Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. And while you’d think a 5-, 6-, or even 7-figure price tag warrants some serious clarification on the condition of a house, some states allow realtors to be tight lipped about frightening factors of your prospective property. Be in the know about what your realtor won’t tell you, what your home inspector won’t find, and what you can do to get the full story.
Despite the serious health risks of methamphetamine exposure, only 28 states have disclosure laws that require realtors to tell prospective buyers about rental units or properties where meth has been manufactured. What’s equally troubling? Meth contamination isn’t part of the testing process for most home inspectors.
In contaminated homes, new homeowners often experience symptoms such as headaches, bloody noses, aching muscles — and some have even suffered the loss of beloved family pets. And while decontamination’s an option, cleanup costs can run anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000. Many homeowners have demanded justice for the negligence of their realtors only to find that state law doesn’t have their backs when it comes to disclosure.
What you can do: If your state doesn’t have disclosure laws for meth, consult the National Clandestine Laboratory Register to ensure your prospective new address doesn’t fall on the list of confirmed meth labs.
You can also purchase a home meth test that might put your worries at ease for less than $25.
A property plagued by spirits is considered a stigmatized property, which means that although it isn’t physically defective, its value could be less due to the psychological or emotional stigma surrounding it.
So, does your realtor have to tell you about the ghost in the guest room? Probably not. In Massachusetts, the haunted nature of a home only needs to be revealed if a potential buyer asks. Realtors in Washington aren’t required to divulge anything about the history of a property that’s not visually apparent.
What you can do: If the thought of ghostly tenants at your new address would leave you questioning the comfort of home, you don’t need to be a supersleuth to find out either way. A house with a notoriously haunted history will most likely pop up when you google its address.
If that turns up nothing and you’re still concerned you won’t be the only occupant, you can research paranormal investigators in your area. (Yes, real-life ghostbusters exist!)
Murder or suicide
Does your realtor have to tell you that a violent death occurred in your new home? Not necessarily.
In 2007, after her husband died, a woman moved her family from California to Pennsylvania in hopes that their beautiful, new suburban home would be a fresh start. Only weeks after moving in, she learned from her next-door neighbor that the home had been the site of a murder-suicide just a year earlier.
After losing the initial lawsuit, she filed against the seller and real estate agent and appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The court recently ruled against her appeal, stating that a murder or suicide doesn’t cause a material defect in the home, so the seller isn’t required to disclose such events.
What you can do: Ask the realtor flat out: “Did anyone die here?” In some states, that simple question requires the seller to be honest about any deaths that occurred on the property. Even if the seller isn’t legally bound to tell you, they may spill the details out of ethical inclination.
In Florida, for example, sellers aren’t required to disclose a murder or suicide that occurred in the home, even if a buyer asks. Although this may vary by state, if your state leaves you to do the digging, you aren’t out of luck. In the same way you might google your future address to see if it’s had spooky visitors, grisly deaths are often covered by local news stations that offer articles online.
There’s also a new online community called Housecreep, which is dedicated to calling out private residences that were sites for criminal activity. While the site’s fairly new and relies on user-submitted entries, it can’t hurt to scope it out when collecting details about your potential home. Use the search bar to pinpoint your exact location along with neighboring properties that might also have interesting histories.
Top 2 ways to find out what your realtor won’t tell you
Although each situation’s different, there are 2 common ways to get the facts about your potential new home.
1. Talk to the neighbors
From meth labs to murder sites, many buyer’s remorse situations could’ve been prevented with a simple introduction to a nearby neighbor before they signed the deed.
2. Know your state’s laws
Disclosure laws vary from state to state. Do your research on laws pertaining to the disclosure of meth, paranormal activity, and violent deaths to make sure you know everything before signing on the dotted line.
Make sure you’re covered
When you’re confident your future home’s in the clear, make sure it’s protected from other potential perils with homeowners insurance tailored to you.