The following is an e-mail written to me by an actual client, along with my response to it:
David and I have thought long and hard about this stigma thing, and we have carefully weighed what you told us about it, and we have come to a conclusion. We are just not willing to take less money for our home because of something that happened here over four years ago that has no bearing on the home’s value. For that reason, we have decided not to disclose the murders. They just generated way too much media attention, and they are still fresh in the minds of anyone who lives within 100 miles of here. I know what you said about your policy on this, but we are hoping you will see our side and reconsider. Let me know what you think, okay?
Thanks for your honesty on this…I know you guys have struggled with it. Let me say a couple of things and we can go from there…
Your concern is understandable, and I get it. No one wants to go into a listing period convinced they are going to get less for their home because they told the buying public that something awful happened in the house. But the chances of someone local buying your house are very slim. It is an executive lake house, and the clientele in the market for such a home is very limited – executive transfers, coaching staff for the Clemson football team relocating, high level management in one of the corporate firms, that sort of buyer. My personal experience with this level of clientele is that they tend to be indifferent to such things… if they want the house, they buy it, and they do so without regard to the fact that a crime occurred there…not much superstition with these folks.
As I told you guys earlier, in the state of S.C., you do not have to disclose this unless directly asked about it (in which case you DO have to disclose it--can’t lie about it if asked). That is what the law says. But, as I also told you earlier, I have a problem with that. I decided years ago that, as a REALTOR, I would not withhold this type of information from any party…it just feels wrong to me. And the reason is that if I were buying a house and I got in the house and found out two murders had taken place there and nobody told me, even though they knew, I would feel betrayed—ESPECIALLY BY MY AGENT! So, for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Now, where does that leave us? My recommendation would be to move forward with the listing and all the particulars we discussed Tuesday night, and just see what happens. The Buyer’s Agents will get a good feel for whether or not the issue is affecting their clients, and I will keep a close pulse on how things unfold. If we find that disclosure is causing undue stress on the process, we can revisit our options at that time, but I really don’t think it is going to be a problem. If I thought it was, I would tell you.
I have had seven stigmatized properties over the years, and only one was a problem. And the reason it was is because I was given the listing only about a month after a violent crime occurred in the house at the hands of gang members, and everybody was afraid of the whole neighborhood at that point.
Anyway, you and David think about it and talk some more now that you and I have communicated, and you can write or call me in a day or so. If you decide that you just can’t do it, I totally understand and there will be no hard feelings. In fact, I can refer you to a really good agent who doesn’t mind the non-disclosure thing. I just can’t do it myself.
Take care, and don’t get all upset about this listing thing – it is going to work out one way or another and you are going to be fine! (easy for me to say, huh?)
Update: David and Brittany did end up listing with me, and agreed to disclose the murders which had occurred in the house four years earlier. The asking price was $499,000. We closed on the house four months later at $430,000. To my knowledge, not once was the stigma an issue through the listing period.