How to uncover the hidden history of a home - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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How to uncover the hidden history of a home

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Purchasing a home is the biggest investment most people will make. Despite that, people spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on homes they know little about.

It's easy enough to check the history of a used vehicle before you purchase it, but is there any way to check the history of a house or condo?

Most people would want to know if the home they are interested in purchasing was once a meth lab or the scene of a homicide. In many cases, current and former owners might have that information but aren't obligated to disclose it.

There are about 10,000 homes on the market in the greater Las Vegas area. Odds are some of them had violent crimes occur inside of them or they once housed marijuana grow operations.

"Well, a long time ago, it used to be caveat emptor - buyer beware - and it still is kind of like that," said Kolleen Kelley, president of the Nevada Association of Realtors.

Nevada law favors the seller when it comes to what needs to be disclosed prior to purchase. A homicide, suicide or death, except for a death resulting from the condition of the home, does not have to be disclosed.

In addition, there's no requirement to disclose information about felony crimes that occurred inside a house other than the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

"It's like walking on eggshells," Kelley said.

Kelley said only physical damage to a property needs to be revealed.

"Anything that materially affects the home structure or value has to be disclosed," Kelley said.

If a property housed a meth lab or grow house that has since been remediated, it doesn't have to be disclosed.

"The courts said, ‘No, if you fixed it and really took care of it, you don't have to disclose it at this point,'" Kelley said.

To obtain the information you want before purchasing a home, you'll need to do some work. You can start by checking out the property online.

You can access the crime history of a given address through the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's website. The DEA has a national clandestine laboratory register, but it only allows a user to search six months back, and the register itself only dates back to 2004.

Other websites cast a wider net. Once such website is Housecreep.com.

"We thought, let's increase accessibility. Let's create a centralized location, a repository for this information," said Albert Armieri with Housecreep.com.

Housecreep is a free website that relies on users to submit information about houses in their neighborhoods. It currently only lists about 25,000 properties in North America, but there have been success stories.

"In most cases, that's a property that's formerly a grow operation they were looking to purchase, and it steered them in the right direction," Armieri said.

Carfax.com has become standard procedure for many car shoppers. The website lists accidents, damages and even repossessions. What you might not know about is Housefax.com. It has existed for just more than a year and claims to do for homes what Carfax does for vehicles. It costs $59 to use.

The website claims to check for past insurance claims for theft or burglary. We saw no mention of records checks for deaths.

However, for $11.99, you can check for that information at DiedInHouse.com.

“When an address goes in, this algorithm starts and it pieces the story together. The more pieces you get together, you can validate and build a report,” said Roy Condrey with DiedInHouse.com.

The bottom line is, you may never get the full picture of what occurred at a given property. Longtime Las Vegas realtor Andi Ahart suggested leaving the computer and pounding the pavement.

"The best place to start when you want any answers about the neighborhood is to first walk the neighborhood. It's also a good way to find out who your potential neighbors might be, if you want them to be your neighbors. They're always more than willing to offer information," Ahart said.

None of the websites we checked claim to have 100-percent accuracy. A home inspection will reveal many problems with properties. Both Ahart and Kelley encourage sellers to be upfront with buyers.

Copyright 2014 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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