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A Guide To Selling (Or Buying) A Stigmatized Property

Lauren Nowacki7-Minute Read
December 11, 2020

Home is where the heart is. But if you live in a stigmatized property, it can also be where a gruesome crime, notorious haunting or famous filming took place.

Would you live in a place where one of these events occurred? Read on to find out why you may want to consider it.

What Is A Stigmatized Property?

A stigmatized property is real estate that has a negative psychological impact on prospective buyers. This stigma affects home value, making the house harder to sell at full price regardless of its location or physical condition. Examples of a stigmatized property include the site of an infamous murder or suicide or a house with a reputation for paranormal activity.

Types Of Stigmas

A stigma is a tarnish on a person, place or circumstance that may make it undesirable. When it comes to properties, certain stigmas may lead a potential buyer to lowball their offer or walk away from the property completely.

It’s important to consider stigmas when you’re selling your house or searching for a new home.

If you’re selling a stigmatized property, what issues may be deal-breakers for potential buyers and how can you ease concerns about them? If you’re buying a stigmatized property, are any of these issues deal-breakers or, better yet, things you can live with for a lower sale price?

When buying or selling weigh the pros and cons. To start, we’ve listed a few advantages and disadvantages of common property stigmas.

Sites Of Infamous Crimes

An infamous crime or murder in a home can result in a 10 – 25% loss in value, according to Randall Bell, an appraiser for homes of some of the most notorious crimes in the U.S. In his interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he’s credited with consulting on Nicole Brown Simpson’s condo, Jon Benet Ramsey’s home, the Heaven’s Gate Mansion and the site of the Manson Family murders.

There can be several reasons someone may not want to purchase a home where an infamous crime took place. There could be damage to the home from the crime itself – including bullet holes, broken windows, even biological contamination – or from sitting vacant for some time. Others may be superstitious or feel like moving into the home would bring bad karma or luck, while some may see the sites as sacred spaces.

Places Of Other Criminal Activities

Properties that were used as sites for criminal activities like betting, drug dealing, gang activity or prostitution can be unattractive to potential buyers. They may fear that former clients of the previous owners may not realize there are new, non-criminal owners. They may also want to avoid being associated with whatever illegal business went down in the home.

Famous TV And Movie Homes

Movies and TV shows often film inside real homes or at least use them for exterior shots. And, just like any normal home, these houses may eventually go up for sale. In recent years, the McCallister’s house from “Home Alone” and Buffalo Bill’s “Silence of the Lambs” house were for sale.

While people may think it’d be cool to live in a house featured on a television show or a movie, there are some drawbacks. For example, the home can draw an unwanted stream of tourists or super fans of the show. It can also lead to unwanted engagement from said group. One prime example is when “Breaking Bad” fans, recreating the infamous pizza scene, would actually throw pizzas on top of the house used in the show, causing the owner to install a 6-foot, iron fence around the property.

The home’s use in a film or TV show may also carry unwanted expectations to leave the home exactly how it was on screen. While the homeowner may not care as much, they may hear other opinions from family, neighbors or complete strangers.

Of course, if the homeowner was a fan of the show, the pros may outweigh the cons. It’s a great conversation starter and a chance to own a piece of TV or movie history. It’s also a fun way to show the home off to visitors. Who else could walk around their home and point out all of the cool scenes that captivated millions of viewers?

Haunted Houses

A home with a reputation for paranormal activity can make it harder to sell, since many potential buyers may take issue with having to share their home with spirits – especially if the homeowners have children.

Though it may seem intriguing at first, experiencing unexplained noises, shifts in temperature, moving objects or ghostly apparitions can become a nuisance, put you in danger or affect your mental health. Like many of the famous haunted houses in America, these homes may have a depressing history or give off a melancholy or creepy vibe that may make it hard to live in each day.

It’s important to keep in mind that paranormal experiences are often subjective. Most times, there are completely reasonable explanations for what’s really going on. Before you try to sell or purchase a home that’s thought to be haunted, consider why you think a home is haunted and investigate other possible causes of activity. For example, cold spots could just be unknown drafts and strange noises could just be loose plumbing or pests.

