So, you wanna buy a house? Stigmatized properties.
So…thinking about buying a house? Perhaps it’s just a starter home, or, a forever home. Buying a house can be an exciting journey, as long as you ask the right questions. Otherwise you might end up with a stigmatized property.
Stigmatized properties (homes, apartments, businesses) have a past, sometimes not a nice one. It could involve many things transpiring within its walls: murder, suicide, AIDS, cult, drugs, or prostitution. Also included in the mix could be Phenomena—ghosts!
Caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) is in play with real estate transactions, with most states (Indiana included) not requiring notification of certain stigma attached. Yet, this’s where it gets sticky. The National Association of Realtor’s code of ethics mandates its agents to avoid “exaggeration, misrepresentation or concealment of pertinent facts.” Psychologically-affected properties are certainly beyond the norm. Sellers, or Realtor, may not necessarily offer information, yet have a duty to reply truthfully when asked direct questions. A lie constitutes “misrepresentation.” Honesty is always the best policy. It keeps you out of the courtroom!
The Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure form informs potential buyers about material defects: foundation, heating & cooling, termites, moisture, rodents, mold, and appliances—everything the seller knows about. What it leaves out is most is stigmas attached to the property. Some won’t mind buying a stigmatized property, especially at a cost savings. Others run for the hills! Presently, Indiana law requires a seller to tell the buyer if the house was once used as a methamphetamine lab. And, a disclosure if anyone has died in the house, if the sellers are aware of it! A murder/suicide house could possibly turn into a haunting situation. Bargain days…two for the price of one! Ask your new neighbors about your house. They’re a wealth of information.
Two stigmatized property’s come to mind: The yellow house sitting on the corner of Meridian and Main Street in downtown Greenwood, where a daughter, apparently in a drug haze, bludgeoned her mother to death with a hammer and dragged her body out the back door into the garage—right across from Mrs. Curls Ice Cream. The house was for sell afterwards—no takers! And, the former Sylvia Likens murder house on East New York Street. After the murder, the house went through a procession of being for sale and a rental unit (tenants never lasted long) for years. Both properties were demolished. Stigmatized? Oh yes! It takes years (hoping folks forget) for these properties to sell. The house in Greenwood was for sale way too soon after the fact. The Likens house, well… the neighborhood never forgot!
A special thanks to Brenda Cook, Realtor with F.C. Tucker North, for the information.