Would you buy Dorothea Puente’s House?

Last Friday the Sacramento Bee came out with a story that Dorthea Puente’s old house at 1426 F Street in Sacramento would be going up for sale. Who is Dorethea Puente, you ask? She is a woman who ran a “boarding house” in the 1980s out of her Sacramento Victorian duplex. Unfortunately though instead of finding respite her tenants were drugged and murdered so their social security checks could be cashed. Eventually seven bodies were found buried in Dorothea’s backyard.

This property sold for $560,000 on 08/31/2005, went into foreclosure last year, and is now listed on the market at $309,800 as of 02/26/2010. The current MLS listing states, “Property has notorious history that must be disclosed.” 

Would you have any problems purchasing a property like this? Or would you consider renting this house? Would it bother you on any level or be no big deal? Creepy? Good investment? If you are a real estate agent, have you had experience selling a property with a stigma due to a murder, violent crime or some other heinous or notorious issue?

Original photos of 1426 F Street (it was a bit cloudy today unfortunately):


  1. says


    I had to appraise a property several years ago where the owner had committed suicide. We are always told that the stigma will affect the sales price but try as I might, I could not find market evidence of this, so no adjustment was made. I guess it would probably depend on where it was at as well as other factor too. Good post.

    • says

      It sounds like you did the right thing, Tom. Maybe in your market for that property, it just was not a big deal. I would be surprised if there was no reaction to the Puente house here though. Who knows though? We’ll see.

      Years ago when my wife and I were house hunting, we looked at a house where there had been a suicide. We felt so bad for the family and their situation, but ultimately we felt that we wouldn’t purchase the house because we didn’t want to have to explain to our kids what happened in the house and where it happened too (or to have neighbors inform our kids). For us, we would not have paid market value for that property because of the stigma in our mind. That poor family.

  2. says

    Ryan, I have two similar anecdotes from the Philadelphia area. The first one involves a mansion where a doctor who was losing his wife to cancer decided to kill her (a la Jack Kevorkian) and their 4 children. The property has sold three times since the incident. At the time of the first sale, the MLS mentioned the history of the house and what occurred there. Subsequent listings have not mentioned the incident since, it was understood that there was not longer a stigma since the property did sell after the murders. I personally would have an issue living there.

    The second also occurred in the Chestnut Hill section of hiladelphia. I was appraising a resident with a carrige house apartment above the garage. When inspecting the carriage house I notice that there was a roofer making some repairs and a painter and a floor guy also working at the property. It seemed odd that they were all there at the same time. So I asked the painter what was going on. Well, apparently, the tenant living in the carriage house wasn’t having a great year. He decided to end things with a 12 gauge shotgun…thus the hole in the roof, the need to paint the room and refinish the floors.

    • says

      It’s understandable to see a stigma disappear or lessen over time. That’s a great point. Thanks for sharing your examples, Michael. That must have been a bit eerie to see the roofer and floor repairman there at the same time.

      I’m paying careful attention to the Puente house to see if there is any sort of recognizable stigma. Most people I have talked with have had a negative reaction to the idea of buying this property. Puente was convicted in the early 90s too, so the crimes were not that long ago. However, one thing that sets this property apart is that it is a duplex, so will an investor care? That’s the real question.

  3. dawn says

    hello i would buy the house i would not upset me one bit its a hopuse with interesting history that no one else you know like friends of family would have , its a house that a family can make a safe haven so what if it has history if the president was killed in the white house for example they would just clean it and the next president would go there it would have history rite. if this house was given to me id take it. i dont have money of that type to buy it but i like it. no iam not strange or wierd so it happens everyday and i think it will and should sell with no problem you can get back to me if you like .dawnmariecole54@gmail.com

    • says

      Dawn, thanks for your comment. I think it all really depends on the person. Some people are really freaked out at the possibility of purchasing a property like this, whereas others would have no problem at all. Now if someone were to give this property to me like you said, I’d take it in a heartbeat. 🙂

  4. says

    I walk by the house all the time at lunch and was looking for the address of the house and came upon this blog. Very interesting comments. Now that I know the actual address I will pay attention! I knew I was close! If the house were given to me I would take it and sell it but I don’t really want to live downtown anyway so I wouldn’t buy it.

    • says

      Thanks Shellie for the comment. I think many people feel similar to you. If the agent cannot sell it, he can certainly give it to me (or you too). 🙂 If you see any “pending” or “sold” signs or talk to the new owner or tenants, feel free to comment back. We’d love your firsthand insight.

  5. Sherry says

    Most people don’t believe in this stuff. Those that do, know that it’s not just what has happened in a house (or other structure), but the history of the property itself. We all live in/on potentially ‘haunted’ property, so I don’t imagine most people having an issue with it. The only problem I *do* see are the opportunists who might try to make/save a buck using this infamous history as an excuse. As for myself, I wouldn’t have a problem with buying the house, but would expect to pay less for the simple fact that I would probably wind up being gawked at or my family constantly reminded of it by paranormal followers. This would be a huge inconvenience. But the death part is nothing…three people that I personally knew died in the house I am currently residing in, two of whom I was related to…my own mother included. Death is a natural part of life, whether it be deliberate, accidental or natural causes and most people are resigned to this. But one should take into consideration the attention a house gets after incidences such as this. After all, this was big news back then…I’m old enough to remember it and I’ve lived in the Bay Area all of my life. I wouldn’t have paid a plugged nickel for it 30 years ago but I wouldn’t pay complete market value for it today knowing that it will always be pointed out at Halloween or ‘paranormal investigators’ always knocking at my door…

