25 Jul 2019

Buyer Beware: Is Your Future Home Haunted?

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Buyer Beware: Is Your Future Home Haunted?

Don’t you just hate when you buy a home and it turns out to be haunted? The voices and footsteps keeping you up at night, scaring your children. Then you have to call in a priest to perform an exorcism on your house. That’s definitely not what you thought you were bargaining for when buying a piece of Sarnia real estate.

So, whether ghosts are real to you or not, a haunted home is actually something sellers should disclose when listing their home on MLS Sarnia. In addition to many other defects in a house that may not be noticeable in a house by a potential buyer. In Sarnia real estate, discloser is done by using the Seller Property Information Statements (SPIS), which is a standard form by the Ontario Real Estate Association. However, it should be noted that no seller is not required to fill out this form. But, once they do, their Sarnia Realtor is required to inform any buyers of its existence. In addition, buyers can make their offer conditional on the seller filling out the SPIS.

While a haunted house may not be as common on an SPIS, there are some common disclosures to be aware of.

Patent Defects

The first is what is called a patent defect, which is anything that can be visibly seen by those viewing the property. Walls with holes in them, broken windows and when you turn on a light switch and nothing comes on. These are obvious problems with a home that any homeowner would know about. And any home inspector would be able to see. A good rule to follow for anyone looking to list on MLS Sarnia, if you know there is an issue, put it down. Especially ones that are in plain sight.

Latent Defects

From what you can see, to what you can’t see, there are issues with homes that can occur behind walls. For instance, most home inspectors are not going to rip a wall down to find something. Latent defects are not visible to the naked eye. These generally cannot be spotted without expertise in construction, architecture, or engineering. Things such as asbestos in the tiles, carbon monoxide leaking into the air, rusting pipes that are close to breaking or cracks in the foundation. And these can be serious problems that need to be addressed and have a large impact on the selling of your home.

Stigmatized Property

We already mentioned one type of stigmatized property in Sarnia real estate, and that’s the haunted house. So, if you think your house is haunted, it’s actually something you should disclose. What stigmatized properties refer to is a stigma attributed to a property that brings an emotional response. That could also be in addition to physical defects in the house.

Haunted House

This could keep neighbours away from your home if they have an idea of what is going on inside. While this kind of activity has a lot of questions around it, it’s a stigma that definitely brings up plenty of emotions in certain people.

Murder or Suicide

It’s not fun to discuss, but murders and suicides do happen in homes. In the United States, some states require you to disclose if a person has been killed in your home. In Ontario, however, there is no legal duty to disclose a murder or a suicide, but it’s a stigma that can again, be emotionally charged, depending on the circumstance. If you as a buyer are concerned about this stigma, you do have the right to ask the seller. While there is no law, Sarnia Realtors are bound by a code of ethics, and some will disclose the information if made to them.

Criminal Activity

If the house has been used as a chop shop or brothel, it’s another stigma that should be disclosed. Criminal activity could be considered anything illegal being sold, and Sarnia Realtors will often reveal when a Sarnia real estate property has been part of some form of illegal activity.

Grow Operation

One of the largest stigma defects is grow-operations. This is one of the stigmas that actually does have both stigma and latent and patent defects. Grow operations can cause extreme mould issues within a house, due to the water and moister in the air. It can ruin walls and ceilings and severely damage a house. So, even if a grow-op has been remediated, according to the local health or building authority, Sarnia Realtors would be obligated to inform any buyer that the house was part of a grow-op. That’s because there could be plenty behind the walls they don’t know.

To disclose or not to disclose

While disclosure may scare some sellers when listing on MLS Sarnia, the truth is, it shouldn’t. Everything you are disclosing is things you already know to be true about your house. Does your house have flooding issues? Then disclose it to a buyer. There are plenty of examples of a seller not disclosing flooding, and then when the house floods, a neighbour informs them that the previous owner had the same issue multiple times. That would leave the seller open to a lawsuit for not disclosing the flooding issue.

There are plenty of things sellers should be disclosing in Sarnia real estate. From flooding to knob and tube wiring, to renovations being completed without a permit. If you are a seller, protect yourself and be honest about your discloser. After all, it’s better to be honest at the start, then have a buyer come back later looking for financial remediation because you lied.

What should buyers do?

If you are a buyer, it’s perfectly within your rights to ask the seller to fill out an SPIS. Make it a condition on your offer, and if they don’t want to provide it, it might be a sign they are hiding something. Some sellers won’t fill it out if they haven’t lived at the property, such as in a rental situation. But any homeowner who lives full-time at their house should have good knowledge of what is happening inside their home.

Talk to your Sarnia Realtor and see what they say about discloser. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s better to know the ghost in the attic is a friendly one, rather than finding out later you need to call someone in to get them removed.