Frank Coleman wrote an interesting post about some of Dayton’s more famous haunted spaces. As the resident Realtor at DaytonMostMetro.com, I thought I’d take this Halloween Sunday to talk about how haunted or otherwise stigmatized properties might affect property values. But first, a disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I do not play one on TV. This is not intended as legal advice. If you are purchasing or selling a property that has any stigma attached, or have any questions about legal implications of stigmatized property, please consult an attorney for legal advice. I now return you to your regularly scheduled post.
Let’s say you just moved into town, bought a house at a fair market value- that is, it’s not a foreclosure or otherwise discounted price- you paid a fair price for a property you love. You’ve moved in, you are settling in, and one day a neighbor tentatively knocks on your day to say hello and introduce themselves. The conversation naturally turns to your new home and your neighbor shakes their head sadly and says, “It’s so horrible what happened here.” You say…”Huh?” The neighbor explains, “Yeah! Six months ago there was a murder/suicide in the master bedroom. Didn’t you know?”
So you don’t believe in ghosts, poltergeists, spirits, etc, and that’s fine. But. Same thing: You just moved into town, bought a house, blahblahblah, one day your new neighbor excitedly pipes up, “What’s it like to live in a haunted house!?!?” Say what? Congratulations. You are the proud owner of a stigmatized property. Would you want to know before you bought the home? Do you have a right to know? Is the seller legally or ethically obligated to disclose any death that occurred in this home? And what is the statute of limitations for such disclosure?
I was helping a family transfer from California to Wright-Patterson Air Force base. The husband was here, the wife and kids were still in California. One Saturday morning as we were driving to see a home, the husband got a call from his wife, “I have a weird feeling about this home,” she said. “Find out if there’s been a death there.” I had to clarify her concerns. “Any death or a violent death?” I think we can assume that most historic homes have had a death occur in them. People used to die at home, the body would have been prepared in the home, the wake was held in the parlor. To most people, that’s a completely different issue from a violent death.
Violent deaths might attach an emotional or psychological stigma to a property and might impact the perceived value of a property. Again, if this is a concern to you, express this to your Realtor, ask the sellers to disclose any known deaths, and research the property history using internet searches, county auditor websites, and other means, including talking to the neighbors.
When you list a property for sale in the Dayton Area Board of Realtors MLS system, you fill out a Property Disclosure form that discloses material defects of which the sellers are aware. Plumbing issues, roof leaks, foundation problems, etc. There isn’t a “check one, Yes or No” for ghosts or strange unexplained occurrances- these are not material defects, so what would you do if you are selling a home that has what your family jokingly refers to as a ghost, living in it? What about a violent death?
The laws vary from state to state, and from case to case– and again, this is not intended as legal advice, I am not a lawyer- but laws are beginning to lean on seller’s responsibility to disclose. In other words, who knew of the facts, and who has the money? Speak with a lawyer about your responsibility to disclose anything that might affect the value of your property, but as a general rule of thumb, if you know something about the property that might affect a buyer’s decision to purchase, err on the side of disclosure. And Happy Dios de los Muertos, Dayton!
Photo credit: Emma, used with permission.