    • says

      Thanks Sherry. An opportunist really could make money here. I’d be curious to hear about how anyone has done that. It really seems twisted when you think about it, especially in light of the poor victims. Well said, “I wouldn’t have paid a plugged nickel for it 30 years ago but I wouldn’t pay complete market value for it today knowing that it will always be pointed out at Halloween or ‘paranormal investigators’ always knocking at my door…”

      • Martha says

        One example of an opportunist making money from something like this would be the Lizzie Borden Bed And Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts! I’m surprised that hasn’t happened with this place as I think it could have easily been done but there’s no parking (?)… The Lizzie Borden house has tours and even a gift store in back!!! lol…….. I’m not laughing at it… I did go on the tour and was actually surprised at the tackiness, to be honest!!! lol……. Personally, I would never buy a house with this history but that’s just me (I’m squeamish)… There’s something too sad about this story, in my opinion… This person was REALLY cold-hearted… One of the disabled tenants she killed called her mamma…

        • says

          Thanks for the comment Martha. Wow, that’s disturbing. It’s good to remember real people actually lost their lives. Were they selling Lizzie Borden t-shirts and mugs?

          • Martha says

            The Lizzie Borden Bed And Breakfast has been operating for a long time (and thriving) as far as I know: http://www.lizzie-borden.com. The gift store has a lot of kitchy items, t-shirts, mugs… The company who runs the inn really did go all-out!!! They have regular tours, which my ex-boyfriend and I went on, the gift store, as well as it being a B&B, and I think they may even have seances there (I know they have an ouiji board and guests can use that)!!! lol……… My ex and I were a little bit taken aback at their approach which is kind of coming at it from a kitchy/haunting angle, I guess… I’m just a curious person and am interested in both the Lizzie Borden case as well as the Dorothea Puente Case… I’ve read a book about Lizzie Borden and wanted to go to the house since I was living in Rhode Island at that time and now I live not too far from the Dorothea Puente house and am planning to read a book about that soon… Reading an excerpt of the book, I found out that I met the lady who basically had Dorothea Puente turned in (she lives down the street from me) and I know her son and daughter so it will be very interesting reading the book! I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable living there because of things I’ve read; the dead bodies were kept in a bedroom and their bodily fluids soaked through the carpet and floor boards (!!!), they stopped looking for bodies after seven were found but they’re saying she could have killed as many as twenty-five people so there could be more still buried there (as well as body parts?!?!?!)!!! I will PASS!!! lol……. LOL!!!

            Anyways, sorry for the long reply!!! lol… LOL!!! Have a nice evening and I love this blog, by the way!!! I’ll pass it onto my friend who is taking his RE license exam!!! 🙂 Take care!!! 😀 🙂

          • says

            Wow, I never envisioned a discussion on Lizzie Borden on my blog. 🙂 There is definitely a difference of opinion depending on who you ask. Some people would have no issue with living in a place like this, whereas others wouldn’t dare. I honestly don’t know the intricate details of Puente’s murders, which I’m okay with. I just know she buried them in the backyard. It’s a bit creepy to look at the long driveway at the house now.

  6. Martha says

    I agree with the long driveway being creepy!!! I think they cemented it over from it originally having had two cement strips to drive up on (where the bodies were buried???)… EEK!!! lol…. More power to the present owners who obviously have no issue living there (and for not trying to rake in a profit, it looks like)!!! Have a nice evening and nice talking with you!!! 🙂 Take care!!! 😀 🙂

  7. Beverly Graves says

    I would buy this house at a deep discount no problem because it looks beautiful, as long as i am given records that the floor in that room has been completely replaced :). I think i would have it blessed by a priest or pastor from every faith i can think of though even though i am not religious yeah i know that sounds odd but I don’t know i think out of respect and in remembrance of those poor souls that no one cared for. Not saying burt the last victims case worker did not care for him obviously she did as she was the reason everything was found out.

    I find it extremely sad that so many areon the streets being taken advantage of others like the 2 older ladies who did something similar by taking out life insurance on homeless men then sometimes within a week after opening the policy would then murder them staging it as an “accident”. Once both woman ran over some poor guy more than once.

    I also have visited the lizzie bordon house its in a not very nice area and a small house I didn’t see a ouiji board lol but we did take pics of the bedroom where the stepmom was found and the couch (a reproduction) where dear old dad died. The place was far from “busy” it seems like it does not make the owners tons of money because it is not owned by an individual its owned by the town historical society. The place is over a hundred yrs old it was going to be sold and destroyed until the town won thus becoming protected by the historical society. Its a piece of history.

    Every piece of land has history. Recently a family having work done unearthed a childs casket look up baby miranda. Turned out the land was once a graveyard and the fact is regarding cemetaries they can be “moved” 100 yrs AFTER the last burial which was done but also little known fact about graveyards is the ground shifts beneath headstones its a natural thing so say you wanna did up a grave thats 40 yrs old you are more than likely not going to find the casket right there as it will have slowly shifted probably only a few ft or so but it does.

    I am a crime news junkie and a huge horror fan but was completely let down by the bordon house. It was more historical then gory

  8. Beverly Graves says

    Oh look up the pallisades mall in NY! It was built on a graveyard but apparently not all graves were moved, in the parking garage beneath the mall there suddenly started a bulge in the concrete ground. Eventually the top of a mausoleum broke through and its still there but roped off as well as a small fenced area on the rear side of the underground parking with a gravestone which describes the history of the spot this huge mall was built on.

    Another odd thing about the mall is it sways like a suspension bridge which was not done on purpose and the movement is very slight but sitting in the food court one day my friend said “do you feel that?” Sure enough it seemed to move like a tiny earthquake. Researching it, the mall not only built on a graveyard but surrounding marshland that was causing the mall to sink like 1/4 inch a year or something like that and was supposed to be closed and torn down like 6 yrs ago but oddly its still there!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *