If you’re sharing your Queenslander with a ghost we’re going to need you to advise us in writing before we can sell it. Got a spirit in the spare room or witnessed apparitions in your apartment? We’ll need you to share these little details so we can inform all the home buyers who inspect your property.
Every now and then we scratch our heads about property laws, and the broad requirements on what info we need to disclose to a home buyer are forever open to argument. No-one disputes that an agent should tell buyers if there’s been a triple murder in the home (e.g. the Hinton case in NSW). This is clearly a “material fact” and we can see that knowing this before buying might “have a bearing upon a reasonable person’s decision to proceed”. But an article in this month’s Real Estate Institute Journal lists some other events that might effect the way buyers and tenants feel about a property.
Undesirable neighbours? The scene of a violent crime? Presence of a ghost? It’s that great legal term “reasonable” that causes the uncertainty. What you might consider irrelevant might be a key fact for another buyer. And we don’t want to sound flippant in questioning where the disclosure rules should start and finish. If you’ve spent half a million dollars and can’t bear to live in the home it is a big concern. It’s just that as an agent the law says we must “take reasonable steps to find out or verify the facts material to the sale” – and there really is no end to the list of items that might be material. Our industry’s lawyers have no choice but to warn us to broaden the issues we consider.
Let’s talk about a very somber topic for a moment: suicide. In 2010 we had 220 of them in Brisbane and you’d guess that many of them occur in a home. It’s an incredibly sad issue and is rarely talked about. The media has an unwritten code to not report them. But, according to this latest legal opinion, a suicide in your home might be a material fact we need to disclose to a buyer. So we need to talk about it. Would knowing this had happened effect how you felt about a home?
We understand the law in some USA states goes some way to clearing this up with definitions. For example a death more than 3 years earlier is no longer relevant. Some states say only physical bricks and mortar issues are important to property sale disclosures.
Think about all the things that happen in people’s homes, good and bad. How can we ever agree on which of them are relevant events? For me, I don’t believe in ghosts and if there’s been a suicide it wouldn’t effect my decision to buy a home. In fact I’d prefer to not know – and is my preference to stay uninformed a choice I’m entitled to?
We need more discussion on this important topic and we’d love to have your comments below.