"Why, yes. Funny you should ask, but dear Aunt Sarah did pass away in the master bedroom earlier this year."

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Select

Or, worse yet, from the next door neighbor welcoming the new couple," It was such a shame when they found Mr. Smith in the basement last fall. He was such a quiet man."

While death is a natural end to the cycle of life, how does the news of a prior death within a now listed property affect the resale today?  I pose this question because upon listing a home, my office has a question on our property disclosure that addresses this issue.

I have asked the question to many buyers if they would find a death on the property bothersome to the point of choosing not to pursue a purchase of that home.  My informal findings were basically related to age of the buyer answering the question.  Older buyers are less bothered, but only if the death was natural.  Younger buyers range from, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know" to "No, I would not purchase a home where I know there was any type of death."  Most buyers answered they would not consider a purchase where there had been a suicide or other violent death.

With the onset of more and more of our sick and elderly choosing to die at home in peace and with dignity, how has this trend affected real estate price and resale? Do other areas disclose death in the home, both natural and tragic?

Personally, I have experienced an at home death in my immediate family, and was grateful hospitalization was not involved.  And, I have purchased a home where I was told that a natural death of the elderly owner occurred.  On the other hand, a few years ago, I backed away from the purchase of a home where the seller informed me while standing in the basement that her son had committed suicide in the very spot where we stood.

With the multitude of foreclosed homes without owners to inquire of onsite deaths, are agents exposed to issues of buyer agency neglect? If buyers find the issue of death within a property uncomfortable, should they make this fact known to their agent?  Most buyers truly haven't considered the possibilty, but their preference may make a difference if asked.

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Tammy Lankford
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Your Lake Sinclair Expert (706-485-9668)

It's not on the GAR disclosure I use and while I do from time to time know of a home where it happens, hasn't been one of my listings so far.

May 29, 2009 09:20 PM #1
Rainer
70,759
Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Tammy- As a buyer's agent, I have run into this from time to time.  Homes where I found out later that suicides had occurred, and no one knew...except the neighbors.

May 29, 2009 09:25 PM #2
Rainer
179,085
Erik Hitzelberger
RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes - Louisville, KY
Louisville - Middletown Real Estate

I keep trying to think of how I would react to a seller who told me a story like that about her son.  As a buyer, I'd offer condolences and move on.  I don't think I'd want to think about that every time I went into the basement.  As a listing agent, ?

May 29, 2009 09:44 PM #3
Rainer
70,759
Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Erik- It's far more common than any of us realized.  In the past, we just haven't asked.

May 29, 2009 09:48 PM #4
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Linda Pitts
Sue Wilkinson Real Estate, LLC - Brandon, MS

I had a neighbor that lived beside a home I had on the market come to an open house last year and spilled the beans.   She came in a started talking about the home being overpriced and how the previous owner had "bled out" all over the carpet, etc., and she would not quit talking.  I didn't even know that someone had died in the house, but needless to say; I didn't have anyone want to make an offer that day.  Dying is part of living and unfortunately people die in homes just like they live in homes.  I can't imagine a client even asking if someone had died in a home.............

May 29, 2009 10:01 PM #5
Rainer
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Shane OnullGorman
Eau Claire Realty, Inc. - Eau Claire, WI
Eau Claire Wisconsin, Real Estate Agent & Realtor- Buy or Sell

I had someone ask me the other day and I honestly had no clue and felt good not knowing.

May 29, 2009 10:04 PM #6
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70,759
Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Linda- Better the facts were spilled before a sale than to the new owners after the closing.  Buyers are too quick to sue as it is.

Shane- I'm not so sure not knowing is enough if we are the buyer's agent. We are to know or discover for them far more than what most agents realize.

May 29, 2009 10:08 PM #7
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341,559
Elizabeth Bolton
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA - Cambridge, MA
Cambridge MA Realtor

Hi Teresa ~ I would find it hard to believe that finding out about a death occurring in a house is a buyer's agent's responsibility.  I'm fairly sure that in my state we are not required to disclose something like that but have to tell the truth if asked directly. My personal take - I own a very old house and simply assume that people have been born and have died in it. 

Liz

May 29, 2009 10:13 PM #8
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Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Liz- I agree, and although I am not involved, I have some knowledge of a buyer trying to sue for this very reason. If you have taken the ABR training, the information will scare you concerning what responsibilites a Buyer Agency Agreement sets the agent up for.

May 29, 2009 10:18 PM #9
Rainmaker
502,098
Brian Burke
Kenna Real Estate - Highlands Ranch, CO
Broker & Advising Expert-Denver Luxury Real Estate

Here we actually have a commission rule that goes something like (don't quote me on it) without sellers or buyers agreeing to it we are not to disclose any facts or suspicions regarding circumstances that could psychologically impact or stigmatize the property. Which would include deaths, etc. We are actually dealing with a haunted house situation! Never had that come up yet. ~Rita

May 29, 2009 10:25 PM #10
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70,759
Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Rita and Brian- I prefer the rule you have, but am not aware of anything like it here.

May 29, 2009 10:29 PM #11
Rainmaker
653,023
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

For some buyers this might be a bit spooky - but others not so much.

May 29, 2009 10:35 PM #12
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Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Bob and Carolin- Yes, some buyers may be bothered while others may not.  My thought is what happens when a neighbor is the one to spill the beans after a couple moves in who didn't know the info before.  We live in a WalMart society where connsumers are spoiled by if you find something wrong, just return it and get your money back. 

May 29, 2009 10:42 PM #13
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122,535
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Teresa,

Interesting topic. I guess I would have kind of mixed feelings about it, if i was buying. I believe in CA you don't have to disclose if it's been more than three years, unless the buyer directly asks. But I could be wrong about that. I know some listing agents though that routinely ask when doing the property disclosure statement. Probably for liability reasons.

May 30, 2009 08:31 AM #14
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Teresa Cox King
RE/MAX Select - Fairhope, AL
Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile

Michael- I do run into this from time to time, and wondered what other agents across the US had experienced with it as well.  Do you think it affects resale, and how so, price? Length of time on market, etc?

May 30, 2009 08:57 AM #15
Rainmaker
222,740
Brian Brumpton
Keller Williams Boise - Boise, ID
Boise Idaho Real Estate

Teresa,

I was wondering about this recently.  There was an REO that sold recently in our neighborhood where the previous owner had died.  We're not required to disclose it but as soon as the new owners move in sure enough one of the neighbors will tell them. 

I wonder if it isn't fair not to be given the choice.  I would have backed away from the purchase the same as you in that instance.

May 30, 2009 08:36 PM #16
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Teresa Cox King

Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Mobile
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