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Selling your Home after a Homicide-Part II

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5. Deal with the situation. Silence invites negative speculation.

While human nature often resorts to some form of denial in the face of tragedy , a property owner should not attempt to ignore or cover-up the incident. Only problems that have been admitted can be dealt with. Demonstrate to the lender, insurance company, public and media that a decisive person has been put in charge to deal with the situation.

Comment: Turn a negative into a positive. Sometimes this is called ‘meeting objections.’ When a potential buyer reports being upset about the fact that a person was murdered and the body thrown into the closet, comment instead about the ample space inside the closet; how there’s lots of room for shoes and accessories. A negative comment concerning how no one responded to the victim’s screams can be answered by showing how much privacy there is in the home and how playing loud music is unlikely to disturb the neighbors.

6. Deal with the Media

As a general rule, the less media the better; however, some situations are of such public interest that intense media interest is inevitable. Comments to the media should be focused on the help given to the victims and their family, efforts to assist police, fire personnel, investigators and paramedics. It is important to respond quickly to any inaccurate information.

Comment: Again, turn the negative into the positive. At any press conference remark casually that the property is for sale, preferably behind a sign that gives your Realtor’s 1-800 number. Mentioning that easy credit terms are available is always a good thing. Press inaccuracies are problematic; do not hesitate to point out that your home contains 2 ½ bathrooms and not 2 if an inexperienced journalist makes the error. If the body was found in the bathtub, point out that the bathroom was recently renovated with a platform jacuzzi. If the press of reporters, television trucks, generators and the inevitable lunch wagons that follow them becomes overwhelming, there is only one way to get rid of them. Promise an “exclusive” to a friendly reporter–in exchange for a modest financial consideration or free advertising—and your new friend’s parent conglomerate will shoo-away the others. It’s a win-win situation.

7. Promptly implement a written action plan with stated goals and objectives.

Within one week after the incident, write a clear action plan that addresses the handling of the situation.

Comment: This is where real estate professionals make the mistake of stepping on other professional’s turf. While you may call this document an “action plan” the police call it a ‘confession.’ The details of your proposed acts in furtherance of a conspiracy or your plans to become an accessory after the fact should not be committed to paper. If you must write something, write it as a letter to your attorney. The first sentence should read, “I am sending you, my attorney, this letter for the purpose of obtaining your legal advice.” Then write whatever you want. You don’t even have to mail it. A letter to your attorney remains a letter to your attorney without a stamp.

8. Take the property off the market.

If the property has been listed for sale or lease, consider taking it off the market. It is often difficult to sell a property immediately after a detrimental condition occurs.

Comment: Finally, the meat of the coconut, buried as the eighth bullet point. It would be a bad suggestion to take the property off the market too early and lose out on all that free publicity. Some nut might want to buy the ‘death house’ simply for its notoriety. Don’t deprive that buyer of the opportunity and don’t deprive your Realtor from the chance to earn a fair commission.

9. Be considerate of neighbors or other tenants.

Some detrimental conditions cause difficulties for adjoining property owners. Work to address their concerns.

Comment: Tell them about “unity of title” and why it might be a good idea to expand their holdings and purchase your property at a modest discount.

10. Manage tourists and sight-seers.

Often tragedies will leave police tape, signs and other “flags” that notify the public of where the incident occurred. These “flags” should be removed as soon as possible to minimize the association of the incident with the property. If a sight-seeker still finds the property despite the removal of the “flags”, be polite. Usually these people come and leave quickly. Short-tempered behavior by the property owner towards sight-seers often results in amplifying curiosity and actually prolongs their visit. Instruct any security personnel not to comment to these people.

Comment: There is a simple solution to this horrible problem. Charge admission. Ten bucks a scalp. Watch the tour buses as they go elsewhere rather than shell-out.

11. Negotiate with lenders.

As many properties have mortgages, the lender will justifiably have cocerns about the situation and the collateral securing their loan. Communicate with the lender promptly that you have or will deal with all of the issues. Assure the lender that you have secured the property and are handling the insurance claims. It may be necessary to request that the lender provide some payment relief or moratorium while managing the situation. In such circumstances, reasonable lenders will offer some concessions.

