Horrible Histories: How Much Will This Affect the Value of my Home

Houses with an unsavoury history suffer from reduced property values

While it may sound unbelievable, some homes have modern facilities, a perfect location and reasonable property values, yet they linger on the market for several months looking for a buyer. While these homes are in an ideal state of repair, buyers aren’t interested. That is because some houses have such horrible histories that the prospect of living there is unthinkable for most people. Homes with unsavoury reputations can struggle to achieve anything near average sale prices for the area and be demolished in many cases. However, some put on the market, and their terrifying past profoundly affects property values.

You can find the most notable example of this ghoulish phenomenon in the Muswell Hill area of London. On its face, the property listing for 23 Cranley Gardens is like any other in the area, the spacious flat located on the top floor of an attractive home in one of London’s most famous locations. However, alarm bells ring when the price revealed £265,000 when listed for sale in 2013, which is a bargain compared to other house prices in the area. That is because 23 Cranley Gardens was the home of mass murderer Dennis Nilsen, and it was where he killed three of his fifteen victims before disposing of their bodies in nearby drains.

Proof that a home’s unsavoury history affects property values

Despite the property’s fantastic location and excellent state of repair, a recent property valuation returned an asking price of nearly £100,000 less than average property prices in the area, incontrovertible proof that a house’s adverse history can have a significant effect on sale price. Unfortunately, there is nothing particular in UK property law that forces a vendor to disclose a property’s history of violence, so it can be challenging for an unsuspecting buyer to claim compensation in the courts after buying such a property.

In 2004, a dispute between the buyer and seller of another infamous property went to the Court of Appeal. The case centred on a Wakefield home, the scene of horrific child murder. The house was bought in good faith by a family who lived in it happily until someone anonymously sent press clippings about the murder to the address. Horrified by the home’s terrible past, the owners put the property up for sale; however, they didn’t disclose its awful story to their buyers.

The second family bought the home for its total market value, but they discovered its unsavoury past when the girl’s murder was featured in a Channel 5 TV documentary. The second family were so desperate to get out; they sold the home for just £75,000 – resulting in a loss of £25,000. The family sued the vendors for the difference because the withholding of information had misrepresented the value of the home. Although the judges found for the vendors, changes to English law mean sellers must disclose issues known to affect property values.

Of course, this phenomenon is also an excellent opportunity for investors or buyers on a tight budget. The savings available can be significant for people who are prepared to make their home in a building with such a terrible past. However, final house sale prices will usually only be affected by the most horrific and publicised cases, as people die in homes up and down the country every day. However, these two individual cases show just how much an unsavoury history can affect a property valuation. Fortunately, most houses with horrible histories are demolished immediately afterwards, so the chance of encountering problems during a home valuation is meagre.

Nationwide, property values are broad and varied. What is important is that you are aware of anything which can adversely affect the price locally from one property to another when essentially they are the same. Use land registry sold house price data to see what is sold and what’s selling currently, similar to your home. If something you like looks an excellent buy, it may well turn out to be too good to be true, so check it has no unsavoury history!

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