Search the Site

Not to Kick Realtors When They’re Down, But …

In the Freakonomics chapter about real estate agents’ informational advantage, we discussed the different terms that agents use in want ads, and those terms’ correlation with higher or lower sales prices. Alas, there was one kind of information — whether or not a murder was committed in the house, for instance — that didn’t make the dataset. Here, however, from an article in yesterday’s New York Times about Witchita’s B.T.K. murderer, is a glimpse at how such information gets lost in the shuffle. [Hat tip to blogger “Anonymous”; complete article is here.]

Diane Boyle, 54, a retired nurse, said she was furious when she learned, months after she bought a vinyl-sided bungalow built in the 1940’s on South Hydraulic Street in the winter of 2002, that B.T.K. had killed Shirley Vian Relford there in 1977.

Ms. Boyle said she told a neighbor one day, “I know the B.T.K. killer was around here,” thinking it was up or down the street. “The Realtor never told me,” she said. “I asked my neighbor, and she said, ‘Well, Diane, it’s your house.’ “

In the real estate business, such a house is known as a “stigmatized property,” but there is no rule in Kansas that requires real estate agents to disclose anything beyond material information, like a leaking roof or unsound walls, said Frank Stucky, president of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.

“I don’t know of any hard and fast rule other than common sense,” Mr. Stucky said. “Certainly in a B.T.K thing, in my mind that would fall under the rule of being something that someone would want to know about.”