Comment: This pararagraph is Alice in Wonderland, far down the rabbit hole. First, I have never seen a lender act rationally in a threatened foreclosure situation. That’s one of the reasons why the real estate market is in the mess it’s in. Exhibit A: homeowner has responsibly made all of his mortgage payments on time for three years. His ARM “resets” and triples. Now he can’t make these new payments. Rather than rewriting the note so that he can continue to make the payments he’s been making, the bank forecloses, sending the foreclosure case to the collections officer’s brother-in-law attorney in Tampa who “wins” the case and then what? No one is buying, the empty house sits, squatters move in, the house becomes a “detrimental condition” and the brother-in-law looks on the web for advice. At this point, it’s probably a good idea not to mention the tourist buses to the bank.

12. File insurance claims.

Many detrimental conditions are covered by insurance policies. The submission of insurance claims is often a new experience for many property owners. Consider using a public claims adjuster in the preparation of the claim. Select an adjuster that is experienced and will submit a reasonable claim that will be taken seriously by the insurance company. Submitting an unreasonable claim will delay payment and may cost additional fees.

Comment: Insurance policies don’t cover murder. Your homeowner’s policy will cover corpse clean-up unless you are the murderer. A mop and a bottle of Mr. Clean won’t do the trick—this is Hazmat territory. Fortunately, many major cities have corpse clean-up services. If you can’t find your copy of the Yellow Pages, call your friendly funeral director for a referral. The mess will have to be cleaned-up long before you’re proven guilty beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt. If the death penalty is imposed against you, not to worry: the insurance company has a claim not only against your estate, but a lien on the property for the clean-up services.

13. Keep the situation in perspective.

Detrimental conditions can be traumatic; however time will tend to ease the tension of the incident.

Comment: Time heals all wounds. Eventually you will come to accept the loss of a loved one. You will never forget, however, the twenty bucks your cousin borrowed from you twenty years ago because hey-you can still use the money. That is why it is important to frame the issue in non-financial terms.

14. Consider the future uses of the property.

Some detrimental conditions require that other uses of the property be studied. For example, if the improvements are old, it may be best to demolish the building rather than rebuild. If the property is useful to the owner, it may be renovated and operated indefinitely, as opposed to selling it at a loss.

Comment: Tear down the crime scene, cover the land with asphalt and run a parking lot. At five bucks per car—per hour in an urban area—you’ll at least make a little cash as well as provide employment parking cars to those bankers who lost their jobs due to all the foreclosures. And that will put an end to those pesky, neverending requests by the CSI to come by and see if they missed anything anytime a forensic scientist publishes a new paper.

15. Occupy or rent the property

If stigma is an issue, it can be mitigated by occupying the property even by a tenant at below-market rates. Generally a vacant property only serves to prolong or even amplify the effects of stigma.

Comment: This advice is a bit outdated. There is no longer any such concept as “stigma” in America. One man’s horror is another’s cool. Rent the death house to a family of Satanists so they can improve their social standing amongst other devil worshippers. Perhaps offer the property as a venue for a new reality show. There’s always a creative solution.

16. Wait an appropriate time prior to listing the property.

It may take years before a property with stigma is sold. By recognizing this fact, A property owner may wisely avoid the frustrations of trying to prematurely sell the property. If litigation is involved, it is usually best wait until all trials are over before listing a property for sale.

Comment: Death penalty cases can take ten years or more to resolve. This is why the prudent property owner should pressure the prosecutor NOT to seek the death penalty. It’s bad for business. If the prosecutor persists, simply use the ‘parking lot’ solution referred to above. Stigma or not, everyone needs a place to park.

17. Disclose the incident to potential buyers.

Consult with an attorney about local disclosure laws; however a good rule is “disclose, disclose, disclose” to avoid problems in the future.

Comment: It is probably wise to avoid lingering too long over the grisly details of the crime, or to mention details the police have determined that only the killer could possibly know.

18. Be prepared to discount the price appropriately.

Even after everything is done to mitigate the damages, market resistance may remain. Usually a buyer may be enticed to purchase the property by offering a modes discount. Generally there is an inverse correlation between the time transpired between the incident and the discount. Also, an “upper-end” property will tend to require a larger discount.

Comment: The more horrible the crime, the greater the discount. See “Keep the situation in perspective” above, and don’t offer too much of a discount.

19. Consult with experienced and competent professionals.

Dealing with detrimental conditions may require consulting with a variety of professionals including consultants, engineers, attorneys, public adjusters, contractors, lenders and brokers. Care should be taken to associate with those who are experienced in these situations.

Comment: Hiring a public relations officer may not be a bad idea. And don’t forget the Hazmat team.

Written by mokane

September 13, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thank you for this valuable information. It’s important to remember to hire a licensed decontamination professional to clean up human remains at a crime scene. Thank you.

    Homosassa crime scene cleaners

    September 16, 2008 at 3:22 pm


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