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Have you ever moved into a new home and wondered about the lives of the people who lived there before?
Maybe they lived a full, peaceful life — or maybe it was unceremoniously cut short. On their podcast, Crime Estate, Compass real estate agent Heather Guild and Standard Real Estate agent Elena Richey, along with their non-agent friend, Melanie Stout, delve into the stories behind true crimes across the world and the interesting properties at which they’ve taken place.
“Walk through the door of some of the most notorious true crimes with us and discover how, sometimes, the scene of the crime has its own story to tell…” Guild says during the podcast’s intro.
There’s the tragic story of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, who was found dead inside her family’s 1920s-era Boulder, Colorado, home.
Also, the ruthless murder of actor Sharon Tate and her friends at the storied 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles by the Manson Family.
And it would be hard for many to forget Shele Covlin’s mysterious death at the Upper West Side’s Dorchester Towers in the aughts, the Villisca Axe murders in Iowa at the beginning of the 20th century, the Clutter Family murders in Kansas in the ’50s, and the list goes on.
The Dallas-based trio launched their podcast in the spring of 2023 and have reviewed these stories and others, always with a mind to maintain respect for the victims and their families.
As the true crime junkies continue to build their podcast, Inman caught up with Guild and Richey, who also balance their own real estate careers and parenting school-aged children, to learn how they were inspired to launch the podcast and how it fits more broadly into their careers. Here’s what they had to say, edited for brevity and clarity.
Inman: How did you come up with the idea for Crime Estate?
Heather Guild: Elena and I have a lot in common — we are both real estate agents who work a lot in east Dallas, we live in east Dallas, and our sons are really good friends who go to school together. So for a couple of years, we have just regularly met up for lunch or happy hour. At one of those events we were both sort of talking about some true crime stories and things that had happened, and I was telling Elena that my husband had recently mentioned to me that he had grown up in a murder house. We had been married 20-something years and I had never heard this story.
So we had so many questions: Did they get a good deal on the house? What did they have to disclose? We started talking and couldn’t stop, and I was like “I’ve always wanted to do a podcast about true crime and real estate I think that would be really interesting,’ and she was like, ‘I’ll do it with you!”
So I texted my husband from the restaurant and was like “Hey, we’ve come up with a name, go buy the domain!” And at school the next day, I was like, “You were serious right?” And she was like, “Of course!”
It was just one of those moments of inspiration.
Elena Richey: … Over chips, salsa and margaritas.
How do you find the properties you end up highlighting?
Richey: I think there were a few that each of us had a passion for — JonBenet Ramsey was really big for Heather, and the Manson family murders has always fascinated me, and the location in California is obviously beautiful. So I think we just started there, researching things we grew up hearing about. For me with the Manson Family, I remember watching a mini-series when I was 10 probably, which stuck with me for a long time. I also Google cities. We’re going to do one on Boston in a couple of weeks and look up any crimes that happened in homes that seem like they have a good history and a lot we can talk about in regards to the home as well as the crime.
Guild: We’ve also been surprised as we started doing this — everyone we run into has a story. So we recorded one last week that my accountant recommended. So it’s always like, have you heard about this, or have you heard about that? And a lot of us have heard some of the bigger ones, but people will mention something from their hometown or a neighboring town, and so we’ve just been keeping a running list.
Have either of you experienced crime in a home that you’ve repped or are affiliated with?
Richey: I have not. We’ve both definitely been in some creepy houses.
Guild: I did walk in on a robbery once when showing houses and as I was going in the front door, they went out the back door, and that made for a really awkward showing. My clients were like, “Probably this isn’t the house …” But no, I’ve never represented a home where I know a crime occurred.
That must have been tricky! As you’re composing these episodes, is there a formula you follow?
Guild: We like to set the scene for wherever we’re going to be, and depending on the story, it can be the city, it can be the state, we’ve done some in other countries. So I think it’s just setting the background for the place and the time in which the story’s told. And then we really like to weave in some interesting characteristics of the home and talk about — it’s not an architecture podcast by any means — but we definitely talk about architecture and styles of homes and maybe why it was built that way.
So your husband grew up in a murder house?
Guild: Yes, he did. He grew up in Iowa and a whole family was murdered there. We have not covered that episode yet, but I think it will be our first one in 2024. His family’s going to visit for Thanksgiving and I’m going to pepper them with some questions.
Was he nervous about that as a child?
Guild: He is very pragmatic. It was just a house for them. That’s the other thing — we ask each other at the very end of every episode, “Would you list the house?” “Would you live there?” And we have very hot and cold feelings about the houses, but I think when he talks about it, he’s super pragmatic like that.
So for each of you does it just depend on the scenario whether you’d be willing to live in the house or not?
Richey: I have an instinct, a gut feeling about whether or not [I could live there]. It’s never the same. And [Heather,] you are more, it depends on who the victim was, right? Ages are a big thing for you.
Guild: Right, anything that’s around our own kids’ ages, that would be really hard for me, as a mom. But, an old man that was like …
Richey: On the beach somewhere …
Guild: Yeah. I think what we’ve found is, there’s not really a rhyme or reason. Either you’re OK with it or you’re not OK with it. We’ve got an episode coming up in a couple of weeks that’s going to be really fun for us — we interviewed somebody who lived in the house that Polly Klaas was abducted from. Probably early ’90s, she was having a slumber party at her home [in Petaluma, California,] and somebody came in and tied up her friends and abducted her. And so the lady we talked to lived there during the 10th anniversary of this. She said she didn’t find out until after closing that this had happened in this house, which was a whole other story — but she was like, we made it safe for our family and it never really bothered us.
Richey: What’s especially interesting to me, too, has been learning the different disclosure laws in different states, because they’re all different.
