Real Estate Investing Basics

Did Someone Die in This House? The Answer Could Save You Thousands

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I came across a website the other day that lets you find out if there has been a death in a property you are planning to buy. This information would be valuable to both homeowners and real estate investors. The site is called DiedInHouse, and it is there to answer one question: “Did someone die in this house”?

Related: The Meth House, The Cops, and Me: A True Real Estate Investing Story

Now, before you even ask me why you might want to have that information at your fingertips, let me point out that a whole lot of people have a real aversion to moving into a house where someone has died, particularly when it is a violent death such as a murder or a suicide.

In the case of a murder, there would likely be news coverage initially. But over time, it wouldn’t be something that the average person would necessarily know or remember. It’s also quite possible that if the event happened a long time ago, the current owner has no knowledge of the event or if the house is listed by a Realtor, they are in the dark about those events too.

In the cases of a suicide, the buyer would almost always hear it from the neighbors. Did you know that in most states it is not considered to be a “material fact” if there was a violent death in the home and therefore is not required to be disclosed?

What Exactly Is a Material Fact?

A material fact is anything that could influence a buyer’s decision to purchase a house.

Some things that come to mind are mold, water leaks and known structural or mechanical defects. We all know that sellers are required to disclose those types of things.

If they don’t, as soon as the buyer moves in, one of the neighbors is bound to spill the beans about that “terrible problem” the sellers had. Secrets have a way of coming out at the most inopportune times.

Related: How to Identify Abandoned Houses for Investing

Statistics

Did you know that a violent death can decrease your home’s value by as much as 25%, and it can take up to 50% longer to sell this type of property?   

From an investor’s perspective, this is huge. If all the neighbors know about this violent death and subsequently one of them mentions it to your prospective buyer, you will likely lose your buyer. In this event you would almost be guaranteed to lose money on the property. How can you possibly recoup a 25% decrease in value?

To date, only a few states have passed any laws covering this situation. In fact, 32 states have no laws pertaining to this type of disclosure. So if you are the unlucky investor who finds out after the fact, there is nothing you can do to recoup your investment.

What Exactly is DiedInHouse?

DiedInHouse is a web-based service that will provide you with a report on most any valid US address.

Some of the things included in this report are:

  • Whether or not there has ever been a death in the house
  • When the death occurred
  • Who died and when they died
  • A list of previous residents
  • The cause of death and any additional information that is available about that death

They also have a lot of stories on the site about folks who have learned this information after buying a property, which is never a good thing.

Is This Something You Might Need?

I really have no idea how often this could potentially come up in any real estate investor’s business, but it might be something to file away for future reference. The fact is that homebuyers consider these to be “tainted properties,” whether or not they are legally classified this way, and therefore they are much harder to sell once folks know.

How Much Does it Cost?

If you are wondering, “Did someone die in this house?” it will cost you $14.99 to find out from this site.

