Buying and Selling Homes with a Dark Past

Posted by Call Centre on Friday, May 17th, 2019 at 11:34am.

Selling a Home Where a Murder or Suicide Has OccuredRecently, a home in Calgary went on the market that had a dark past associated with it. The home is the one where multiple murders occurred this year. Across Canada every year, many homes get listed where violent attacks have occurred. In the industry, these homes are referred to as "stigmatized properties".

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

The Laws Regarding Stigmatized Properties

In the United States, there is a law in most states requiring sellers to make a full disclosure about a murder or a suicide that has occurred on the property within the last 3 years. In Canada, Québec is the only province in the country that has a disclosure law for murder. Throughout the rest of Canada, including Alberta, a real estate agent has no legal obligation to let a buyer know that the property has a dark past.

How Real Estate Agents Handle Stigmatized Property Disclosures

There is, however, an integrity code that a real estate agent has to abide to. If a buyer asks about a dark past regarding a home, the agent has 2 ways they can answer.

  1. They can state the truth that the murder happened there.
  2. If the seller has decided to not disclose the information, the agent will let the potential buyer know that they'll have to perform his own research.

Warning Signs of Stigmatized Properties

When buyers are searching for a home, they may be concerned that they will not be able to find out from the seller if a home is considered stigmatized. If you're searching for a home and would like to avoid the purchase of a stigmatized property, here are a few warning signs to look out for:

    • The listing has an indication that the agent must be called to learn about seller disclosures.
    • The listing agent may even use language to describe the property "as is", or "cash transactions only", which can indicate a property that has been tough to sell.
    • If the listing has been on the market for longer than any other comparable property, you could be dealing with a property that is stigmatized.

If a property looks too good to be true, it might be a property that has a sketchy past. Of course, this is no guarantee that something dark has happened in a home, and the only way to find out for sure is to speak with the agent about it. Due to their integrity obligation, agents can't wait until the last minute to share stigmas with potential buyers, and must share this information as soon as possible to give the buyer a chance to avoid purchasing the property.

The Fate of Famous Stigmatized Properties

In some cases, where the properties have become notorious sites of a murder, the building needs to be torn down. This was the case with the Paul Bernardo home in St. Catherine's, Ontario, O.J. Simpson's house, the buildings at Robert Pickton's pig farm in Coquitlam and others.

What Qualifies a Property as Stigmatized?

When it comes to homeowners that have peacefully passed away in their own places, it doesn't seem to be a big deal to most people. Violent deaths, however, attach a negative stigma to a home and make it much harder to sell.

The best way to find out about a home's past if you are concerned about it is to check with the neighbours. They will be able to give you a heads up about a home that may carry a dark past with it.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

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