Entertainment

We Talked to the Realtor Who Sold the Infamous Manson Family Murder House

“Its history brought out a combination of aspiring social media stars and serious buyers,” realtor Arto Poladian told VICE.
June 18, 2021, 4:24pm
labianca manson murder house for sale
Image via Redfin

The real estate listing for 3311 Waverly Drive, a $1.8 million property in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, showcases the almost 100-year-old home’s jaw-dropping views of the San Gabriel Mountains, offers a 3-D tour of its vintage pink-tiled bathroom, and includes a half-dozen photos of its backyard poolscape at sunset. 

“Attention builders/developers/flippers/history buffs, and those looking [to] add their touches to reimagine one of LA’s most unique properties,” the listing reads. “Classic 1920s gated single-story pool home with breathtaking, unobstructed front and back views, and an infamous history.” 

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Those last three words—an infamous history—are doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, because in 1969, the home was the site of one of America's most infamous double murders. 

On the night of August 10 that year, Charles Manson and Charles “Tex” Watson broke into the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary and held them at gunpoint before tying them both up. Manson then sent Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, two other members of his "Family," into the home to kill the couple. They stabbed Leno to death, leaving a large two-tined fork in his abdomen and a kitchen knife in his throat. The word “WAR” was carved into his skin. Rosemary was stabbed more than 40 times as she lay bound on the floor of her bedroom.

“Leslie took a towel and wiped fingerprints from places they believed they might have touched,”  author Jeff Guinn wrote in Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. “They wrote ‘Rise’ and ‘Death to Pigs’ in blood on the walls. Pat added ‘Healter Skelter’ to the refrigerator door, misspelling ‘Helter.’ Sometime while they worked they raided the refrigerator for snacks—watermelon and chocolate milk. They left the watermelon rinds in the sink.” 

Shortly after leaving the grisly scene at the LaBianca home, Manson went into a nearby Denny’s and ordered four chocolate milkshakes to go. 

Despite its upsetting history, Redfin real estate agent Arto Poladian sold the home for $1.8 million earlier this week. TMZ reports that the as-yet-unidentified buyer purchased the property from paranormal investigator and Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans, who bought it for $1.98 million in 2019. (Bagans had reportedly hoped to “shoot a project” in the home, but the idea was ultimately scrapped.) 

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“It was a mixed bag of potential suitors,” Poladian told VICE. “Everyone loved the location and size of the lot, with lots of opportunity to expand and remodel. It’s prime Los Feliz, with a rare view of the reservoir, a partial view of the downtown LA skyline, and a full view of the Glendale skyline. Its history brought out a combination of aspiring social media stars and serious buyers.” 

Poladian said that one of his biggest challenges was trying to figure out which of the interested parties were, in his words, “trying to win points on Instagram,” and which ones really wanted to buy the home. “We were able to sort that out by limiting tours to only those who were pre-approved and serious about making an offer,” he explained. 

According to California civil code, sellers and their real estate agents do not have to disclose “the manner or occurrence of an occupant’s death” if it happened more than three years before the sale of the property. Nonetheless, Poladian said, the home’s past was disclosed on the multiple listing service (MLS) that other real estate brokers can access, and also included “up front, in all seller disclosures.” And even though 3311 Waverly Drive’s street number has changed since that horrible night—it was 3301 in August 1969—it wouldn’t take much investi-Googling to learn what had happened there. 

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were killed just one night after Manson’s followers murdered actress Sharon Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring, aspiring writer Wojciech Frykowski, Folgers coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and 18-year-old Steven Parent. The six victims—plus the pregnant Tate’s unborn son—were killed at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, at a sprawling house that Tate and her husband, the film director Roman Polanski, rented from its longtime owner.

That home was ultimately torn down in 1994. Its final renter was none other than Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who built a studio in the living room and recorded most of the band’s Grammy-nominated 1994 album, The Downward Spiral, there. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly just after the home's demolition, Reznor said he had named the studio "Pig"—a reference to the word that the killers wrote in Tate’s blood on the front door.

“The house didn’t feel terrifying so much as sad—peacefully sad,” he said. “Sometimes I’d come home and find bouquets of dead roses and lit candles in the front gate. It was really eerie. Who were they leaving the shrines for—Tate or Manson?”

Even though 50 years have passed since the Manson family murders, Poladian understands that still may be too soon for many would-be homeowners. “I think there’s a portion of the buying public who doesn’t want to deal with that history,” he said. “Others are definitely intrigued by it.”