Last week, I wrote a blog entitled Dancing Ghosts and Opening Doors that discussed disclosures regarding stigmatized properties. A comment (I do appreciate comments) that I received from Kim Kelly, an agent with Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty in California, said, "If you have to ask the question on whether to disclose, then you must disclose." It would make real estate a lot easier if that were the case but unfortunately, it is not. I can think of many questionable situations where disclosures cannot be made or probably shouldn't be made.
Let's talk about some of the situations in which disclosures can't be made although someone may be asking the questions. Say that you are representing a buyer who is interested in a home that is next to a group home for recovering drug addicts. The recovering addicts are all young men in their 20s trying to get their lives straightened out. Your buyer has three teenage daughters that are very outgoing and asks you the question, "What are the neighbors like in this neighborhood?" You reply, "Other than the ex-junkies that live next door, it's a pretty quiet neighborhood." Not!
We can probably agree that most buyers would want to know about the group home. At least I know that I would. Unfortunately, that is not information that you and I can disclose because according to the Supreme Court, recovering drug addicts are considered handicapped and therefore protected under the Fair Housing laws. The same would hold true if this were a group home for the mentally challenged. We cannot disclose that information even if we are asked a direct question. "I'm sorry Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, but the Fair Housing laws do not allow me to disclose that information." I wrote last week about "broker's calls." "Broker's calls" occur when it is ultimately up to the broker whether something should be disclosed. Disclosure of the group homes is not a "broker's call." It is simply against the law.
Here's an actual "broker's call" situation and, to add some excitement, you get to be the broker. I'm not going to tell you the answer until Wednesday!
You have listed a nice home for sale in a good neighborhood. The home is in excellent condition and you have a motivated seller. There is one "slight" problem, though. Almost every time that you show the property, the next door neighbor comes running out into the yard and starts loudly cursing you and your buyer. Unfortunately, the cursing lady is naked and rather large. The seller tells you that he has discussed this situation with the police and it seems that police's hands are tied.
That's all the information you get. What are you going to do? Please consider that naked, cursing ladies are not protected under Fair Housing. Also, consider that the disclosure of the neighbor's actions will certainly hurt the value of the home and you are representing the seller's best interests. Think about the buyers that have already witnessed this event. I'm sure they are chuckling but I am also sure that they aren't reaching for their checkbooks.
This one, in my opinion, is a true "broker's call." Let me know what you would do and I'll tell you what this agent did on Wednesday. Fair enough?