Would you buy a house where someone had been murdered?
Kadin Osborne did. The 23-year-old Calgary apprentice plumber recently closed a deal to buy the suburban home where five young people, most of them university students, were murdered by a knife-wielding attacker.
Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras, Josh Hunter, Zackariah Rathwell and Lawrence Hong, all in their twenties, were stabbed to death last April at a late night party marking the end of the school year.
Matthew de Grood, a 22-year-old university student, who’d been invited to the party, and son of a senior Calgary police officer, faces five counts of first-degree murder. He has been declared fit to stand trial but is undergoing another psychiatric assessment to determine if he can be held criminally responsible for the killings.
Osborne knew all about what happened last spring at 11 Butler Crescent N.W., a sturdy but tired-looking 1962 four-level split in the Brentwood subdivision that served as student rental housing because of its proximity to the university.
“At first I thought this seems like a bit of a gong show,” he said in an interview with Yahoo Canada News on Friday, his official possession day.
“I don’t know if I want to get involved in Butler Crescent. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as an opportunity to take something that evil has tarnished and try to redeem it, really.”
Osborne, a devout Christian, won’t be moving in for a week or two but said he’s not in the least spooked by the prospect of spending the night at the scene of so much horror.
“Am I afraid of possibly some of the things that have happened in that house and does that affect me as I would sleep at night? I would say not,” he said.
“Jesus conquered death two thousand years ago and so it doesn’t really bother me. Death is defeated once and for all. It really does not faze me at all.”
Homes that are the scenes of horrible crimes change hands all the time, though the most notorious ones often don’t survive.
The small St. Catharines, Ont., corner bungalow where Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka sexually assaulted, tortured and killed teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy was demolished and replaced with another house with a new address.
[ Related: Exclusive: Serial killer Russell Williams has sold his infamous cottage ]
The ramshackle house in Cleveland, Ohio, where Ariel Castro held three young women captive for years, chaining them up, raping them and fathering a child with one of them, was torn down as part his plea-bargain.
The Brentwood condominium in Los Angeles where O.J. Simpson allegedly slashed his estranged wife Nichole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman to death sat on the market for two years before selling well below asking price. It was gutted and fully remodeled.
And the buildings on serial killer Robert Pickton’s cluttered pig farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam have all been leveled. The acreage fronting Dominion Ave., surrounded by condos and big-box stores, is ringed by a chain-link fence while officials decide what should be done with it. Many believe it should become a memorial park to the dozens of women he’s alleged to have murdered.
Osborne’s an exception when it comes to murder houses. Most prospective homeowners shy away from what the real estate industry calls “stigmatized houses,” Barry Lebow, a Toronto agent and forensic real estate analyst, told Yahoo Canada News.
“Somebody may buy it and not care, but that’s a very small minority,” he said in an interview. “Most people won’t go near ‘em.”
Lebow, who gives seminars to the industry on the issue, said some people are squeamish about any death in a house, such as a suicide or even lengthy illness.
He said occasionally someone will see a murder house as a bargain. But the thrill of a steal may be short-lived. He recalled one home not far from where he lived, the site of a gruesome double murder, that was quickly snapped up by a doctor moving to the area.
“About three years later he got transferred from the hospital where he was working, he went to sell it and he couldn’t give the house away,” Lebow said.
Osborne said he was shopping somewhat casually for an investment property for the last several months. He and his agent, Pete de Jong, looked at a couple of homes before the Butler Crescent house was listed in July.
“When it hit the market, my client, Kadin, came to me and said, ‘Pete I think I might be interested in purchasing this place,’’ de Jong told Yahoo Canada News.
De Jong called Osborne a “dream buyer” for the house.
“I was happy to see Kadin interested in it because he’s interested for the right reasons,” he said. “He was redeemed by Jesus Christ and he feels that anything can be redeemed. Things that look really ugly can be redeemed.”
[ Related: Couple sues realtor over sale of house where double murder occurred ]
Osborne knew the house’s history from the outset but buyers often don’t unless the agent tells them. Lebow said Quebec seems to be is the only province in Canada that requires sellers to disclose if anything untoward has happened in the house.
Apparently mentioning a home was the scene of a homicide is not the same as revealing it has a leaky basement.
But it’s simply foolish to omit that kind of information in the age of the Internet, where not only Google but specialized sites like Housecreep can turn up a property’s dodgy history.
Lebow said leaving out that little fact can lead to civil action, not to mention the agent getting trashed on the web.
“When something like that happens, it’s far better for the potential buyer to find out ahead of time, as opposed to moving into the house and having the neighbours come over and say ‘oh, by the way, did you know what happened here?’” Brad Kopp, president of the Alberta Real Estate Association, agreed.
But Kopp said agents are also at the mercy of the seller, who either may not reveal their home’s checkered past or instruct the agent to keep quiet if they’re not legally required to disclose it.
Osborne said one friend, and possibly more, is planning to move in with him and help slowly renovate the property, which he bought for $64,000 under the $489,000 asking price.
Lebow said studies show stigmatized houses whose outward appearances and landscaping are altered so they don’t resemble media images are easier to sell.
Osborne said he’s aware the bargain may come back to haunt when he eventually sells.
“I knew that resale might be a little bit harder on this one but that didn’t affect the decision too much at all,” he said. “I’m not trying to flip the house and make a bunch of money. I’m not in this for financial gain whatsoever. I’m in it to try to be a light in the community … “
Osborne plans, for now, to retain the makeshift memorial to the murder victims – some flowers and photos clustered by a tree in the front yard. People still drive by, some to pay their respects, others just to gawk. He also recognizes some in the neighbourhood may not want a prominent reminder of what happened there, so he’s open to suggestion of some permanent way of honouring those who died.
“I just want to do what I can to bring some healing and redemption to an area that was tarnished for no real good reason,” Osborne said. “It’s a great community, you know. Evil will not have the last word on this.”