I thought I would write this post with Halloween right around the corner. I sometimes get asked directly by home buyers if a house is haunted. Now I am certainly not expert on haunted houses and I don’t believe I have ever been in one. So the question raised in this post….
Is a Haunted House or otherwise Stigmatized House Disclosed up front to the Home Buyer?
So what are other stigmatized houses? A stigmatized house is one that may be of course, haunted but could also include a house that had a murder, major crime committed, or a suicide etc…. as well. So basically a home is “stigmatized home” by a paranormal or emotional event and is not an issue of building structure or safety.
In the state of Massachusetts a real estate agent must disclose any material fact known about the house that could effect the value. Now lets face it, if a house just had a murder committed in it, it is going to be a tough sell and I am sure it will effect it’s value.
But, oddly enough a “stigmatized house” in Massachusetts is not a disclosable issue to the home buying public. The seller/agent are with in the law by not disclosing such events as a haunting, murder, suicide or other crime that may have previously occurred in a home.
Many years ago I listed a home that had a recent murder occur inside the home. The house was popular and received offer after offer only to fall apart after the buyers found out the home had a murder. The home buyers and buyers agents were angry atme for not disclosing. I immediately got on the phone and called a real estate attorney I work with and he said it is not a disclosable issue and to do so with out my clients permission would put me in violation of agency law. Basically, my fiduciary responsibility was to the seller. He did not want me to disclose, so I could not do so up front.
As a Home Buyer how do I Avoid Buying a Haunted House or Otherwise Stigmatized Home?
Ask!! While an agent nor a seller do not have to disclose up front, they are bound by law to answer all questions truthfully when asked. So if it is important to you not to buy a haunted home, one that has had a murder, suicide or major crime committed in it, get a list of questions together to ask before buying.
Also, as standard practice when I am working as a buyers agent I always Google the address and the street to see if there is any abnormal activity happening in the house or nearby. By the way Google is a great way to find out if the home you are interested in is sitting on a superfund site! What did we used to do before Goolge?
This is obviously a very controversial subject and the law can be grey. So if you do own a stigmatized house that you want to sell, I always recommend talking with a real estate attorney. Here’s a great article from Richard Vestein, a Massachusetts Real Estate Attorney, about Dealing with a Stigmatized House.
Happy House Haunting!!