Buying Bad – Filling in the Blanks on Property Titles

While the hit US TV series Breaking Bad may have demonstrated a novel way to beat the recession for the hard-pressed teaching profession, it might also have highlighted an age old issue for those buying a home. Not every minor detail in a property's history is noted on the property title. From illegal drugs labs to a reputation for unquiet spirits of another kind, home buyers across the world have found themselves haunted by a host of problems. So how do you ensure you aren't 'buying bad'? And, what sort of issues should you be looking for?


Types of Stigmatized Property


  • The range of surprises for new homeowners seems to grow each year. Certainly the use of properties as illegal drug labs is on the rise. While this may be great for TV viewing figures, it can be a nightmare for new owners. The chemicals involved can be so poisonous that properties need a complete detox. The sort of chemicals involved often penetrate into the very fabric of the building and may make the home uninhabitable until it has been professionally cleaned.


  • Ghosts and ghouls; whether you believe in that haunting feeling or not, a haunted house reputation can stick. Worse still, it can be a very popular filler for journalists seeking to bulk out some column inches on slow news days. This may seem less of a problem at first, but the most haunted reputations often lead to more troublesome infestations of sight-seers.


  • Murder sites – especially more sensational ones - may also attract stigma to the property. As with ghosts this can attract even less savory sight-seers or other attention. Some, perhaps many buyers, will themselves feel extremely uncomfortable about buying a property where a recent ,or particularly brutal murder, has taken place.


  • Debt stigma; when debt collectors attack, they don't always realize the debtor has left the building. This can result in continued visits and/or harassment of the new owner. This problem can usually be resolved but it can take time and can be deeply distressing until it is.


  • Hidden Treasures; while we'd all like to discover a pot of gold in our garden the reality for buyers is that archaeological sites (and some heritage designations) may not be recorded on the property title. This can vary – some may include these details - however, it pays to be sure if possible and if a property lies in an historic area, a specialist survey may help. Owners of archaeological sites may be required to have them surveyed – at their own cost!


Where to Find Information


The first clue to whether a property is stigmatized or not is usually in the price. If you pinch yourself in disbelief at the ten-bedroom family home for sale at such a low price, alarm bells should ring! The following agencies can help you to identify why that sale price is so low!


  • For properties where drug labs have been identified contact the local municipal authority.


  • For ghostly reputations – ask around in the neighborhood! Neighbors love to share a good story. This works for many other possible property surprises too.


  • For sensational murder sites – or even less sensational ones – local press archives will be a good start. Again, simply ask the neighbors why they think the price is so low!


  • Debt stigma is harder to identify before purchasing but if you have any issues with debt, including issues that aren't even yours, contact Vancouver's Credit Counseling Society, who should be able to offer advice on dealing with collectors.


  • For information on Heritage Sites in British Columbia visit the Heritage BC website – and local municipal authority sites, who will hold a list of sites in their own areas.





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