Homes and Property
The home which is a crime scene: How much is the real estate value affected?
Posted Wednesday, February 13 2013 at 02:00
Every house has a story, but some houses have a darker foreboding history than the rest. A house where somebody was murdered or even committed suicide is an example of such a house. How does such a trgic happening affect the value of the house?
Would you buy a home that was a crime scene? Would you even go ahead to rent that room where murder or homicide took place? And what happens when one finds out that the house they are renting was a crime scene? Does the owner get sued for not disclosing such details to the buyer? Do you think home sellers should be required to disclose murders and suicides to interested buyers? All these questions linger on in the event of a crime scene happening in a home, but one other big question is, does the real estate value of such a house drop?
Homicides in the homes, the places which should be a haven for a family, are unfortunately, a reality that we have to contend with. Talk of the infamous murder case at Kooky Sharma’s old Kampala house in which his wife Renu Joshi was allegedly murdered.
There is the still fresh case in which a house maid and a one year old the family which was gruesomely murdered at their home in Kabowa.
How about the infamous bloodshed at a Namuwongo apartment where Maj.Gen James Bunanukye Kazini was killed by his lover Lydia Draru on November 9, 2009? After, the bodies are taken away, and the blood washed off, what happens to these homes? Who would knowingly dare live in such houses? All these murders may in one way or another impact the value of the house in the aftermath of a murder or suicide.
Does the murder really impact?
Simon Peter Mwesigye a Valuation Surveyor/Real Estate Agent at East African Consulting Surveyors & Valuers agrees that indeed the value of a house is dependent on the history. “Of course the history and events associated with a property affect its value...but to a lesser extent in a less superstitious society,” he says. Murders happening inside the home have a different fate. People are superstitious. They fear the bad luck, ghosts, or that the house is cursed. Or they have a more normal anxiety that the misfortunes will be more disturbing to them. It may be the awareness will diminish their happiness for living.
To what extent does a house value reduce?
There seems not to be a proper estimation by how much the real estate value of a property diminishes. In fact, the house where Kazini was murdered got a new tenant in less than a year. And the rent in contrast grew just like the other properties in Namuwongo, Wabigalo Parish. The current tenant pays between Shs450,000 to Shs500,000 a month at this two-bedroomed self-contained house.
In Uganda, there are no official statistics and estimations as far as decline in real estate value can be. If a murder is disclosed, the home could take five per cent longer than comparable homes to sell, and it could price at an average of about three per cent less, according to an analysis of 100 “psychologically impacted houses” by Wright State University professors James E. Larsen, Ph.D. and Joseph W. Coleman. And this so far is the only study in the whole world that has been carried out on these houses that were murder or suicide scenes.
When the house owner does not disclose
The Ugandan law does not have a clause that requires owners to disclose past information about the house. In fact one cannot sue the landlord or house seller in the event that they find out the house was a murder scene after transactions. According to Barefoot Lawyers, “It depends on the nature of the agreement. If the agreement provided for full disclosure of anything that might influence one’s choice to rent the house, then one could sue.” In case there was no provision for disclosure in the agreement then the best option would be severance of the contract, which means one could leave the house, since there might be no ground for a law suit in that circumstance.
Knowing the history of the house
And how would you know if that dream home you are looking at was once the scene of a grisly crime? In a country like Uganda where formal disclosure laws are not existent, there is a bigger hurdle to jump. For any prospective buyer or renter, the best solution is to ask around.
Mwesigye explains that, “The property market involves a lot of capital, so property buyers are usually keen and gather as much information as they can on the prospective property they intend to buy; such information includes among others:- ownership, registered encumbrances, history of the property, of course its income potential and comparable information of sales of similar properties.”
History of the property can be obtained from neighbours and records from the Police serving the neighbourhood. Thus for any squeamish type, the only way to find out is to keep asking around.
In case you are the house owner
Sometimes the unfortunate happens. A tenant may commit suicide or murder someone in your rental house. Martin Kabugo a realtor at Sure Property agents in Kisaasi offers a few tips in dealing with these stigmatized properties. “One could consider renovating the house, razing down the particular room where the murder took place and refurbishing the whole house altogether,” says Kabugo. “However if all the renovations fail then the final resort is to let the house rest for some time till its history is forgotten or raze it down and build a new structure.”
The final wrap up
After the media cameras are gone from these houses and the newspapers are closed to such a murder, the fate of such a house is more likely to tend towards the negative. And for the potential buyers or tenants at such a house, there is a whole lot of mystery. Perhaps, the house where one sleeps, may have been a scene of blood splatters years back. With the fresh new coat of painting that was given, you may be sleeping in a room where someone took someone’s life or their own.
It is interesting to know what happens to these homes. Do they sit forever vacant; their values plummet to a fraction of true worth? How about neighboring homes? Does their value suffer in the process as well? Whether to move into such a home, whether the value of such a home declines is a question so big to give a definitive answer. It may all be dependent on luck of sorts and personalities of the potential occupants