends on the buyer (Photo by: Amanda Cochran)

Realtors say selling a house where a death occurred all depends on the buyer. If you're against it, you want to be informed. If it doesn't matter, you could have a buyer's advantage.

Real Estate Broker Larry Mercer, of Remax Metro, points out the Hill house on Kirby Drive. It's a River Oaks mansion where socialite Joan Robinson Hill died of a mysterious illness in 1969. And it's also where her husband, Dr. John Hill, was gunned down.

A serial killer lived in a nondescript home in Pasadena. Dean Corll was responsible for the killings dubbed "The Houston Mass Murders," in which nearly 30 teenagers were killed in the early 1970s.

More recently, Andrea Yates drowned her five young children in a bathtub in 2001 in a home in Clear Lake.

And while these are some of the most notorious homes, Houston realtor Tim Surratt, of Greenwood King Properties, says, "Almost every house has something that's happened to it over time."

So, how do you know if something happened in a house you want to buy?

In Texas, there's the Seller's Disclosure Notice, but be aware. Surratt, a board member of the Houston Association of Realtors, said, "We don't have to disclose suicide or natural deaths on the property. Grandma could have died on the property or grandpa anything like that, we don't have to disclose those."

He adds that some sellers find loopholes. Surratt explained, "It says, 'Are there any unnatural deaths on the property?' He said, 'Yes. My wife died unnaturally in the house.' That's how he explained it, well, it was true, she had been shot 20 to 30 times."

So before you buy, realtors advise you do your research.

Josh Hill, realtor with Remax Metro, said, "Google everything! If there's any kind of history to be had, you can find it there just by the address."

And if the past doesn't haunt you, you just might find a deal.

Hill said, "Obviously, the more violent the crime, the more discount I think it would be - 20 to 30 percent is what I would assume. As many people are moving in and out, history doesn't have time to sink in, so whoever buys a house with that kind a past, better hold onto it, so that happens, and they can make their money."
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