Has the Bates Motel ever really left our collective imaginations? It seems that every couple of years, some type of media tries to revive the the “Psycho” franchise. Most recently, A&E released “Bates Motel,” a modern take on the 1960 proto-slasher film. The new television show started me thinking once again about the Bates Motel. Well, actually, it started some of Movoto’s regular readers thinking about the middle-of-nowhere deathtrap. They wanted to know how much it would cost to purchase the creepy motel and set up shop.
My best guess is that the original Bates Motel from the Alfred Hitchcock movie would cost evil investors just over $800,000 if it were placed on the market today. Why is the price so low? There are two reasons. First, Norman Bates’s murder shack is located in an out-of-the-way location, which is good for killing weary travelers, but not so great for tourists. The second—and probably biggest—factor is that the motel is relatively tiny. Afterall, it is a mom and son business.
If you want to know how I figured it out, lock your doors and conveniently forget to shower.
The Ingredients That Keep Giving
For a normal evaluation piece, I track down three things: A location, square footage, and comparable homes. It’s a bit different when the “unreal estate” you’re trying to evaluate is a motel. While I still needed a location, I also needed to know the number of rooms in the Bates Motel and the average cost of a hotel in a similar area. Square footage went out the window.
I’ll start with the most difficult piece of this three-part puzzle: Where is Bates Motel? (So you can avoid it.)
Bates Motel: A Location to Die For
I’d love to report that there is an actual Bates Motel that was used in the filming of “Psycho,” but there isn’t. Hitchcock’s masterpiece was filmed at Universal Studios on a tight budget, meaning the two major pieces of real estate in the film—the Bates Motel and the Bates’s sinister looking home—were constructed using stock units. In fact, the original Psycho House was little more than a two-story prop. Same goes for the Bates Motel.
With this in mind, I could have placed Bates Motel in Los Angeles and called it a day. I didn’t. It’s obvious to anyone who’s seen the movie that the roadside inn is nowhere near the limelight of the City of Angels.
To get around this, I researched (watched the movie) to figured out a better location. In the film, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 and flees Phoenix, Arizona to meet up with her boyfriend. Marion, exhausted from driving, rents a room at the Bates Motel, located near the town of Fairvale, California.
At this point I high-fived myself. Sadly, this was before I realized Fairvale is fictitious—or at least a town by that name doesn’t exist in California. This meant I needed to find a similar town.
Like a lost road warrior, I turned to Google Maps and plotted the most likely routes from Phoenix to California. I assumed Marion could have taken one of three highway routes to California: Interstate 40, Interstate 10, or Interstate 8. The prevailing thought on the Internet was that Fairvale was located off “Old Highway 10,” which is itself located off Interstate 10. This led me to start looking for a small town off Interstate 10.
Wanting to winnow my search area further, I went back to the movie in search of some sort of landmark. I quickly realized that Fairvale was located somewhere near a swamp; that’s where Norman disposes of Marion’s car after the famous shower scene. In other words, Fairvale needed to be close to a swamp.
While California’s southeast has a lot of dessert, you can also find swamp land. Once I knew where the swamps were located, I found a city with easy access to swamplands.
So, where did I place the Bates Motel? Blythe, California, most likely on the outskirts.
With the difficult part out of the way, I turned to finding a comparable hotel.
A Doom With A View
There are numerous ways to evaluate hotels. My favorite method is to use a can of Coke from a mini fridge and then multiply that by the total number of rooms. You then multiply this number by 100,000. I really, really wanted to use this technique. I tried it with the Fawlty Towers evaluation and failed (mini fridges are scarce along the English Riviera). I tried to use this technique to evaluate the cost of the Bates Motel, and, well, failed for a second time. We all have dreams.
The valuation technique I finally used was a room-rate multiplier. This method essentially takes the average daily rate for a motel room, multiplies it by 1,000, and then multiplies this number by the total number of rooms. This gives you a back-of-the-envelope price for a hotel.
Unfortunately, this would work best if I knew how much it would cost to rent a room at the Bates Motel. I didn’t. I couldn’t even find a reasonable figure.
To get around this, I looked up the cost for hotel rooms in Blythe and calculated an average cost. I ended up with $84 a night. I then subtracted 20 percent because Bates Motel isn’t in a prime location. This dropped the number to about $67. (Or, if it were 1960, a room would cost you a cool $8.54—still on the steep side, if you ask me.)
Where There’s Always a Vacancy
With two of the three criteria knocked off the list, I needed to find one more piece: How many rooms are at the Bates Motel.
Luckily, this was the easiest piece of the puzzle. By my own count, there were seven rooms in the 1960 version. I’ve seen another count of 10. A&E, which produces the new series, claimed there were 12. I went with the final number.
I combined everything to come up with a final value of $804,000. This doesn’t include all the blood stains or taxidermied animals. And, yes, you’ll need a cosigner. I suggest your mother.