Buyer beware-- literally!

As a Millennial one of my favorite hobbies is looking at houses for sale on Zillow that I know I'll never be able to afford because, well, I'm a Millennial. With the way the housing market has fluctuated over the last several years it seems like when you do come across a modestly priced house it almost seems too good to be true.

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Maybe there's a reason for that.

Stigmatized Properties

Caron Koteles Riha, Associate Broker with Michigan's Real Estate One, says having grown up in a small town she's used to old historical homes and all their "quirks", but what does Michigan law say, if anything, when it comes to selling a home that you're convinced is haunted?

They're called "stigmatized properties" and every state has different rules regarding selling them-- or sometimes no rules at all!

In general the National Association of Realtors defines a stigmatized property as one that,

...has been psychologically impacted by an event which occurred, or was suspected to have occurred, on the property, such event being one that has no physical impact of any kind.

So the event in question doesn't affect the structural integrity of the home but it can still have an impact on price. Writes Riha, "Realistically, few of us will probably ever deal with the issue of buying or selling a haunted home, but that doesn’t mean that the reputation of a home is never an issue in a sale."

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Overall, buyers are obligated to do their due diligence when researching and purchasing a home but while real estate agents are morally obligated to disclose any material defects in the home, is a death or murder considered a material defect? Some say yes, while others say no.

Riha says in states like Alaska and South Dakota sellers are required to disclose a homicide or suicide that occurred within the home in the past 12 months, while California law ups the timeframe to the past 3 years.

Other states, such as Michigan, have specific statutes on the books that don’t require the seller to disclose anything about whether the property is stigmatized.

So if you're house shopping and it seems too good to be true, there's probably a good reason for that! Whether it's a haunting that's the issue or not, just make sure you do your research. Otherwise you'll end up like Casper, or The Amityville Horror, or any of those countless other movies where an unsuspecting family moves into a notoriously haunted house-- beware!

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