Richard Stein – Realtor®, Douglas Elliman, GREEN, SFR, CBR, eCertified®

Local Agent, Worldwide Marketing – Douglas Elliman Real Estate formerly Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A Home Where Someone Died: Does That Need to Be Disclosed?

You’re trying to sell a home that a former owner passed away in. Must you reveal that to home buyers, and will it give some buyers the creeps?

In the majority of cases, with a peaceful death inside a home, “there’s no legal obligation in most states requiring that [sellers] disclose it,” Jason Wells, a real estate professional and attorney at Wells Law Group in Phoenix.

Indeed, the majority of states do not require sellers or their real estate agents to disclose incidents such as homicides, felonies, suicides, or natural deaths in a property, or any rumored paranormal activity associated with the home, according to HomeLight, a real estate referral company.

Certainly, there are some exceptions to that, including California, South Dakota, and Alaska. For example, in California, any death on a property in the last three years must be disclosed to buyers. Check with your state’s housing authority for rules in your market, or view HomeLight’s interactive map that breaks down disclosure laws by state.

Some states require that real estate practitioners disclose up front if a home is stigmatized, but what constitutes a stigma can vary. Violent deaths like murders and suicides may stigmatize a property and, therefore, may have a different set of rules to follow. Cases like these could potentially affect the home’s value, and in the majority of states, murders on a property are required to be disclosed to buyers, according to an article at realtor.com®.

When disclosures aren’t made, real estate pros and the former owners run the risk of buyers learning of them after they move in—and often from the neighbors. To avoid potentially unsettling surprises, Katie Walsh, a real estate pro at Keller Williams Legacy Once in Chandler, Ariz., advises her buyers to search for the address of the home, or visit Diedinhouse.com, a site that lets users purchase reports detailing whether a death has occurred at an address.

Also, sellers need to be up front. If a buyer asks whether a death has occurred in the home, home sellers and real estate professionals are legally required to tell them the truth.

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