What Do You
about the Home You Want to Buy?
By Maribeth Lynch, THRIVE Real Estate Specialists of Shrewsbury MA
I firmly believe in arming my clients with all the facts available about a property so that they can go into a home purchase with eyes wide open. However, U.S. states differ when it comes to requiring a seller to disclose certain features of a property. As it happens, in Massachusetts, the rule of law is “caveat emptor,” which means “let the buyer beware.”
You might be surprised to learn that there is quite a bit of information about a property that a seller is not required by law to voluntarily disclose to a prospective buyer. This means that the burden is on the buyer – and the buyer’s agent – to ask the right questions to reveal any hidden information that is not immediately noticeable about the property. The seller or seller’s agent is then obligated to answer any such questions honestly.
With Halloween approaching, there are plenty of opportunities to get spooked. Don’t let your new home be one of them! You may not be aware that one of the real estate disclosures not required by law is the revelation of a haunting. Certain other historical characteristics of a property are also not required disclosures under Massachusetts law, such as murders and violent acts, criminal activity, or previous owners or residents with an unsavory history.
When something sinister, distasteful, or scandalous has occurred in a home, the house is then termed a stigmatized property. Here a few types of stigma that might make a buyer think twice about purchasing a home:
If a crime was ongoing on the premises of a certain property, the home would fall into the category of criminal stigma. If the home was used as a brothel or drug den, for example, former patrons might continue to seek out illegal services on the premises, to the annoyance or dismay of the new owners.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Many buyers would prefer to shy away from a property with a violent or gruesome history in which a murder, suicide, or even a death has occurred.
While many people do not believe in the paranormal, some buyers might be inclined to steer clear of a home that has a history of hauntings, ghost sightings, or other supernatural activity. In a case of phenomena stigma, the haunted history of a home is unlikely to be widely known, but instead restricted to the local populace or even just the previous residents of the house.
A public stigma pertains to a widely-known history of the home that might lead it to be of public interest or considered an attraction that members of the public might seek out. An example of this might be a home in which a known murderer has lived – even if no murders were committed on the property. Another example is a home like the house in The Amityville Horror, with a widespread reputation as a haunted house.
I strive for transparency with all of my clients. I feel it’s best for everyone involved that I share all information I have available about a property up front, and if there are specific questions or doubts, I’m here to help my clients uncover the truth. But it’s important to realize that since sellers aren’t obligated under Massachusetts law to disclose certain information, buyers may not always have the advantage of an agent who is willing to dig around under the surface of a sale.
While I pledge to my clients to be upfront with any details of a home’s history that might make them think twice about buying it, not everyone is so forthcoming. Protect yourself by asking the right questions to elicit all the information you need to avoid buying a house with a skeleton in the closet.
For more information on buying homes in Massachusetts or to contact Maribeth, visit www.thriverealtors.com/contact-us.