Can You Murder A Property’s Value?
14/09/2016 at 9:09 pm #543
The article was first published on 99.co.
There are plenty of things that can go wrong in a flat. Burst pipes, bad flooring, and sometimes the uh, how can we put this gently…deliberate discontinuation of another tenant. Assisted permanent respiratory failure. Premature lease termination. Murder, okay?
That’s right, we’re going to talk about what happens to your flat when someone gets murdered in it.
Would you ever consider purchasing murder properties?
The impact of murder on property values
As a general rule of thumb, murder can result in the development of stigmatised property. In other words, a property that is seen as undesirable for psychological reasons, rather than actual defects. This is a hard problem to fix because it doesn’t matter how nice the parquet flooring is if the coroner had to scrape someone off it.
Being a conservative Asian country, many Singaporeans also see “murder properties” as being taboo. This can narrow the pool of potential buyers – not everyone cares that someone died (violently) in the unit, but many do.
Now the theory is that properties do lose the stigma over time – people will forget the exact address where a killing took place, and after awhile the incident fades altogether. How true is that? Well we looked at some examples of murder properties, and how their values have changed:
#1 Block 686B, Woodlands Drive 73
This block of flats gained notoriety in 2011 when the body of a domestic helper was found in the two-metre deep water tank. It may have tainted the drinking water for the 700 residents. She was of course murdered, due to the presence of blood stains, and the fact that no one has ever mistaken a HDB water tank for a pool facility.
(This is the same block that would five months later witness the suicide of a Vietnamese woman and three years later, would be the centre of a Central Narcotics Bureau drug bust. So maybe there are some real Feng Shui issues going on).
Block 686B, Woodlands Drive 73 is the site of numerous unfortunate incidents
So, how has it fared since the murder five years back? Average resale value for this block is $449,000 for a five-room flat. That’s marginally more expensive compared to surrounding properties.
Five-room flats in nearby Block 686C are $408,000, and a five-room flat in Block 687C is $430,000. Block 688A and B both had five-room flats with an average resale value of $409,000 to $415,000.
That’s not because the murder raised its value of course (unless the tenants were really annoying). It’s probably because the stigma faded as people forgot the incident, and real contributors of value such as facing, proximity to train stations, build up of amenities, etc. began to play a bigger role in the price.
#2 21 Balmoral Park, #05-11, Pinewood Gardens
This one goes all the way back to 2002, the infamous Orchard Towers Double Murder. Back in January of 2002, a security guard noticed a foul stench coming from a silver Daewoo Chairman parked on the 7th floor of the Orchard Towers car park.
He found this suspicious because nobody buys a Daewoo. He alerted the police, who opened the car and found two decomposed bodies. Subsequent investigations revealed that financial advisor Michael McCrea and his girlfriend, Audrey Ong, had strangled them. If they bought term insurance from him, that would have been a really difficult claim.
Pinewood Gardens is located in Balmoral Park, District 10
Anyway, McCrea had strangled them in his rented apartment in Balmoral Park. McCrea fled right after the murder, which explains why his landlord didn’t strangle him. McCrea was eventually extradited back to Singapore from Australia, and he and Audrey Ong were sent to jail.
So, what’s the apartment value?
Well, there hasn’t been any records that it was ever sold. However, the estimated value of the units on the same floor is now $992 per square foot, and interestingly, the next door units sold above valuation at $1,616 per square foot, and $1,525 per square foot.
The nearby murder doesn’t seem to have any bearing (it’s been a while), but the high prices could just mean the apartments were sold at a market peak. Still, we wonder if the owner just wants to collect rental (he’s already experienced the worst tenant possible, nothing will faze him now), or if it’s tough to sell at a good price…
#3 Block 114, Lorong 3 Geylang #09-53
This one involved 50-year-old factory supervisor Leong Siew Chor, and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Ms. Liu Hong Mei. She worked under him as a production operator, in what would soon become the best argument ever made against workplace romance.
