In a tight housing market, murder might also be an advantage — offering a slight price adjustment, but hardly putting off potential buyers.
At least, that’s what one realtor is discovering as she shows the inner-Mission apartment where a gruesome murder happened last May or June. Staged with succulents, vintage tchotchkes and cowhide rugs, 255 14th St. is on the market for just $985,000, and buyers are showing interest. Another 3-bedroom, 2-bath place on 15th Street with slightly more square footage is going for $1.299 million.
So, yes, murder probably does temper the price.
“Google the address if you want to know more; if you don’t, don’t Google the address,” a realtor said to a group of prospective buyers.
The group traveled downstairs, past the small yard that the three-unit building shares, and into the basement room, advertised as an “exclusive-use bonus room” in the disclosure packet. It’s also where former tenant Margaret Rose Mamer’s remains were found, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The disclosure document says, simply, “death on property in 2018,” and includes a link to a San Francisco Examiner article about the murder.
“I am very excited to look up the address when we get in the car,” said one prospective buyer to his friends as they walked back upstairs.
The remodeled condominium — bright, with lots of windows — is for sale some six months after longtime tenant Lisa Gonzales, 47, allegedly killed her roommate, Mamer, 61. Gonzales allegedly dismembered Mamer’s body and stored it in the basement room sometime between May 15 and June 2.
Gonzales was arrested on June 2, charged with murder and plead not guilty. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for February 2.
No matter. Couples, young professionals and families meandered through the open house Sunday. Many prospective buyers who were unaware of the murder went downstairs to look at the basement and brainstorm how they could use the nonconventional room.
A possible yoga studio, suggested one man while a woman motioned to the wall and explained, “it’s where you put your surfboard and bike.”
The revamped condominium doesn’t look anything like the original unit, according to a San Francisco realtor who is very familiar with the property but doesn’t want to be named.
“The kitchen is new and reconfigured, baths are refreshed, new floors, new lighting, new windows, and new finishing in the storage unit,” he said.
Although the condominium was transformed, the murder still looms as part of its recent history and must be disclosed to any potential buyer under California law because the death occurred less than three years ago.
John Waechter, 33, lives around the corner on Natoma Street and wandered into the open house a few weeks ago. When he realized he was viewing the condominium where the murder happened, he had some questions. The realtors were “very forthcoming about everything,” he said.
Gonzales’ family had lived in the unit since the 1960s, according to the San Francisco Examiner, long before the building was separated into condominiums. She paid $600 a month for her room and had a lifelong lease. She initially lived in the unit with her mother and daughter and, in 2017, she asked Mamer to move in.
Nima Gabbay, a real-estate investor, agreed to buy the condominium off-market for $400,000 in April of last year, but did not officially buy it until August, 2018, according to the realtor familiar with the property. When Gonzales was arrested and moved out, Gabbay remodeled the unit and put it on the market at $985,000.
That price is about eight percent lower than Zillow’s estimated value for the unit. One expert in such properties estimated that they can sell for anywhere from 15 to 25 percent below market value.
“I think that when something violent happens in a home or a community or a neighborhood, I think it could have an impact on your buyer pool,” said Jane Jones, a broker at Coldwell Banker who has been selling real estate in San Francisco for the past two decades. ”There are certainly groups of people that are very superstitious if there has been a death on the property, whether it was natural or other causes.”
The murder did come up a couple times during the open house, but a stream of interested people consistently walked through the door.
“I think the cost of the unit is extremely affordable, considering the space of the unit, the size of the unit, what is being offered,” Waechter said.”I do think it’s being offered at a price below market because of what has happened there.”
Others think that most people have most likely forgotten about the murder already.
“People forget about things that have happened at a property or in a community. It’s the beginning of the spring season and people are looking to buy,” Jones said.
But Kate Werner, a hair and makeup stylist visiting from New York, checked out the apartment after hearing about the murder on the news last summer.
”I’ll go and look at the murder house for a second,” she said chuckling. “I think it’s a good deal.”
Nevertheless, she added, “If you know such a violent crime happened, you would have to be pretty brave to live there.”
Waechter, the nearby neighbor, however, wasn’t deterred. If he buys it, he said, he would honor Mamer, the roommate who was murdered.
“I would be sure to have something to dedicate to her,” he said. “A small trinket, a picture, a painting, or something to hang on the wall.”