Haunts & Jaunts: Stigmatized properties: A retread from an article published June 22, 2017

Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is in play with real estate transactions. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

By Rick Hinton

Are you thinking about buying a house? Perhaps it will be a starter home or a forever home. It may be an older home or a newer one just starting its history. Buying your own home is an exciting journey that results in placing down permanent roots. As long as you ask the right questions, you might not end up with a stigmatized property.

Stigmatized properties have a past, and sometimes not a nice one. It might involve things that happened within its walls: murder, suicide, Aids, cult activity, 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 to a property. The National Association of Realtor’s code of ethics mandates its agents to avoid “exaggeration, misrepresentation or concealment of pertinent facts.” The sellers, or Realtor, may not necessarily volunteer information yet have a duty to reply truthfully when asked direct questions. A lie constitutes misrepresentation.

The Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure Form informs potential buyers about material defects: foundation, heating & cooling, termites, moisture, rodents, mold, appliances etc. What this form leaves out is any stigma attached to the property.

Many will not think twice about buying a stigmatized property, especially at cost savings. Presently, Indiana law requires a seller to inform a buyer if a property was used as a methamphetamine lab; and disclose if any death occurred in the house if the sellers are aware of it. I believe the matter of ghostly shenanigans also must be disclosed.

Two stigmatized properties in Indianapolis come to mind:

For example, the yellow house that formerly sat on the corner of Meridian and Main St. in downtown Greenwood. A daughter, in a drug haze, bludgeoned her mother with a hammer and dragged her lifeless body to the garage right across from Mrs. Curl’s Ice Cream. The house was for sale afterward with no takers.

Then, there is the Sylvia Likens murder house on East New York St. After the murder, the home went through a steady procession of being for sale, and on the off times, a rental unit. Nobody ever lasted long in the house.

Both properties were stigmatized and eventually demolished because of reports of paranormal activity. If this kind of property remains standing, it can take years – and hoping people forget – for them to sell.

A special thanks to Realtor Brenda Cook for the information related to this article.