WEB EXCLUSIVE STORY: Murder rates may affect property value

Lindsay Wargo

Property value can change due to the desirability of the area, according to a brochure from the auditor’s office.

With six murders in Portage County in the past four months, some neighborhoods may be seen as less than desirable. But Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito isn’t worried.

“It’s unlikely (property values would go down due to murder rates) because people tend to forget quickly,” Esposito said.

She said she has not seen any correlation between crime rates and property value in Portage County. She said property value is based on sales in Ohio.

But according to a 2001 study from the Center for Real Estate Education and Research at Ohio State University, a well-publicized murder can lower a house’s value by 15 to 35 percent, and it may take five to seven years for the effect to fade.

The study also looks at the dilemma facing real estate agents.

“Should the broker disclose the information to prospects and risk either scaring them away from the property or the possibility of reducing the selling price?” the report asks.

It depends on where the property is located, according to the report, which states: “Over twenty states have laws that say agents may not be held liable for failing to disclose such events, but a few require that prospects be notified. In the remaining states, no statutes address the issue of psychologically impacted properties, providing no guidance for sellers, buyers or brokers.”

Steve Boyles, president of CENTURY 21 Wilbur Realty, Inc., said in the Portage County area, real estate agents usually don’t have to worry about things like murder rates. He said it may be different for inner-city areas, which are typically lower income areas where property values also are lower.

Boyles said occasionally buyers will ask about a neighborhood if they are not familiar with the area.

“In our area, you have certain areas that may have certain reputations, whether they’re real or imagined,” he said.

When buyers do ask about crime or murder rates, Boyles said agents refer them to the local authorities.

“As realtors, our job has to be objective,” he said.

In Ohio, brokers are not obligated by statute to disclose events, such as murders, to prospects. Sellers must only indicate “any known problems or defects regarding a variety of features and structural aspects of the property” through the Residential Property Disclosure Form, according to the report.

Contact public affairs reporter Lindsay Wargo at [email protected].