Buyer Beware - Must Home Sellers Reveal Psychological Stigmas?

Haunted houses, home meth labs, murder scenes - Some buyers might not care if the real estate they bought has a shady past. Others won't touch such properties, even at a sale price. Ontario laws include rules on what home sellers must disclose to prospective buyers. Are psychological stigmas included? What action can buyers with the heebie-jeebies take to avoid investing in "undesirable" property?

Defects That Sellers Must Disclose

In brief, the law says that sellers must disclose defects that make a property pose a serious health or safety threat to the buyer. These might include such defects as toxic mould due to a history of flooding or a structural defect that could lead to collapse.

The law does not require sellers to reveal psychological stigmas, past or present that may be attached to a home. These can encompass activities and attributes of a non-physical nature that, if known, could turn buyers away cold and for reasons that may be purely psychological - even if there's nothing physically wrong with the appearance or function of the property itself.

This could include:

  • Paranormal activity
  • Prostitution houses, marijuana grow-ops or seedy business operations
  • The scene of a suicide, murder or violent crime
  • Residency by notorious public figures

Measure To Avoid Buying A House Of Infamy

Sellers are not obliged to reveal psychological stigmas, but buyers can still takes steps to avoid inadvertently purchasing a house that they may never end up calling home. Here's how:

  • Tell your agent - Make sure your rep knows not only what you want, but what you absolutely do not want in a prospective property. Don't assume. Be specific. Make your criterion clearly known.
  • Ask the seller outright - Listing agents may have been instructed by the client to remain tight lipped, but if an agent refuses to cooperate, this could be an early red flag signalling the need for investigation.
  • Do your own research - Google the address, talk to the neighbours, search news archives. You may dig up findings that influence your buying decision.

In the end, the onus is on buyers to ensure that their purchase is a right fit. Stay wary. Inform yourself. Become a savvy buyer - your purchase may bring you years of enjoyment rather than regret.

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