More than 30 house hunters toured Rabbi Fred Neulander’s Cherry Hill, N.J., home when it went up for sale in 2004. Half already knew that Carol Neulander was murdered in its 19-by-13-foot living room, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Listing agent Bob Harvey told the prospective buyers about the house’s lethal history, but he wasn’t required to do so. Laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania allow sellers to keep mum about what real estate professionals dub “scarecrow houses” – unless a buyer specifically asks. Sellers must disclose a quirky attic fan or a leaky water heater, but not a shooting in the sunroom. The Neulanders’ well-maintained four-bedroom house quickly sold for $270,100 – more than the $264,900 asking price.
Agents say that, while disclosure is ultimately up to the seller, they strongly advise it’s best to be up front with potential buyers to avoid problems down the road. “The neighbors always rat the house out anyway,” says one agent. Often, when a well-maintained property comes up for sale, it is snapped up even if buyers know it is, in real estate parlance, “stigmatized.” Agents say time flies and memories are short. Even houses with shady pasts don’t linger on the market if the condition, location, and price are right. Said one man who bought a house where one of the owners had been murdered: “It was a cheap buy at the time. It was in move-in condition. There was no damage that needed to be repaired. The house had nothing to do with the problem. It was a person who was in the house who caused the problem, not the house.”