Buyer beware, a haunted house may await you

Imagine someone breathing down your neck at night, and it is not your spouse who is lying next to you.

You know that feeling you get when someone is constantly watching you?  Imagine feeling that every day in your own home, even when you are alone. And, when you finally tell someone about, they laugh because they knew about it all along.

Edda Supino and her family lived with a ghost for six months. The whole family was shocked to find out that their Mississauga home was haunted, haunted by the spirit of a little baby boy. Most of all, they were shocked to find out that the man who sold them the two-story dwelling knew about the supernatural activity and failed to inform them before they signed on the dotted line.

Supino remembers one day when she was doing her laundry, her two youngest sons were sitting on the stairs watching her.

“I could see them sitting on the bottom steps, but there was someone behind them. He was a little boy.”

In Canada there is no law requiring the disclosure of facts which might stigmatize a property. Such factors may include a violent death that has occurred in the home, a suicide or the presence of a supernatural phenomenon.

Ontario, along with all Canadian provinces, puts the onus on the selling agent to disclose all the facts pertaining to a property. Purchasers are free to ask if a home is spiritually tainted, but vendors may not be obligated to disclose anything that might hurt the value of the property.

Although real estate agents in Ontario are required to reveal any fact that could affect a person’s buying decision, this only applies to facts that are within their knowledge.

Does this seem fair?

Barry Lebow, a home appraiser, real estate agent and educator says your agent is supposed to ask the questions for you. Although there are no specific policies on stigmatized properties, there are questions your agent should be asking to help you to get what you want.

Lebow also says it is the client’s responsibility to tell their agent what they want and what they don’t want in a home. Once that information has been passed along the onus is 100 per cent on the agent to find what the client is looking for.

“Any person buying a house would be foolish not to sign a representation form with a buyer’s representative and to site what they will and will not accept,” Lebow states. “It is easy to say, I want a bungalow, three bedrooms, a backyard and a garage. People always tell their agent what they want, but they don’t tell them what they don’t want.”

According to Lebow there is a big difference between what people say they don’t want and what they absolutely don’t want. As a homebuyer you need to be clear, he says.

“People shop around for a cellphone for a $20 variable, but to walk in and buy a house on the spot, without getting a home inspection and without asking the right questions” Lebow mentions.

‘In my 38 years in real estate I still don’t understand the public. Don’t you want to knock on the door of your neighbour and say, ‘Hi I am thinking about becoming your neighbour, is this a good house?’ ”

Who knew?

Supino and her family were not prepared for what awaited them in their new home.

“My oldest son lived in the basement,” she remembers. “A few times he had told me that he had the TV off and he could see a face in the TV screen. He would feel like someone was chocking him in the middle of the night with their hands. One night he woke to a cord around his neck.

“Another time we had noticed that the last spot on the wall where I have my son’s pictures would constantly fall to the ground. I checked the wall and it was perfect. The nail was still in the wall; it had not been touched at all.”

According to Supino and her daughter Patrizia, they think it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone should ever have to be put in the situation of moving into a place that is recognized as being stigmatized.

“From what I remember,” Patrizia says, “I never felt safe in the house.  Weird things were happening and it’s easy to let it get the best of you. I would feel like there was someone always there, like someone was watching me or breathing behind my shoulder.”

Whose responsibility is it?

Andrew Iera, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Premier Inc., says that people tell him what they want according to benefits and features, but they won’t tell him that they don’t want a property with a leaking ceiling. He assumes that that should be common knowledge. This is the same case with stigmatized properties, he says.

“Although there is no mandatory law, you should be asking a lot of questions to get to the true motivation as to why someone wants to sell their property and what might prevent them from selling it,” he says.

Iera also ensures that each one of his clients fill out a Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS), a form that helps him get general information about the property.

According most agents, on average, only a few agents use an SPIS form with their clients. It is one step that many selling agents don’t want to fill out. Iera has made it mandatory.

“I take it as my responsibility to see that an SPIS form is filed and if a property is over 50 years old or if the need is shown, I make sure a pre-inspection is done.”

Although it is buyer beware, it is also the buying agent’s responsibility to show due diligence and simply ask a few simple questions.

Supino had no idea that she should have asked if her house was haunted. After six months of living in terror, she called in a priest and moved her family out of the eerie dwelling.

The priest told her that the spot on the wall that would not hold on to a picture was reserved for the young ghost, or so the spirit thought.

Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications