Buying a Home That Was Once a Crime Scene

Alexandra Posadzki of The Canadian Press had an article published in The Toronto Star recently, discussing some of the factors associated with purchasing a home that was once the site of a marijuana grow operation. The major upside identified in the article has to do with price: one can expect such a home to have a reasonable discount applied. But there are some issues you can expect to encounter, such as securing a mortgage from a bank or getting the home insured. Apparently, major banks and insurance providers are shying away from these properties, even after proper renovations have been done and several years have passed since the crime was committed. The justification for this, according to the banks, is that the home is likely inhabitable, because running a grow operation requires pesticide use, and often mould can become a serious issue. In such cases, the onus falls on the potential homebuyers to prove that the house is livable, a process that requires the financing of multiple, and pricey, tests.

Posadzki refers to the problem as “home stigmatization,” and such a problem extends beyond just drug related crimes.

Mark Weisleder of The Toronto Star makes a very interesting point. More often than not, as a potential homebuyer, the chances of your real estate agent willingly offering up information about a home’s shadowy past, is slim to none. But this is not because the lie of omission will help make the sale, real estate agents themselves are often kept in the dark about the home’s past. If a real estate agent knows about a murder, for example, they are obligated to disclose this under their Code of Ethics as a material fact. The problem is if the agent doesn’t know about it, there is nothing to disclose. Weisleder’s recommendation is that homebuyers conduct their own research, offering up two online resources that will help you find out whether or not a crime was committed in the home, and what kind of crime it was. To check out these resources for yourself, visit HomeVerified and IVerified (http://iverify.com/).

James Armstrong of Global News also discusses the phenomenon of home stigmatization, providing another resource that homebuyers can use to shed light on a home’s criminal history. Housecreep, developed by Toronto-native Robert Armieri, is described as a hub of “stigmatized” homes, listing homes where people have died, and if drugs have been grown or sold. It even goes a step further, letting you know if a famous celebrity used to live there. At the moment, most of the entries are for the GTA, with particular neighbourhoods being showcased, like Regent Park, Cabbagetown and Parkdale but many of the other approximately 2,000 listings are from around Canada and the United States.

Housecreep is interesting, in that, the information provided on the site is crowdsourced, which means that people have to sign up and provide the information about their home’s past. This raises questions about the validity of the information being provided.

Jason Quintal | June 27, 2016

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