What is a stigmatized property?

The time for ghoulies and ghosts is almost here but have you ever thought about whether that home you are considering making an offer on might have a spooky resident already?? A “haunted home” is what we call a stigmatized property in the industry and there are other stigmas to consider when searching for your new home.

RECA, the Real Estate Council of Alberta, defines a stigmatized property as an unfavorable quality in a property or one that makes the property less attractive or unattractive. It is a property that a buyer may shun for reasons that are unrelated to the physical condition or features. Examples of a stigma include:

  • reports that a property is haunted
  • a suicide or death in the property
  • the property was the scene of a major crime
  • the address of the property has the wrong numerals (like 666 or the number 13)
  • the property was vandalized
  • a former grow op that has been remediated

Just like disclosure of defects in a property, there are rules that guide how a stigmatized property is handled when an agent is representing a buyer or a seller.

As a buyer’s agent, one of my duties is to take reasonable steps to discover relevant facts about the property and disclose that to the buyer. So, if you are superstitious and don’t want to live in a house that has a questionable history, I do my best to find all the information on a home possible. The best source in this case is an internet search. Here, we might find details on the home through sources like Alberta Health Services – if it was a former grow op – or new stories if a tragedy occurred in the home. You can also get great information from chatting with the neighbours to see what they’ve observed about the home.

Unlike an actual defect not discoverable by a home inspection, there is no requirement for a seller to disclose the existence of a stigma. This is because a stigma is really based on a person’s values and perceptions, ethnic background, religion, gender, age and other personal concerns that are not related to the physical/structural condition of the property. While I can ask a seller’s agent if a stigma exists, they have no obligation to answer and may:

  • refuse to answer the question and suggest the buyer determine the answer from other sources
  • answer the questions with a disclaimer that the buyer should not rely on the accuracy of the information and to verify the information for themselves
  • answer the question without qualification

So, all we can do is our best to learn all we can about the property from available, public sources so you can determine if you are comfortable proceeding with the purchase. Just keep in mind that we might not discover ALL of a home’s history. Stigmas are different for everyone, only you know what matters when it comes to a home’s past and I’m here to help you find the perfect home for you and your family…whether that includes a ghost or not! Visit me on Facebook and Google for more information on all things real estate!