Shopping for a home? Ask if there was a murder or suicide

When shopping for a new home, your main concern probably won’t include asking the real estate agent or vendor if someone had been murdered or committed suicide on the property.

Unnatural or violent deaths can be a deal breaker for some, but as vital as this information might be, there’s no legal obligation for homeowners to tell potential buyers about any murders or suicides that have taken place on the property, according to Raymond Leclair, vice president of public affairs at LawPro.

“From the vendor’s point of view, as long as it doesn’t affect safety or security, there’s really no obligation to divulge,” Leclair told CBC News. “In fact, there’s probably an incentive for them not to because, assuming that there is a stigma, that would affect the price, probably negatively.”

Leclair added that real estate agents have no legal obligation to provide such information either. However, they’re bound by a professional code of conduct that could fine them if they fail to disclose certain deaths on the property to potential buyers.

Monika Merinat, a broker with Royal LePage, said she has sold homes that were once connected to murder investigations. She’s also had to disclose deaths in homes she has sold to clients.  

“Walls have their secrets. Anything could have happened in a house or condo,” she told CBC News. “You never know if someone has been tortured in this house. If someone was very unhappy — fighting, divorce, broken plates, whatever. That, you never know, but death, we have to reveal.”

Merinat added that it wouldn’t make much sense for agents to hide murders or suicides from potential buyers, since they’re likely to find out the homes’ history from neighbours.

“It would be really foolish to sell a house or make a transaction and then the buyer discovers from the neighbours that there was a murder or suicide in the house and can sue you if they cannot accept that, so there's no question, you have to reveal it,” she said.

If you’re hoping to score a great bargain by going for a stigmatized property, you might be disappointed, as this is unlikely to have much of an impact on house prices, according to Sylvia Santarelli, an agent with REMAX/Hallmark Realty.

However, there might be fewer people bidding on such homes, which could affect value.

In downtown Toronto, where demand for housing now seriously outstrips supply, people aren’t bothered as much by homes that have witnessed suicides.

“They don't mind if there’s a suicide. Murder is a different story especially now there’s so many of them in the news,” Santarelli said. “That will affect value in the sense of there might be less people bidding on the homes.”

Also read: Financing a stigmatized property


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