HOUSTON – Many Houston-area homes are hiding dark, horrific secrets.
On some properties, gruesome crimes have been committed. Some you’ve heard about and some you have not.
At 942 Beachcomber Lane, in Houston, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the family bath tub.
At 711 Leaflet Lane, in Spring, Texas, Stephen and Katie Stay and four of their five children were shot to death.
And then there’s 3706 Millbridge Drive, in Clear Lake: the house where 17-year-old Christine Paolilla slaughtered four of her classmates from Clear Lake High School.
Homicides such as these leave a lasting stain on properties, which are often referred to as stigmatized properties.
“A death in a home, especially a violent death, can decrease its value by 25 percent or more, and it can take 50 percent longer to sell these homes,” said Roy Condrey, founder of the brand-new site DiedInHouse.com.
How about you? If you were about to buy or rent a home, wouldn’t you want to know if someone had been killed, or committed suicide, or just plain died of natural causes inside that home?
In 32 states across the country, including Texas, home sellers and their agents are not required by state law to reveal to buyers that a murder or any other kind of death had taken place in the home they are selling, Condrey said.
“If there was a murder on the property, that’s something that doesn’t need to be disclosed, but it should be disclosed,” said Michael Bossart, a broker at Keller Williams Memorial.
Bossart, who has been selling homes for more than 23 years, said all Keller Williams agents are required to disclose that kind of valuable information, but there is no state law to require it.
“Section 5 of the Texas Property Code states that only if a material incident happened on property does it need to be disclosed,” Bossart said.
Now enter Condrey.
His company searches public records and, by using a special algorithm, promises to tell you about any murders, suicides or deaths that took place at the property you are interested in.
The website also promises to alert you to any fire incidents, meth lab activity, the number of sex offenders living nearby and all flood zone information.
The cost of one report is $11.95, and minutes after you request it, you are supposed to receive it online.
The company then promises to spend the next few weeks conducting further research on your property and to send you a second report 30 days later.
“Yes, I would use it again when I go to buy another home,” said Brandy Ankrom, of Montrose.
Ankrom and her fiance, Eidyn Gutierrez, went to diedinhouse.com after they say they were plagued by hauntings and a ghost in their home.
They noticed such things as doors opening and closing on their own, silverware flying across the room, the oven door flying open violently and a perfume bottle that the couple says moved completely across a table all by itself, right before their eyes.
“We actually saw it sliding across the vanity,” Ankrom said.
“There was no mistaking it,” Gutierrez said. “It just moved all on its own. I was stunned and I screamed.”
Through the website, the couple discovered an elderly woman had died right there inside their home years earlier.
Ankrom said that information made her feel a lot better and helped explain the strange happenings, including the faint laughter that the couple would hear coming from the walls.
“It made me feel better -- I mean, confirming someone had passed away there, it’s like, 'OK, we have a ghost,'” Ankrom said.