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Pistorius' Is Latest Famous Death House for Sale

Celebrity homes that were the site of grisly events can still find buyers. But they're mainly there for the discounts.
Oscar Pistorius's house at SilverWoods Country Estate.
Oscar Pistorius's house at SilverWoods Country Estate.Gallo Images / Rex Features / AP

The house where Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend was found dead went up for sale on Thursday to cover the athlete's legal expenses -- and experts say buyers of such homes tend to fit in three very particular groups of people.

Star lovers, bargain hunters, and macabre seekers, said Brian Levine, manager for Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Pistorius' house may generate interest "because it was owned by a celebrity," said Levine of the house where the Olympian sprinter is accused of having shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Interest, however, is not the same as a sale. According to Randall Bell, who specializes in appraising "stigmatized properties," there's only one kind of person who buys up these properties.

"Usually they're not particularly interested in the story or crime scene stigma. Usually their interest is getting a discount," said Bell.

A "psychologically impacted" house, can sell for 3 percent less and take an average of 45 percent longer to sell than other properties, according to a 2001 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Real Estate Research.

Pistorius is selling the house to raise money for his defense costs, said his attorney Brian Webber. But the money may not come quick.

"You can expect a 10-25 percent discount," Bell said. "And usually you've got wait 2-3 years to sell it."

Other houses that were the sites of famous celebrity deaths have gone on the market, with mixed commercial success.

The Kennedys

After the late Mary Kennedy, wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., hung herself in the garage in 2012, her nearly $4 million home sold in just three weeks at zero discount.

"You will get people who are celebrity mongers," said Levine. "Regardless of who dies there, they want to walk in the footsteps of history."

The Tate Murder House

Others appear to relish the ghastly events that happened within a celebrity death house. In 1969, pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four guests were murdered at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, Calif. by members of the Manson family. "The Tate Murder House" wasn't put on the market until 1988 when, listed for $1.9 million, it sold for $1.6 million to an investor.

The house's final inhabitant was Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who installed a recording studio in the rented house. He dubbed his music workshop "Pig," the words written in Tate's blood by the Manson family on the house's door.

The house was bulldozed and its address changed in 1993. But Reznor kept the door and installed it on the front of his new recording studio in New Orleans, itself a converted former funeral home.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Then there are those who look for bargains.

When house-hunting, Chris Butler, leader of the band "The Waitresses," was shocked at how long the tree-enveloped three-bedroom, 2,170 square foot ranch house has sat on the market at bargain rates. Then he discovered the house's backstory, including that it was the site of Dahmer's first murder. The victim's body parts were found strewn about the grounds.

“I didn’t stop shaking for another 24 hours,” Butler told the Akron Beacon Journal after he learned the history. He still ended up buying it.

Nicole Brown Simpson

Two years went before before the house where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death in 1994 before it sold for $590,000, nearly $200,000 under asking price. "The OJ crime scene being outside had as much effect [on the sale price] as if it happened inside," said Bell.

Heath Ledger

In 2010, the SoHo rental in which the "Joker" actor died was converted into a condo and put up for sale for $5 million.

JonBenet Ramsey

The home where JonBenet's body was found in the basement in 1996 sold two years later for $650,000 to a group of investors who promised to resell it and donate the profits to a foundation set up in her honor. It resold in 2004 for $1.05 million. It was recently it re-listed for $1.9 million but has had difficulty finding a new buyer.

Amy Winehouse

The house where singer Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning sold in December 2012 for about $3.1 million, reduced from about $4.6 million. The singer's family reportedly requested the auctioneers not reveal who lived there in their marketing materials.