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Columbus & Central Ohio, United States
DeLena Ciamacco is a well-known, respected Top Producing Realtor in Central Ohio. Her myriad of accomplishments, recognition, and professional credentials as they relate to Real Estate, make her a perfect individual to provide insight to the masses on all aspects of Real Estate sales. Her creativity and honest approach to marketing Real Estate has enabled her to succeed in her career. DeLena’s philosophy is “An educated and well prepared Buyer or Seller is a smart Buyer or Seller”. Her desire is to inform the public, by pulling from her 20+ years of Real Estate sales & Marketing, what is necessary to get to a successful closing in these challenging times.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Killer Real Estate (Literally)

For those looking to purchase in the Akron area, August saw the listing of a beautiful 2,170 square foot ranch home with stunning ground to ceiling windowed walls, an open floor plan, and plenty of views of the surrounding wooded lot. It’s the perfect home for those looking for a little bit of privacy and a lot of style. There’s just one little problem with this gorgeous 1950’s home, and it’s not the $329,000 price tag; this is the childhood home and scene of the first murder committed by Jeffrey Dahmer. 

For the past seven years the house has been owned by musician Chris Butler, who although admits to simply loving the home and it’s construction, found himself spending more and more time out of state. His decision to sell the property has presented an interesting problem for the realtor listing it; how do you overcome years of negative press and sell the home once belonging to a prolific serial killer? 

This property falls into a category referred to as “Stigmatized Property”; homes that were once the scenes of murders, suicides, and supposed hauntings all fall under this category and can sometimes be a challenge to sell. Sellers are by law required to disclose physical information on their homes, whether it be a damaged roof, cracks in the foundation, or any other number of potential problems with the property. When it comes to non-physical problems, often referred to as “emotional defects” the laws become a little murky from state to state. Only some states require sellers to divulge emotional defects, and even then the principle of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is often invoked. Most states do not require realtors to divulge this information to potential buyers, but are required to own up to anything if they are asked directly. If someone were interested in the property in Akron and heard of its connection to Dahmer, leading them to ask their agent, they would have to divulge any information they knew of. It really comes down to potential buyers doing their research on the property before making an offer.

Perhaps the most famous case involving stigmatized property, the Stambovsky vs. Ackley trial in New York, would set precedence for such cases. Helen Ackley, the longtime owner of a home in Nyack, New York built just outside of New York City and along the Hudson River (an area already suspected of ghosts thanks to Sleepy Hollow) spent the better part of her residency there perpetuating the idea that the house was haunted. Her home would be featured in a column in Readers Digest and the local papers, with Ackley and her family claiming to have experienced poltergeist activity numerous times. The family would even later open up the home to locals, charging admission for “ghost tours” and other spooky themed activities. However, by the late 80’s Helen was ready to retire to Florida, and needed to sell her supposedly haunted estate. The fact that the Ackley family had spent decades claiming that the home was infested with ghosts was swept under the rug, and it wasn’t long before Jeffrey Stambovsky made a $650,000 offer on the home. 

It would be some time after going into contract on the home that Stambovsky would run into one of his future neighbors, who asked the question that would lead to one of the most unique court cases in New York history; “So you’re buying the haunted house are you?” 

After digging through records and articles on the property, Stambovsky would file an action requesting rescission of contract, and for damages for fraudulent misinterpretation against Ackley and her agent. When Mr. Stambovsky did not attend the closing, his $32,500 down payment was forfeited and a New York Supreme Court dismissed his action, which he appealed in turn. According to the Supreme Court, it didn’t matter if you believed in ghosts or not; the wide reporting of the hauntings did in fact affect the value of the home. However, the realtor was not legally obligated to tell Mr. Stambovsky anything, and cited caveat emptor, meaning he was not entitled to damages. However, an appellate court overturned this decision, saying that no normal home inspection would be able to uncover the presence of spirits, and that the buyer was misled in such a way that any discussion of potential deaths or hauntings of the residence would have never come up. Ackley was accused of preying on Mr. Stambovsky’s ignorance of the area to sell her home, and he was allowed to end the contract and receive damages. The home wouldn’t be sold until 1991, and it is unknown if the buyers this time around were aware of the home’s past. 

It’s messy cases like this that lead many realtors to disclose information when asked, as to avoid any legal ramifications against themselves or the sellers. However, you can’t always take things at face value, and it might be smart to look up your potential new home in public records, or even get to know your possible new neighbors and ask them about the neighborhood. This doesn’t just apply to other-worldly phenomena’s either; it’s always a good idea to look up the neighborhood you’re thinking of purchasing in to see if crimes are prevalent in the area, or if you’re potentially living down the street from recorded offenders. It’s always good to know exactly what you’re getting in to. 

 Sadly, a wonderful property can suffer devaluation based on its past and sit empty for long periods of time. Before Chris Butler purchased the Dahmer home in 2005, the property sat for 6 months and was listed well below what it was actually worth. This led Butler to ask the realtor why it hadn’t been purchased yet, and he received the news on its horrific past. The Dahmers had purchased the home in 1968 and raised their two children, including Jeffrey there. It was here that Dahmer would commit his first murder, that of Steven M. Hicks in 1978. Worse yet, police would later find Hicks remains scattered throughout the property, well after his murder spree came to a close. When Butler was notified of this he “didn’t stop shaking for another 24 hours.” Despite this, Butler did purchase the home, and reported no paranormal activity, no feelings of dread, and not many curious onlookers. While a property like this might not be for everybody, it’s really up to the buyer to decide if they can look past the sometimes unsettling history of a house and see a home worthy of their love.

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