In June 2005, a cleaner spotted a brown cardboard box sealed with masking tape, going down the Kallang River. Sensing the prelude to a Crime Watch episode, said cleaner opened the box and found the lower half of Ms. Liu’s body. Two days later her head was found in a plastic bag going down the Singapore River.
The police investigation revealed that Leong stole his girlfriend’s ATM card, and withdrew $2,000 from her account. She made a police report and told him the police would have her review the CCTV footage to identify the thief. At this point, Leong realised (1) he would be caught, and (2) why his career as a rocket scientist never took off.
So Leong brought Ms. Liu back to his flat in Block 114, Lorong 3 Geylang, and strangled her. He then cut her body up and disposed of each separate part. Yes, that’s right – he murdered an identity theft victim, who had just made a police report, after being caught on camera stealing her money. Leong was hanged in 2007, adding a page to the book of World’s Most Easily Solved Cases.
So, how is the murder flat doing?
The average resale value of the four-room flats in this block is $511,844. There is no record of the sale of Leong’s flat, but a recent transaction between the 7th and 9th storeys was above valuation at $522,000.
#4 Block 349, Yishun Street 11, 6th floor (unit not revealed)
In 2008, 41-year-old Wang Zhijian was really mad about not getting money from his lover to buy crabs for dinner. It proved to be the last straw for him, especially after a prolonged period of animosity with her.
That night Wang woke up and stabbed his girlfriend to death. He then murdered her 17-year-old daughter, and then attacked a mother-daughter pair who were renting the unit. The daughter, a 15-year-old girl at the time, survived the attack. But her mother fell out the window of the flat (in an attempt to escape) and died.
Wang received a death sentence, despite his attempts to prove he lost conscious control of his actions.
The average resale value of a 5-room flat in this block is $458,872. A recent transaction, between storeys 4 and 6, was below valuation. This was $455,000 for a five-room flat. However, we hesitate to guess that’s due to the murder. 2008 was a long time ago, and the market is currently in a downturn.
#5 #08-23, Sunglade Block 9, Serangoon Avenue 2
In September 2005, a cleaner found a red sports bag along the wall near Orchard MRT station. When she opened it, she found a part of a woman’s severed head. Nearby were two black trash bags that contained arms. Moral of the story is that the next time you see an abandoned bag and feel like checking in it for money, think about what you may potentially find.
Later in the day, a civil servant found the rest of the body, in front of the MacRitchie Reservoir canteen.
The police took just 12 hours to find the killer. It was 29-year-old domestic helper Guen Garlejo Aguilar, who was arrested at her employer’s apartment in Sunglade. The victim was her former best friend, Mrs. Jane Parangan La Puebla.
It was about money. Mrs. La Puebla owed Aguilar $2,000. Some of the money had been borrowed from a Singaporean loan shark, who was charging Aguilar an interest rate of 20 per cent per annum. We can’t help noticing that’s four percent lower than the interest rate on a credit card.
When Aguilar suggested Mrs. Puebla sell her video and digital cameras to pay her back, the dispute escalated into a fight. Aguilar eventually strangled Mrs. Puebla, which seems to be a disturbing trend in local murder.
She then hid the body in her employer’s apartment for two whole days. Those must be some oblivious employers. We can’t hide a Snicker’s bar in the office for five minutes, let alone manage a whole body.
Later Aguilar hacked up the body and tried to dispose of it in different places. One of the bags she used contained an International Herald Tribune, which had her employer’s address on a sticker. See? The news media does help the police solve crimes.
Aguilar was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
As for the unit, it was sold in June 2012 for $1.25 million. That comes to $1,075 per square foot, which is undervaluation – the average price for the block is $1,115 per square foot. Interestingly, the specific block where the murder occurred seems more valuable than the others. Units on the same storey, in surrounding blocks, show resale values of $542 to $738 per square foot.
As you can see, the results of murder seem to fade quite quickly
Many of the affected units seem to have risen in value, their dark history aside. Singaporeans are an odd combination of pragmatic, and yet superstitious (in the traditional sense). But when it comes to housing, most of us are financially stretched enough to overlook a body or three.
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