Should brokers reveal an apartment’s grisly secrets?

State law only requires disclosure of material defects
November 25, 2016 11:30AM

female ghost

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” Cicero said. The question for brokers is: Are they required to place it there?

In New York State, brokers showing apartments are only required to disclose material defects, such as bedbugs, leaky pipes, and broken heaters. There is nothing in the law that compels them to talk about a property’s history as the site of a death or a crime.

Brokers who voluntarily disclose such information without being asked may be doing a disservice to the property, experts told the New York Times.

Apt. 4D at 35 Bethune Street, where Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose

Apt. 4D at 35 Bethune Street, where Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose

“I think most Realtors actually think they have to disclose,” said Neil Garfinkel, a brokerage counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York TRData LogoTINY. “They can’t, they’re not supposed to at all. The point is to make sure that the property is not stigmatized. It’s to protect the property.”

Randall Bell, who specializes in consulting on the appraisals of disaster-stricken properties, said that a stigma can wipe out up to 25 percent of a home’s value. He told the Times that the value eventually returns, and that brokers shouldn’t try to hide a property’s past.

“My advice for brokers is to tell the truth,” Bell said. “I generally advise to get the properties occupied. Don’t let them sit empty.”

According to the Times, today’s buyers and renters are a lot more accepting of a listing with a past.

“We’re removed from death,” Karen Sonn, a real estate attorney, told the newspaper. Clients often come to her with complete knowledge of the property’s history after an extensive online search, she added —  “they know what they’re buying.” [NYT]TRD