Buyers beware: Realtors not required to disclose gruesome crimes

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by Danielle Malagarie

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) -- Buying a home is the American dream, but what if your dream home was really the scene of a nightmare?

In Ohio, state law does not require realtors to disclose if a murder or suicide happened in a property they are selling, or if it is believed to be haunted.

This can open the door for buyers to get more than what they bargained for.

“Because there’s no state law, the code of ethics for the National Association of Realtors doesn’t necessary address that,” said Mark Ryan, Remax real estate broker.

It addresses they are supposed to look out for their clients best interest.

“So ,we interpret that as if we know you should know,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s team tells all, and although these circumstances are unusual, they do happen.

He recalls a team member unknowingly showed a home where someone was believed to be killed.

“The wall had all been cut out, the bath tub was removed, there was a section of carpet that could have been cut out of the floor,” said Ryan.

While in this case it was obvious something happened, other times it is not. That is thanks to crime scene cleanup crews.

Jonathan Schaffer and his wife Samantha own Bio-One Dayton.

Their job is to turn homes to their normal state after a tragic situation has happened.

They go to about one trauma scene a week.

“Depending on the type of scene we could be removing flooring, such as carpet, tile hardwood, things of that nature,” said Schaffer.

Sometimes they even remove dry wall.

The goal, to make it look like nothing happened.

Good for a seller, potentially bad for a buyer.

But there are some things you can look for. A home inspector can help spot them.

“They’re going to look in more detail, potentially looking underneath carpet to see did they replace the carpet and not the pad,” said Schaffer.

Experts say if you see flooring or floor boards painted with sealant. That could be a red flag.

If several rooms have carpeting and a piece does not connect, or if the crown molding or baseboards are different in just one room that can also be a sign.

As for sellers Ryan says disclosing this type of information protects them legally.

“Don’t just ignore it, because there is potential pit falls even though it’s not required by law,” Ryan said.

He adds ask your realtor and seek legal counsel to determine what needs to be known.

But if the property was treated, Schaffer said there is nothing to worry about.

“If we have come out and been allowed to treat it professionally, know the home is clean and sanitary and has been made safe,” said Schaffer. “When we leave a scene we have no doubt that that home is safe.

Still, many may not want to know about their home’s past.

For those who do want to know, enter your address in an online search engine to find links to news reports.

Look up public records like property records, deeds or death certificates.

There is even a website that can help. For a fee you can see if your home is linked to any deaths, fire incidents or even meth activity.

Purchase my Own Search! Back