Do you know your home's history? - KMSP-TV

Do you know your home's history?

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Some renters and buyers consider more than location when picking a place to live, like a house's history. As FOX 5's Kaitlyn Pratt discovered, some properties come with a tragic past.

In real estate, the site of a gruesome event, or home of a notorious resident, is called a "stigmatized property."

One such property is the Fayette County estate of wrestler Chris Benoit, where he killed his wife and son before taking his own life in 2007.  Another family now lives in the home, which is estimated to be worth nearly a million dollars.

But what if you don't know anything about the previous resident or the home's grim history?

Sherry Hale said she heard from neighbors after she had signed a lease that her home was the site of a drug deal that turned into homicide.

"They got into an argument and they started shooting at each other," Hale said. "He opened up the door and died on the front porch."

The family stayed, but only used the side door, never the front.

Homeowner Crissy Alter said she was stunned to learn what happened inside her Covington home. A young couple was killed months before she purchased the property.

"Oh my gosh.  What have I got myself in to?" Alter said she thought.

The event was in the news, but not mentioned by the seller. Alter says she stayed and remodeled, but she doesn't get a lot of visitors.

"They are typically scared and they ask obvious questions: Have you seen any ghosts?  Do your cabinets open by themselves? Do you hear creaks and stuff," said Alter.

The murders haven't haunted her home. She's accepted the past.

FOX 5's Kaitlyn Pratt said she has personal experience with a property with a past. Her leasing agent revealed to her that there had been a death – natural causes -  in the apartment. However, the women she spoke with for this story said their real estate agents never told them what they were getting into.  So what is the Georgia law?

"Under Georgia law, you do not have to disclose it. It is not considered a physical defect," said Pam Ahern, of Area Atlanta Real Estate.

But what if the defect is psychological?

"If you feel that person you are selling the property to or leasing to would have second thoughts about buying it or leasing it because of this, it's better to get it out in the open now than to have someone try to sue you later," said Ahern.

Ahern says buying a home is a business decision, but it's also emotional.

"If you are sensitive to spirits or you think you don't want to live in a house where someone has died -- either of natural causes or a murder, you ask the owner or the landlord if someone has died or if they know anything about it. If they don't and if you really want to know, you go downtown and check the precinct records, the property address," said Ahern.

Sherry Hale said that when she moved to her next place, she made sure to ask about its history.

"Heck yeah I did," Hale said.

Stigmatized properties can be bargains if you accept their pasts.  If on the market for a long period of time, there may be room for negotiating a deal.

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