Montclair’s “Spy House” Awaits a Buyer

Is $444,900 too steep a price for a modest, Montclair home with a bizarre pedigree? That seems to be the market reaction to the unremarkable residence that, until 2010, was the base of operations for a now-infamous pair of Russian spies.

The house—at 31 Marquette Road in Upper Montclair—is the former home of Vladimir and Lydia Guryev (aka Richard and Cynthia Murphy), who were arrested as spies in June 2010. The two later were swapped along with eight other Russian spies in return for four U.S. agents who had been held in Moscow.

Now the property of the U.S. government, the 1,824-square-foot “spy house” came on the market in April. The asking price of $444,900 is a reduction from the $481,000 that the Murphys paid in 2008.

Lynzey Donahue, spokeswoman for U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), explains that the “spy house” was forfeited to the government under the conditions of the Murphys’ plea deal. After a default judgment was issued in the federal civil case on July 18, 2012, the USMS was put in charge of selling the property.

The USMS manages and sells assets obtained during federal crimes. Currently, it oversees approximately $2.4 billion in assets, although not all are in the form of real estate. This explains the “No Trespassing, Property of USMS” sign posted on the Montclair home after the arrests. A “for sale” sign from Fast Track Real Estate Co. now accompanies the trespass warning.

The two-story, four-bedroom, 1.5-bath home was built in 1950, and features a one-car garage, stucco exterior walls, recently updated kitchen and an unfinished basement. Despite the discount and a flood of media coverage, the home remains available on what is considered a hot real estate market

“We use market appraisals to set a sales price, and we use a national real estate company, and they then choose the local companies,” says Donahue.

Marie Kahvajian, owner of Fast Track Real Estate Co. and the contact person for the property, says she is not permitted to discuss the home’s sordid history. But Donahue says buyers can rest easy knowing their money will fund patriotic causes.

“If there were victims, like white-collar crimes or fraud, then proceeds [from the sales of assets] go there,” says Donahue. “In this case… proceeds from the sale go back to a general fund for law enforcement initiatives.”

As for the Murphys, their covert mission was to “search and develop ties in policymaking circles in U.S.” and send intelligence reports to Moscow, according to a message decrypted by the FBI. Under their false identities, they lived in the U.S. beginning in the mid-1990s, moving from a Hoboken apartment to the cream-colored house on Marquette Road in fall of 2008. In the suburban haven, they scrupulously tended their hydrangeas, hosted barbecues and raised their two pre-teen daughters.

After their arrest, the two were tried in Manhattan along with fellow agents of the Russian spy ring known as the “Seattle Conspirators” and “Boston Conspirators.” The 10 Russian agents were eventually flown to Vienna in return for the release of the four U.S agents. The Murphys’ story inspired a prime-time series, The Americans, which debuted on FX in January, starring Keri Russell.

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