Have you ever purchased a property, then found out there had been a violent death in the house? How would you react if you found out something like this had happened in your home?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become...
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    Dennis
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I have this starter home in Amityville, has newly painted basement, and granite countertops.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    LOL Dennis. Sharon
    Dawn Anastasi
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Someone dying in a house shouldn’t be considered a material adverse fact. Death happens every day and everyone will eventually die. It’s a part of life.
    Sharon Tzib
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Dawn, when I was a realtor, I had clients from certain cultures that would never consider buying a house where a death had occurred. It absolutely does matter to a lot of people, so this is good advice from Sharon.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I think you are all right. It shouldn’t matter, but it does to some people. I do think the main things that matter to most people are violent deaths like murder or suicide. I think anytime you have an older house you have to assume that someone has died in it at some point. That’s just common sense. Sharon
    Bilgefisher
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Dawn, Your right, it shouldn’t, but it does adversely affect the value of a house. I personally would not buy a house that had a murder or suicide. Call me superstitious, but I believe in ghosts and bad entities. I suspect I am not alone. That should be reason for requiring disclosure. Jason
    Dawn Anastasi
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I live in a house that had a suicide. There are no such things as ghosts.
    stephen
    Replied about 6 years ago
    The NJ house I live in was for sale all during 1982 and 1983 for $90K. Fourteen large rooms, six bedrooms, two baths, a library, a 1000 square foot carport, full cellar, hardwood floors, all natural varnished inside, big comfortable porches, it’s sitting on the entire block. It’s a Big place. The house was built in 1948. In 1958 the original owner died in the house and his wife may have died there as well. The second owner’s only child died in a rear bedroom in 1960, the second owner’s wife died in the master bedroom in 1961, the second owner died in the library in 1981. No one would even look at the house, it was said to be haunted, and the second owner was a long time child pornographer. The FBI came to empty the house after he died. I paid $40K for the house. People told me the terrible history and asked me about the ghosts and negative energy and bad juju. I said: bring it on. Hell; I will pay money to tangle with ghosts. Whatever ghosts have – I’m badder and tougher than they are. I say: here I am – let’s have it. But . . . odd as it may seem; I am Still waiting for them to take me on. So someone died in the house? The ‘value’ is substantially reduced? What a shame – but I guess you’re right so all I can possibly pay for it is this $. OK brother – when can we settle? stephen ———–
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Stephen – In older houses it is probably a given that someone has died in it over the years. Have fun with the ghosts. Sharon
    Roger
    Replied about 6 years ago
    We have a large asian population in my area. they consider is a bad thing if someone has died in their home under consideration. It is a must thing to disclose here, or you could end up buying the home back and paying damages. I certainly do not need that grief. I sell probate properties and put it in the listing. this eliminate those who are sensitive to this issue and saves me time.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Roger – It’s just a resource for folks that need it. Not everyone will need to take advantage of this tool, but it is there for folks like you that need it. Sharon
    Roger
    Replied about 6 years ago
    We have a large asian population in my area. they consider is a bad thing if someone has died in their home under consideration. It is a must thing to disclose here, or you could end up buying the home back and paying damages. I certainly do not need that grief. I sell probate properties and put it in the listing. this eliminate those who are sensitive to this issue and saves me time. Reply Report comment
    Vania
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Here in NYC space is so precious that it does not matter whether someone has died in the palce via murder or suicide….The place easily will find an owner.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Vania – I am not surprised. LOL. Sharon
    Monteria Cook
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Wow! This topic never even crossed my mind when it comes to investing in properties. Death is a part of life, but a certain kind of death will always keep some people away including myself. Thanks for the article!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Monteria- You hit the nail on the head Monteria. It’s that “certain kind of death” that is a problem for a lot of folks. Something to think about … Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Monteria- You hit the nail on the head Monteria. It’s that “certain kind of death” that is a problem for a lot of folks. Something to think about … Sharon
    Geoff Van Dusen
    Replied about 6 years ago
    What about homes that have had a deceased person in it (they did not die in it). My Great-Grandfather died in his own home, the viewing (day before funeral) was in my Grandparents great room. Although this occurred in CA, they were originally from MN, where this was a common practice. Now only family, friends and neighbors would know about this, but knowing that that there was a deceased person in the home would you feel obligated to disclose that, if law didn’t require it?
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Geoff – I probably wouldn’t mention that unless it happened recently. Some cultures might have a problem with it but like you said, this was common practice in some areas. Sharon
    Kyle Hipp
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I purchased a house that I knew the seller’s husband died in (natural cause – heart attack). I worked on the house by myself a lot over that month and it was an old house to begin with (1875). I heard what sounded like running footsteps when I was in the basement but my best explanation was that a car drove over the manhole cover in the road although I never was able to know for sure. I always get to kniw the neighbors and 2 of them informed me of the fact that he died in the house so yes neighbors will talk. I also found out from a neighbor that several homes in the area have/had ghosts. I guess there was a cementary with a church that was moved years ago that was a couple houses down. I got a number of interesting stories of unexplained events over the years. One was that a son was in the Army and had to get his uniform for drill or some training for a couple weeks. The son couldn’t find his uniform so they scoured the house and still couldn’t find it. When he returned the uniform was hung up right in the center of his closet so he asked his mom where she found it. She said she hadn’t been in his room since he left. The second was the neighbors personal story (well one of many). I guess it was a lot more active when their kkds were younger as that was a while ago as they are now retired. The mother, a daughter and two of the daughters school friends were in the living room. There was a notebook with a pen in it on the couch. All oc the sudden the notebook opened and the pen slowly rolled out. Slowly rolled as it would not be possible to roll this slowly without someone actually doing it, not falling. It rolled out of the notebook, over the couch, slowly down the front of the couch and slowly on the floor to the middle of the room and stopped. All of them stopped what they were doing and watched as soon as the notebook came open… Another one I just heard from a friend who lives in a rental. He moved in and after a couple weeks the neighbors asked him about the house and any wierd stuff. He didn’t say anything untill the neighbor said he was the longest guy to stay there in years. Several people left within days leaving all their items behind. I guess a couple owned the house and were there many many years. The lady loved flowers and gardening. My friend said that the two weirdest things was that they woke up one morning and every single item from their kitch cabinets was removed, not a single cup, box or salt packet. The more scary event was that he work up in his bed with his girlfriend late at night with pushing on the bed. He told the daughter to go back to bed but she was not there. A couple days later he wakes up again from it and goes to wake his girlfriend to ask if she felt it. She was already awake and said it was the 3rd time in the last half hour… I guess past tenants had the sheets pulled right off the bed. There was a storage cubby in the back of the house that activity would really pick up if people out stuff in. He is still there today and things have reallt settled down. They planted a garden and did some flowers and landscaoing around the house and thats when stuff pretty much stopped… Crazy stuff O
