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Disclosing ghosts and the departed- deeper meanings

House with Ghost

As a historian, I have been trained to look for the deeper social meanings behind laws, customs and traditions.  With Halloween upon us, a look into how we, as real estate professionals, are expected to treat homes with a storied past makes for an interesting study.

Suicide, murder, deaths and house ghosts all make for touchy subjects for both sellers and buyers.  There are basically two view points to the same issue and they are polar opposite of each other.  One side believes that any past event which is not material (ie structural, zoning, etc.) to the home is therefore something that does not need to be disclosed.  This side believes that a seller might be harmed due to decreased value of a stigmatized house and therefore the information need not (should not) be disclosed.  Further more, some states bar agents from disclosing this information to potential buyers.  The side that takes the non-disclosure, seller advocate stand and is possibly more pragmatic.

The other side believes that this is material information and buyers do deserve to know about any past events before making a decision to purchase a home.  Agents and sellers in these states must disclose any information regarding deaths in the home.  The side that believes disclosure is the correct route is buyer (consumer) oriented and also may be more spiritual as well (they do believe, after all, that this could be a material fact).

My business partner and I have run into this dilemma several times.  Homes we know or suspect a murder or death occurred, homes we know mystic spiritual practices occurred (with Santeria being practiced in Miami, this is not an uncommon occurrence). You name it, we have run across them and we have wanted to disclose that information to the potential buyers but couldn’t.  We have sat in the office with the moral dilemma of “disclose or don’t disclose”.

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If you are not sure what your state laws are regarding disclosure, contact your board and find out. Being on the wrong side could result in a court case for either disclosing too much information, or not enough.

Image by  Darkpatator

Written By

Janie has been in the development, construction and real estate industries for over 20 years. She began her career in commerical construction and has slowly worked into all of the related industries and added residential properties to her resume 7 years ago. She is currently the co-owner of sister companies, Papillon Real Estate and Papillon ReDevelopment (a construction and project management firm). Janie blogs for The Coral Gables Story. In her "free" time, she is a graduate student of Atlantic History with a focus on the history of business and technology. She is a lover of geo-anything. She loves the story.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Steven Ligon

    October 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

    You hit the nail on the head at the end-whether we like it or not, we need to abide by our particular laws. In Oklahoma, if a buyer requests information about things like that in writing, we are required to request disclosure from the seller. It’s a tough issue, and we tend to get tangled up in “disclose, disclose, disclose” mode, which may not be the legal thing to do.

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