Stigmatized Properties

The time has come for you to purchase a home. Congratulations! Of course, it goes without saying that a lot goes in to the process that is to come – finding the perfect home for you. You’ve diligently searched, have asked all the necessary questions, and have put an offer on what you can only imagine is your dream home. Seamless, right? Presumably so. However, what happens when your new home has been thoroughly inspected and has been given the green light to move in, but you find out from your soon-to-be neighbours that your brand new home was the location of something terrible in the past behind its picture perfect exterior?

Characteristically, a listing agent should always outline the known, physical defects of a home upon selling it. Furthermore, a home inspection should alert the seller of anything that is unknown. Once passed, this is what gives home buyers the confidence they need in order to develop interest in the home, and put money down on it. But what if something goes unnoticed? Something non-tangible? This is considered a stigma, or a stigmatized property. A stigmatized property is one that carries a “non-physical, intangible attribute of a property that may elicit a psychological or emotional response on the part of a potential buyer”. Perhaps, for example, your home is known to be haunted, or was once the site of a violent crime or a drug operation. When the issue(s) lies beneath the surface and goes beyond anything observable and/or measurable, it is considered to be stigmatized and could potentially turn home buyers away.

Below are a few examples of what might fall between the cracks when contemplating the home that’s best suited for you. In other words, those wearisome events that may not (legally) be required to disclose:

  • The belief that it might be haunted
  • A centre of operations for gangs and/or drug dealers
  • A death in the home – be it natural, suicide, or murder
  • If the home was once a brothel
  • Remediated grow-op (all the physical problems have been taken care of)

What you can do to protect yourself?

At the end of the day, the onus is on both you and your agent (as well as yourself, to do what’s necessary in order to know the ins and outs of a home that you’re about to buy. Yes, your agent will inquire about any qualities that could deter your ultimate decision to purchase the property, but it’s encouraged that you also do your own due-diligence. If you sense that there is something intangibly unnerving about a home that you’re interested in, be sure to voice it before time ticks on and it becomes too late.

There is no way to know for sure as incidents may have occurred before “recent memory” but there are a few things that you can do to try to protect yourself:

  • Ask the listing agent specific questions. They must disclose what they know, as do the sellers.
  • Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and ask the neighbours. Sometimes neighbours have been around longer than the current owners and may know more about the history of a home.
  • Google the address. If a crime took place there in recent years, there may be media coverage.
  • Check out housecreep.com.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether certain stigmas would be an issue to you and make the decision for yourself.