The house that Oscar built

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

It doesn't come as much of a surprise to hear that Oscar Pistorius has put his home in Silver Woods Country Estate on the market. Regardless of what really happened on the fateful night when he killed Reeva Steenkamp, it was always unlikely that he would return to live in the property.

Aside from the obvious emotional issues, there are legal fees to be paid. Oscar has retained a small army of lawyers including a senior advocate. Legal expertise of this calibre doesn't come cheap and it has been estimated that the representation is costing him in the region of R100 000 a day.

The killing of a beautiful young woman by a physically challenged sporting hero has made headline news around the world and the fact that the crime took place in a palatial home in a secure estate has fuelled that interest. It stands to reason that this is one property that could never be marketed in the normal way.

Accordingly, the property is being auctioned under a sole mandate and, although the agent has refused to confirm how many bids it has so far attracted, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will garner a great deal of interest. Notorious properties always do.

The curiosity factor

Some people, while having no intention of buying the home, would do anything to get inside to see for themselves where the deed took place. But in all likelihood the person who does end up buying the home will do so not because a murder took place there, but because they truly like the property.

At this stage it is impossible to tell whether or not the property will attract a higher bid simply because of the added interest, but the fact that a horrendous crime was committed and a young person lost her life in one of its bathrooms could severely hamper the selling price.

Equally interesting is how the crime will impact the selling price when the home is resold in the future. Sadly life does go on and the property is going to come back onto the market at some stage. In this instance it’s unlikely that anyone is going to forget what took place here. If the agent forgets to mention the fact to a future potential buyer, neighbours will be sure in bring in up in conversation.

Disclosure is imperative

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said with every property where a violent crime has taken place. No one likes to admit that the property they are trying to sell is associated with something unpleasant. But the important thing to remember is that buyers have every right to know that something untoward has happened in a home, regardless of the timeframe.

The courts back this up and in one case (Dibley vs Furter 1951) cancelled the sale when the new owners discovered that there was a graveyard on the property. There was nothing untoward about this as at some stage, permission had been granted for the burials to have taken place. However, the seller had ploughed the land and had not disclosed the fact that there were people buried on the property. In this case the judge found for the buyer stating that the majority of people would not want to live on the property or own it, and thus Dibley had every right to cancel the sale.

While this may be an extreme case, it does highlight that sellers have to disclose every aspect that could sway a buying decision and this includes discussing tragic events that have taken place in a home.

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