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Kyle – Now that’s a story! You are not the first person that has told me a similar story. Sharon
    Roy N.
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Our area is bountiful with Queen Anne, Second Empire, Victorian and Edwardian homes. Many of the larger ones have been divided into multiple units – some almost a century ago. When I worked in Holland some years back, the cottage we rented was built in the 17th century. It is inevitable that buildings that old (6 – 18 generations) have been visited by death, likely more than once. You never hear about an aversion to a property because someone was born in – my grandmother and her 13 siblings were all born at home. My Great Grandfather died in the home. Death is the inevitable conclusion of birth, so it should equally be expected that someone may have arrived at the other end of their journey in a property.
    Geoff Van Dusen
    Replied about 6 years ago
    very good analogy.
    Geoff Van Dusen
    Replied about 6 years ago
    very good analogy.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Hi Roy – I think the only time it is an issue is with a violent death. In older properties it’s almost certain someone has died in the property. Sharon
    Jack Stivers
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I have a rental house in which someone died. I was the upstairs tenant for a few years and then I bought the house from the elderly lady who owned it. She continued to live (for a few years) in the downstairs part. By the time she died, I had moved out and rented out the upstairs apt. He has been there 18 years now and has never cared that someone died downstairs. I have had 4 other first floor tenants since the death. Only one knew about the death, because she knew the woman who died. She did not care either. The others did not know. So, fortunately, this has not been a problem for me–with this particular house.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    That’s great to hear Jack. It really doesn’t matter to some people especially if it was a “natural death”. Sharon
    London Fajkus
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I love ghost stories 🙂 Speaking of that, what about the people who WANT to live in a haunted house! They are out there!! We own a 1925 bungalow, lived in it for 7 years and never had any weird vibes or anything. I was visited by the granddaughter of the original owner on the last day that we lived there and she told me her grandmother had died in her sleep, in her/our bedroom. Crazy! How many times had I stared up at that same ceiling contemplating real estate deals 😉 Oddly enough, after the granddaughter left and I was alone in the house cleaning up, I didn’t stay much longer, haha, even though I had lived peacefully there for 7 years! So I do think that part of it is all in your mind!! Thanks Sharon!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    London – Maybe you just became more aware or sensitive to things. At the very least, it was probably just sitting there in the back of your mind. Sharon
    London Fajkus
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I love ghost stories 🙂 Speaking of that, what about the people who WANT to live in a haunted house! They are out there!! We own a 1925 bungalow, lived in it for 7 years and never had any weird vibes or anything. I was visited by the granddaughter of the original owner on the last day that we lived there and she told me her grandmother had died in her sleep, in her/our bedroom. Crazy! How many times had I stared up at that same ceiling contemplating real estate deals 😉 Oddly enough, after the granddaughter left and I was alone in the house cleaning up, I didn’t stay much longer, haha, even though I had lived peacefully there for 7 years! So I do think that part of it is all in your mind!! Thanks Sharon!
    London Fajkus
    Replied about 6 years ago
    I love ghost stories 🙂 Speaking of that, what about the people who WANT to live in a haunted house! They are out there!! We own a 1925 bungalow, lived in it for 7 years and never had any weird vibes or anything. I was visited by the granddaughter of the original owner on the last day that we lived there and she told me her grandmother had died in her sleep, in her/our bedroom. Crazy! How many times had I stared up at that same ceiling contemplating real estate deals 😉 Oddly enough, after the granddaughter left and I was alone in the house cleaning up, I didn’t stay much longer, haha, even though I had lived peacefully there for 7 years! So I do think that part of it is all in your mind!! Thanks Sharon!
    Vania
    Replied about 6 years ago
    What about the story of how the first hospital in the country treating cancer, became multimillion dollars condominiums!!! Read this interesting story on this link: http://curbed.com/archives/2012/12/05/haunted-castle-on-central-park-now-luxury-condominums.php
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    What an interesting story Vania. We have an old TB hospital here that hasn’t been used in decades. The hold ghost tours there every year. That too was a place folks went to die since most folks didn’t recover from TB. It’s called Waverly Hills and it’s been named one of the most haunted structures in the US. Sharon
    Vania
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Sharon, After reading more about Waverly Hill I noted that there are many historical similarities between Waverly Hills and the Castle in Central Park, although I doubt the end for both places is going to be similar. The reputation of Waverly Hill might be very hard to change now, so I doubt that the place ever becomes residential.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Vanai – I can guarantee you that no one will make a hotel out of Waverly. Too much history there. Sharon
    Rachel
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Good info to know Sharon! I had no idea such a site existed. Thanks for sharing this resource. Great tips! 🙂
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Hey Rachel – I just found out about it. More information that we may never need. LOL. How is that pretty little girl doing? Sharon
    Rachel
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Most definitely Sharon! Been sick. 🙁 Though, it’s nice to be able to stay home and take a day off or two while the passive income still comes in. 😛
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Aww – I’m sorry to hear that. And yes it is. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Aww – I’m sorry to hear that. And yes it is. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Aww – I’m sorry to hear that. And yes it is. Sharon
    Rachel
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Most definitely Sharon! Been sick. 🙁 Though, it’s nice to be able to stay home and take a day off or two while the passive income still comes in. 😛
    Rachel
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Most definitely Sharon! Been sick. 🙁 Though, it’s nice to be able to stay home and take a day off or two while the passive income still comes in. 😛