I imagine you have a pretty good picture now of what parts of the country that is a big thing in or not. What is the law in Texas?
Guild: I am pretty sure that if anything happened or there was a death that was not a natural circumstance [you have to disclose it]. So, if someone tripped and fell because of a bad sidewalk and hit their head and died, I think you have to disclose that. And I think you have to disclose any sort of crime where a death occurred.
But we have fun — I’ll research and write an episode and then I’ll share it, and then Elena will do something the next week, so it’s been this great, collaborative effort of she does the hard work one week and then I’ll do the hard work the next week and that’s been a good rhythm for us.
Richey: Definitely. Because we’re still running our own businesses and raising our kids, so it is nice to ping-pong off of each other every week.
And so you have a third partner, too, right? How does she fit in?
Guild: We needed somebody to help us with the, not the editing production, but more so, let’s think big picture on this, and [Melanie] was the first person who was like, “We’re only focusing on really wealthy homes — let’s see if we can find some things in different neighborhoods, [and price points].”
Richey: You and I both are more like big-thinking people and jump feet first, and she’s more, “Hold on.”
Guild: That’s exactly what it is. We know her through our kids as well. She’s not a real estate agent; she has a full-time job. We have full-time jobs, too, ours are just a lot more flexible. She has to be in an office from eight to five.
How do you feel like this fits into your businesses, or is it more for pleasure on the side?
Richey: I think it’s kind of self-care. On Fridays, we meet up, and we have wine or tequila with our girlfriends and just catch up, so for me, it’s kind of like a mental health break from the week and the stress of having a business and raising kids, and all the stuff that comes with being in your 40’s.
Guild: Yeah, I joke — some people play tennis, and we podcast. It’s definitely a fun, passion project for us. It just happens to also be an extension of what we do in real life. So we talk real estate all day long and then we come and our passion project is to talk real estate, too, but I think that’s just a happy coincidence.
Do your clients listen to the podcast?
Guild: Lots of people listen to the podcast.
Richey: It’s been so nice, the people at our kids’ schools and our friends and peers, everyone’s listening, so that’s fun and kind of weird too … But I’ve had a few girlfriends say, “I listened to the podcast and I feel like I just hung out with you for an hour.” And that’s a really big compliment, I feel like.
Guild: That’s exactly what we want. This is not a hard-hitting journalistic podcast; this is girlfriends sitting down and talking about a story. And that’s funny, I’ve had the same thing, “Hey, I’ve been listening in the car and now I feel like we’ve been hanging out all day.” And that’s exactly what we want.
What are some of the most interesting stories you’ve come across so far?
Guild: We really haven’t done one that I haven’t been interested in. I think not even the most interesting story, but the thing that has surprised me the most is that there is a lot of overlapping … For a while, we saw that a lot of the stories that we were doing had all these cellars, or there were a lot of beauty queens that were victims of a crime. On week four, we even made a joke, “Well this one isn’t a beauty queen for the first time.” And it wasn’t people that we thought were beauty queens when we started researching, and then we were like “Oh, this is the fourth beauty queen we’ve come across.” So I think some of the similarities that I wasn’t expecting have been interesting.
We did one on Shele Covlin in the Dorchester Towers in New York. That one was fascinating to me just because it was in a condo, so there were people all around, which is different than a lot of what we’ve done. And her ex-husband actually lived across the hall so I thought that dynamic was interesting, where you have two properties and obviously the crime was just committed in one. But in real estate [terms], you’re talking New York, you’re talking condos, so that one was interesting, for sure.
Richey: I think we also enjoyed going back to JonBenet Ramsey because there’s a whole other generation of people who didn’t grow up hearing about JonBenet Ramsey or the Ramsey family. So I think that’s interesting, too, just revisiting those stories that many people don’t recall. With the case of JonBenet, it’s still unsolved, so that’s kind of a fascinating part of the story as well.
Do you end up covering more solved cases?
Guild: For the most part, they’re probably 80 percent solved.
Richey: Not by design, just coincidence. And there are some where it seems like it could have been more than one person.
Guild: With that one you did in Iowa, we weren’t sure. Not that we’re detectives or anything!
Have you learned something through this process to take away for your businesses or personal lives?
Richey: I always think about how some crimes are more well-publicized than other crimes, and it often has to do with the victim’s race or gender or economic status. So that was fascinating to me, and I kind of knew that going into it. Obviously, the blond, blue-eyed people will be on the news at night, but really it’s true, and it’s kind of sad. There are so many stories that need to be told that aren’t and that was eye-opening for me.
Guild: From a business perspective, I’ve been selling real estate for about 20 years and you always do the research on the household, what you think the comps are, and even to some extent who the past owners were, but I’ve never thought about going all the way back to the history of the house. I think homes do have a story to tell, so that’s been sort of fun to think about as we’ve been working with new clients over the last year. Is there more of a story here? And maybe the story is a great story, maybe it was owned by somebody who wrote for the Dallas Morning News 30 years ago, or whatever. But just figuring out more of the story of the house than just the dollars and cents.
What else would you tell your fellow agents about your experience creating the podcast?
Richey: We’re at different brokerages, so I knew of Heather and she knew of me, or we were in the same circles … For me, I just never know who I’m going to get on the other side of the transaction, so I didn’t know what to expect in Heather, but it’s so nice that we became such beautiful friends and were able to go on this journey together. But I think that’s a big part of it. Definitely collaboration: We both have a mutual respect for each other as agents and moms, and now as podcasters.
Guild: I think in terms of what we want to tell other agents, that’s right on — when you work with someone who you have that respect for and you feel like you work well together, whether it’s on the list side or buy side, being able to collaborate is really crucial.