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Curse of the San Francisco "Mummy House"

How hard is it to sell the house from the weirdest San Francisco real estate story of the year?


For a little less than a million dollars, you can be the proud (?) owner of a Richmond neighborhood house where hazmat crews unearthed the mummified remains of the former owner less than three months ago. So how badly do you want to live in San Francisco?

You may remember this 4th Avenue Victorian, once home to a chronic trash hoarder. Authorities found that the stash included the mummified body of her mother, the house's owner, who had died several years prior. But that was back in April and apparently the world has moved on, because a "For Sale" sign popped up in the window this week. This poses a conundrum: Is the $928,000 asking price a steal for a property once valued at $2.5 million, or an insane demand for a place real estate bloggers are referring to as the "mummy house?"

Out of curiousity, we took a spooky twilight walk out to the address on 4th Avenue last night. It's actually a beautiful place, only a few blocks from the Presidio's Mountain Lake Trail. It's also one of the oldest houses in the city, dating to 1904, so that's neat. But we still wouldn't want to go in. In the real estate world, houses with bad mojo are called stigmatized properties and often take up to 50 percent longer to sell.

Bloggers had fun sounding off about the creepiness (and price tag) yesterday, but how much of a difference does it really make? We talked to Randall Bell, a Long Beach house appraiser who specializes in parcels with troubled pasts. He worked on the Heaven's Gate suicide mansion near San Diego and just got back from Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza's home in Connecticut. In the context of houses like that, is the mummy house really so odd?

"Uh, yeah, it's a lot odd, actually. I've seen a lot of weird things, but this is a new one. It's a problem that the house is big, because families who might buy a big house sometimes worry about the effect this stuff will have on their kids." It can also be harder to move a house like this in a neighborhood with a large Asian American population, like the Richmond, because of cultural stigma about houses with recent deaths. "The same way some people don't like addresses that include the numbers 13 or 666."

You’ve got to hand it to the realtor who penned the ad, a cagey piece of work that steers well clear of the gruesome history but doesn’t hesitate to lay it on the line about what you’re getting for your 928 grand: “Major fixer with peaked roof. Rear lot may have expansion potential. Sold AS-IS, no warranty.” You'll have to cover the exorcism fees, too.


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