Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: Return of the “Mummy House”

With Halloween right around the corner, housing watchers with long memories may wonder whatever became of the Richmond’s scariest home listing?

We’re talking about the so-called “mummy house” at 152 4th Avenue, which in 2015 made the wrong kind of headlines when firefighters clearing out the decades of hoarder debris inside discovered, yes, the mummified remains of a former tenant, apparently dead of natural causes many years earlier.

The “mummy house” popped up on the market just two months later, asking $928,000 (a very competitive price for a Lake Street address at the time) and provoking disbelief from real estate bloggers who treated this nearly million-dollar listing as another symptom of a market gone mad.

In the real estate world, houses with bad mojo are called stigmatized properties, and often take up to 50 percent longer to sell.

Back in 2015 I spoke about this home with Randall Bell, a Long Beach house appraiser who specializes in parcels with troubled pasts, like the Heaven’s Gate mansion near San Diego. Despite his colorful background, Bell called 152 4th Avenue one of the strangest stories he’d ever heard–but he didn’t think the gruesome history would really affect the price.

(This is a very different kind of mummy housing, of course.)

And he was right: The house sold three months later for $1.56 million, despite its rundown state. The buyer was an anonymous LLC, presumably with renovation plans in mind.

The world moved on–and then the house showed up again, listing earlier this year for $1.82 million, nearly double what it listed for back in 2015.

The interesting thing is that in the meantime almost nothing had been done with the place: In the last six years, the Department of Building Inspection lists just a single completed building permit for this address, for dry rot repairs. Be that as it may, the house sold again, nabbing the requested $1.82 million after barely a month.

So it seems not only was this home not stigmatized by its history, it’s actually increasing in value, albeit at a slower rate than some similar homes nearby. Of course, nobody has actually lived here since the 2015 raid–but that has nothing to do with the history. Indeed, the fact that this home keeps trading hands illustrates just how enticing Richmond properties really are these days.

Since the house is still not really in a state for habitation, we can probably expect to see it come up for sale at least once more in our lifetimes, hopefully restored and ready for a buyer with residential intentions. Time will tell when that happy ending will finally put down the ghosts of the past here for good.

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