Should sellers reveal a dark secret to a house? In some states it is the law | Immovable
In Boston’s Little Italy, where tourists juggle coffee and cannoli, there’s a 10-foot-wide monument to take revenge on the market that could be yours for $ 1.2 million.
It is a house of spite.
An unusual architectural phenomenon, the property was built not with hope and love, but with venom and Machiavellian planning, with the intention of angering the neighbors.
It was reportedly built in 1862 and was the product of a feud between two brothers who inherited land from their father. When a brother returned from the Civil War, he found that his battle-shy brother had built his own home on the lion’s share, leaving him a piece of land measuring around 400 square feet.
In retaliation, he erected the four-story house – directly across from his brother’s, so that it blocks light and view.
“See that section of ragged wall?” Says Vito, the real estate agent who sells the property. “This is what’s left of the first brother’s house. We know who won.
A property is considered “stigmatized” by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) if it is “psychologically affected by an event that occurred, or was suspected to have occurred, on the property, that event being an event. which has no physical impact on type. “
A building can be stigmatized because of a feud like the Boston house or death. The building could be the former site of a meth lab, the home of a cult, or, in some areas, a location that is said to be haunted.
While about half of the US states operate in some form of caveat emptor, with Latin meaning “buyer beware”, putting due diligence on the buyer, the other half forcing sellers to disclose “stigma” or cancel the sale.
“It’s complicated,” said Deanne Rymarowicz, associate attorney at NAR. “A seller can be subject to a law… it’s completely different from the town next door.
As of 2019, at least nine states have death disclosure laws, according to Zillow. The most stringent, California, requires reporting of deaths in the past three years. In South Dakota, a salesperson must disclose whether a murder has occurred. In Texas, this is not necessary.
Minnesota and Massachusetts, home to Salem, the 17th-century witch-trial town, tell vendors they don’t need to disclose paranormal events, but New Jersey forces them to confess if given. demand.
New York is the only state where, under certain circumstances, it is illegal to sell a haunted house, thanks to the 1991 “Ghostbusters decision”. It all started in 1989, when the Ackley family put their five bedroom house up for sale. from the 1890s in Nyack, New York.
Unbeknownst to buyer Jeffrey Stambovsky, the family used to discuss paranormal activity in the building, including their daughter’s bed clicking, and were previously interviewed by Reader’s Digest. After paying his deposit, Stambovsky was informed by the agent and decided to proceed.
Remarkably, the case made it to the New York Supreme Court’s Appeal Division, which voted three to two in its favor, overturning the sale.
The new law made it illegal to conceal if a building had been marketed as “haunted,” as it could negatively affect the value. The late Judge Israel Rubin wrote: “In law the house is haunted. “
While 40% of Americans believe in ghosts, according to YouGovAmerica, it is unusual to enshrine them in law.
“If the Buyer Believes in the paranormal is sometimes irrelevant, ”said Randall Bell, who was once called“ Dr Disaster ”and is considered America’s top property damage economist and expert on“ stigmatized ”buildings. He estimates that if a murder has taken place in a house, it can result in a loss of value of 10 to 25%.
“I know a property in Jersey where [a family] bought a house where there had been a murder, which they didn’t mind, but they neglected to think about his reputation. It destroyed birthday parties, barbecues… all the things people do to make new friends, ”he told The Guardian.
In other words, ghosts aren’t the problem, humans are.
A heartbreaking example is the Watcher House. In 2014, the Broaddus family bought a 1905 home in Westfield, New Jersey for $ 1.4 million and soon after, spooky letters began to arrive.
One of them said, “I am the Observer. Bring me your young blood.
They sued previous owners, who also reportedly received letters, but New Jersey laws provide less protections for buyers of stigmatized properties than New York, less than 10 miles away. They lost.
After years of fear, broken neighborly relations, and unsuccessful police investigations, the Broaddus family accepted a loss of $ 440,000 on the 2019 sale. Netflix bought the rights to their story.
Another family who had a similar experience spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of the “small American town.”
A family member said, “I experienced this nightmare. What happened to my family was overwhelming. The reality is, the people who sold us the house didn’t tell us the truth and got away with it. If this had happened in New York… we would have got our money back. As it is, it almost destroyed us. The laws are so obtuse and unfair.
There are few federal laws governing the sale of stigmatized buildings, but in the 1980s, buyers did not have the right to sue if someone died of AIDS in the home. Last year, the NAR advised that the properties should not be ‘stigmatized’ by Covid-19.
A big problem, according to realtors, is that the internet makes it difficult to erase events from memory, so some homeowners resort to demolishing their home or changing its address in an attempt to outsmart Google.
However, not all haunted houses lose money.
The Ackley Ghostbusters house was sold by singer Matisyahu for $ 1.8 million in March, 160% more than the local average. And in May, a bed and breakfast and museum in Fall River, Massachusetts, where Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her parents with an ax in 1892, was sold for $ 2 million.
Buyer Lance Zaal, founder of US Ghost Adventures, said, “It’s not scary. This can be an advantage, from a business point of view.
Accompanied by themed liqueur glasses and a souvenir doll, the tour operator offers “romantic” stays where couples sleep in the rooms where the bodies were found, on beds strewn with rose petals.
He added: “We have a new feature where you can pay to leave an ax under someone’s pillow.”