Homes Of Debtors

Former homes of people in bad debt, particularly those with aggressive creditors or seedier loan sharks, may be unattractive to future buyers who may worry about continued visits from collectors or other forms of harassment to collect what’s owed to them.

The home purchase could come with extra fees, as well. If the previous owner was in debt with the IRS on property taxes – meaning they didn’t pay them – the buyer may be responsible for paying the back taxes on the property.

Houses With Smaller, Local Issues

When it comes to buying or selling a home, consider the surrounding area as well. It isn’t just a property that can be stigmatized; the neighborhood can be, too. While any of the above stigmas may not have happened in the home you wish to buy or sell, if they happened just down the street, the home could still be marred.

Another stigma has to do with the types of people who live within close proximity to the home. For example, some people may want to avoid living near a convicted felon or registered sex offender. In fact, numerous studies have shown that close proximity to a registered sex offender causes a home’s value to decrease by thousands of dollars and can cause the home to stay on the market longer.

Legal Ramifications Of Stigma: Disclosure Vs. Caveat Emptor

Information that sellers are required to disclose on housing disclosures will vary state by state. For example, most states do not require the disclosure of deaths or crimes. A few states do require disclosures of deaths or crimes in the home, but only if they happened within the last year. One state, California, requires the disclosure of a death in the home if it happened within the last 3 years.

Whether a state requires disclosures or not may depend on whether they deem such stigmas as material fact or not. Material fact is a fact that someone believes important to know or essential for deciding whether to buy the home. Nonmaterial is less important or even trivial information that shouldn’t affect the decision.

While reasons for a stigmatized property may not have to be disclosed on paper, many states require real estate agents and sellers to answer truthfully if asked about the existence of a stigma. Many states have adopted a caveat emptor, or “buyer beware,” policy, which puts the responsibility on the buyer to ensure the quality and sustainability of the home and learn more about the home’s history.

Buying A Stigmatized Property

Because stigmas may affect a home’s value and make it harder to sell, home buyers might be able to get a bargain if they’re interested in buying a stigmatized property. Just keep in mind how this type of stigma could affect you and your family before purchasing the home.

If you want to enjoy the financial benefits that may come with purchasing this type of property, here are some tips for finding one.

How To Know If A Property Is Stigmatized

If you’re buying a home, it will generally be up to you to find out if the home is a stigmatized property. As mentioned before, a real estate agent must, if asked, disclose whether a property is stigmatized. In most states, the sellers must also honestly disclose if asked by a prospective buyer, although they are under no duty to find out whether there is a stigma attached to the property. That means, if you’re selling a property, you aren’t responsible for digging into its history to find any stigmas.

If it’s important for you to know if you could be purchasing a stigmatized property, start by asking the agent and seller if there are any stigmas associated with the home. You should also Google the full address, street name and city to see if there are any recent news articles about the property or area. You can also use a crime mapping service and review the National Sex Offender Public Website to help you determine if the neighborhood is safe and without stigmas of its own.

How To Find Stigmatized Homes For Sale

When working with a real estate agent, let them know that you’re interested in buying a stigmatized property if possible. They’ll be able to use their knowledge and connections to try to find those types of homes.

You can also do some digging on the internet. There are entire websites devoted to stigmatized properties and ones that provide articles or even lists of certain stigmas on the market, like movie settings or haunted houses for sale.

Stigmatized Property Can Be Harder To Sell And Cheaper To Buy

A stigmatized property is a piece of real estate that has experienced an event that may cause a negative psychological impact on a buyer and scare them away from purchasing the property. As a seller of a stigmatized property, you may experience a longer time on the market and lower offers on your home. As someone buying a stigmatized home, you may be able to buy it for less. Just remember, you’ll have to deal with any drawbacks of buying this type of home, so weigh your options carefully.

Whether buying or selling a home, the Rocket HomesSM blog has information and expert tips to make the process easier.

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    Lauren Nowacki

    Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.