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CEO’S Corner June 2020

joe crutchfield
Joe Crutchfield, CEO of Investors Title

Has anyone else noticed the increased use of the asterisk? You know this symbol: *. 

Well, I only recently realized how often it’s used on Twitter and other social media to kind of “hide” curse words or make those words OK to use (which it doesn’t actually do because everyone who reads the word knows what it is). Maybe we’re so culturally desensitized by watching Netflix so much (where anything goes) I just saw it as normal. So, I suppose if you replace some vowels with * your language can be as foul (or f*ul) as you want. 

Anyway, I have been getting some questions lately on the issue of Psychologically Impacted Real Property. When something bad has happened at a property, such as a murder, suicide, or other crimes, some agents and sellers wonder if that is something that is required to be disclosed to a potential buyer — or if they’re incidents you simply place an asterisk on, so to speak.   

There is a Missouri law that speaks to this, titled “Chapter 442 Titles and Conveyance of Real Estate, Section 442.600.” This law, which has been around for many years now, provides that if a property has been the site of a “homicide or other felony, or of a suicide” there is no legal obligation to disclose that fact in the event of a sale or transfer of that property.

Likewise, there is no obligation to disclose that a previous occupant suffered from AIDS or another disease that would not be transmitted by occupying the property. 

The law states that these matters are not “material or substantial facts” and, as a result, there is no liability for non-disclosure. (Oddly enough, some states have laws that do just the opposite and require disclosure of these matters). 

The next question then is — notwithstanding the fact that the seller is not legally obligated to disclose these types of things — should they disclose anyway? My experience has been that people generally don’t like to keep information from buyers. They’re just not comfortable and besides, disclosure prevents a lot of bad outcomes in the world we live in today and transparency is expected from all of us.

And with regards to, say, a suicide or a murder that has occurred in a house, buyers always find out regardless. And when they do find out, what’s the first question they ask? “Well, if they didn’t tell us about that, what else didn’t they tell us?” 

In the end, when a property has these types of issues, I think it’s a decision each seller must make individually, and what the law says about Psychologically Impacted Real Property is a factor that they have to be informed of and take into account.  

Something noticeably absent from the Psychologically Impacted Real Property law is the issue of when a property is haunted. Maybe next time I should discuss that. I’ll consult with my psychic medium and do some research.  

I wish all of you a successful, fun and safe summer.  We appreciate you taking the time to read our newsletter and are grateful for your business.