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Disclosing Property Defects

When buying a new home, you know how important it is to make sure that the property meets your needs. You’re paying attention to the price, the location, the size and condition of the home, among many other factors. But what about the things you can’t see?

Some buyers may have strong concerns about buying properties that have been the site of negative events – even if those events haven’t affected the appearance or condition of the property. Was there a murder at the property? A suicide? Is the property associated with organized crime? Is it reputed to be haunted? Was there a death by natural causes? These are all examples of “stigmas” that can affect a potential buyer’s decision about a property.

In BC, there is no legal requirement for a property owner or a real estate professional representing a seller to disclose a stigma to a potential buyer. In part, that’s because what may be a concern to one buyer may not bother other potential buyers. What is considered a stigma will vary from person to person, depending on their beliefs, values, culture and personal history and sensitivities. What one person might find unacceptable may be of little or no importance to another.

Here are steps that you can take to avoid buying a property that may have what you consider a stigma:

  1. Talk to your real estate professional. Let them know what you want in a property, and what you don’t want. If you have strong feelings about living in a home where there has been criminal activity or violence, make sure that your real estate professional is aware of your preferences. No haunted houses? Tell them that too.
  2. Do your research. Your real estate professional will review property listings with your criteria in mind, but for additional certainty, look into the history of a property before making an offer.
  3. Ask the seller’s real estate professional. Your real estate professional can make a formal enquiry about any potential issues of concern to you. Keep in mind that if the seller has instructed their representative not to disclose a stigma, the real estate professional must decline to answer the question. If the seller and the seller’s real estate professional refuse to answer your questions, it can raise a warning flag for you.

Remember, as a buyer it is your responsibility to ensure that the home you choose fits your needs. Research, asking questions, and being clear with your licensed real estate professional about what you do and do not want are all good ways to make sure that your property purchase is right for you.

Questions about the home buying or selling process? You can contact RECBC’s Professional Standards Advisors to learn more about the services to expect from a licensed real estate professional.

About the Real Estate Council of BC

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia protects real estate consumers by regulating the conduct of real estate professionals under the Real Estate Services Act.

We set the standards for the required education and training of real estate professionals, issue licences, and investigate complaints from members of the public. When a licensed real estate professional contravenes the Act, we may issue a fine, suspension, reprimand or licence cancellation, as appropriate.

This information is provided to you by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC).

Your feedback is always welcome and can be sent to [email protected].