Old Haunts, New Buyers: How to Handle 'Stigmatized' Properties

Crime scene home stigmatized propertyThe New York Times reported today on an odd permutation of the buyer's dilemma: like the price, love the house, hate the fact that an elderly couple was brutally stabbed on the premises by their troubled son, who later jumped in front of an oncoming train. What's a homebuyer to do?

There's a name for this not-so-unique state of affairs -- "stigmatized property." While the thought of buying a house with a haunted history may keep you from sleeping soundly at night, experts say it doesn't necessarily have a big impact on the bottom line. The problem is, unless you bothered to do your own sleuthing, it's unlikely that you would have ever known what transpired in the home.

"It's not a piece of information that brokers can or have to give out" in many cases, said Jeffrey Kitchen, regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors in Beaver Dam, Wis. The circumstances of disclosure depends "a lot on how brutal it was," he said.

In New York, for instance, Section 443-a of the New York Real Property Law states that a death, murder or suicide is "not a material defect of fact," and therefore need not be disclosed to buyers. But surely there is some added incentive to buy for those homebuyers undeterred by a property's tragic past -- right?

Wrong. The lingering effects of a tragedy usually last between six months to a year, said Ronald Gold, a New York City real estate appraiser. Ultimately, he adds, the effect on a property's listing price is in the range of 10 percent, and that's usually temporary.

So what, if anything, should prospective homeowners do to avoid buying more than they bargained for? AOL Real Estate reporter, Sheree Curry, offers some useful tips to heed before signing on the dotted line:

Is Your Home a Crime Scene? How to Know Before You Buy

And for more stories from the annals of real estate lore, read these strange tales:

Homeowner Finds Dead Body on House Tour

Joel Rifkin Serial Killer Home Finally Sells

New Amityville Horror: Yuppie Tourists

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