Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize you haven't.
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?"
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 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.
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 U.S. 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?
This article originally appeared on The Bigger Pockets Blog.
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