It’s that time of year again: the advent of my second favorite holiday, next to my birthday ... Halloween. Coincidently, this month has proven to be one of the eeriest, spine-chilling, horrific October months of my career. It wasn’t due to a cool haunted house though, or even dead people walking. Sadly, it was due to a couple of creepy clowns who happen to work in this industry.
Between one lender (not one I would ever recommend) asking me to commit loan fraud and another screaming expletives at me in a different language (I learned all the bad words in my high school Spanish class, so I knew exactly what he was saying), it has been a scary couple of weeks. Clearly, we all have a different definition of the macabre.
Resuming back to the more traditional definition, however, I did happen to pass by my childhood home in the land of Bountiful (I’m talking about the city in Davis county) recently, and seeing all the windows and doorways filled with pumpkins and skeletons served to conjure up a flashback of a time when my own home would have been considered “stigmatized.”
To review: In the world of real estate, a stigmatized property is a property that holds some sort of bad reputation due to an event that may have happened or certain people who may have inhabited the home. For example, if there is a murder, suicide, shooting, etc., the property could be difficult to sell if disclosed. In the state of Utah, these types of things legally do not have to be disclosed; however, most often, the neighborhood or even the local news lets you know.
In the case of my childhood home, we, the children of the home, stigmatized it ourselves.
The home that I resided in, from the time I was 6-years-old until I made a break for it at the age of 17, was a 1965 rambler with a gravel roof and wood exterior. This spacious five-bedroom, one-bath beauty housed all 11 of us for 10 years. We were, essentially, the Brady Bunch, with the exception that we were dysfunctional.
One night, as a bunch of us were sitting around on the floor in one of the basement bedrooms talking, I noticed a wood panel on the wall that looked like it could be opened. The entire wall, in fact, most of the basement, was clad in the trendy chestnut-colored wall covering commonly labeled “paneling,” but one wall had a cut-out where the panel had been placed back in. This sparked my very vivid imagination (I was a complete horror genre nerd), and I asked my older step-brother, “Do you ever hear noises in these walls? They’re hollow, you know.”
“I think so,” he replied. “I hear scratching all the time ... also footsteps.”
“Figures. You ever hear what happened here, before Mom and Dad bought the house? I didn’t want to say anything, but I heard my friend’s parents talking about it one day. They said there was an older couple that lived here. One of them was in a wheelchair. They rarely came out of the home and were very reclusive. In fact, the entire front of this house was covered in thorny rose bushes to discourage anyone from visiting. One day, an old dude in dirty coveralls came by and stuck a for-sale sign in the front yard. Someone bought it and cleaned it up and then sold it to us. Weird huh? By the way, I wonder what’s behind that panel?”
We spun a story about an old elevator, a couple of skeletons and a wheelchair — all obligatory props for a good horror story — and then we told all our friends.
For months following the self-started rumors, no one wanted to come to our home. Our friends began to avoid us and neighbors would cross the street to get past our house rather than walk directly in front. My parents wondered why we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters that year. That, my friends, was an unintended consequence of our actions; we got to keep all the candy.
The home has changed hands several times since then, or has it? A simple pillow fight in the basement bedroom could knock down a panel, and then we would know who truly owns the place.