This is just in time for Halloween. Let’s make up a ghost story….
You’ve been searching for a house to buy for your family to call home. You’ve done all the emotionally agonizing work: gone through your finances, income and debt with a fine-tooth comb with a mortgage lender that you barely know, and you wished he didn’t know all the gory details about your money!
You’ve looked at COUNTLESS houses and homes, some were so bad, dirty and crappy you want to forget them, some you desperately wanted but just couldn’t afford. You bid and made offers on dozens of homes, some of which were not ideal, but you settled for just because you didn’t know if you could get any better, or if “any better” even existed. But to no avail- you’re still without a home to call your own.
But then, like a God-send you find that perfect home. And yes, it’s perfect for you and your family. The layout is just right, the neighborhood is perfect. The community is EXACTLY what you had in mind. And the best part, the price and terms of the sale fit your budget! So you take the leap, make an offer, and the offer gets accepted!
Yes, there are some bumps in the road during the escrow and you have to jump through a few circus hoops to buy the home, but you do it! Success! Now it’s time to move in….
As you’re moving in the neighbors make friendly and come over to introduce themselves. But something’s not right; it seems every one of them looks at you with an examining eye, almost saying “Do they know?”
And then the neighbor that you soon realize is the gossiper on the block blurts it out “Did you know so-and-so died here last year?” WHAT?! Your heart sinks. You hope this talkative neighbor is wrong. “Please, please be wrong!” You also hope that if they ARE right, that it happened long, long ago. You push her for more information but she suddenly clams up for the first time in her loose-lipped life!
So you call your agent the next day and pose the question “Did someone die here? If so, I need the details!” The agent innocently proclaims “If someone did die there, I had no idea, I swear!” But she promises she will “get to the bottom of this!”
A week rolls by before you hear anything, well, anything from the agent. Unfortunately, you’ve heard plenty of creaks and bumps around the house at night. Is it just your imagination? Are you just hearing things? And then, finally, your agent calls you back. “Um, yes, someone did die in the house. Yes, it happened last year.” You ask “Well, how did they die?” hoping it was from natural causes, with their loving family around them comforting them as they passed to the other side. But that’s when the REALLY bad news comes….
“Someone was killed there.”
“You mean like an accident?” you beg.
“No, a murder.”
“A murder!” you angrily exclaim!
“Well, a murder, then the killer committed suicide.” the agent meekly admits.
“WHAT?!?! A MURDER SUICIDE?!?!?!”
Que in the horror film music and the scariness ensues…..
First off, here in the state of California, and I would be willing to bet most states, it’s the law that a home seller and any agent involved in the sale of the house must disclose any deaths that happened on the property within a certain time-frame. Here in California, it’s within the last three years. California is also working on extending this rule’s time-frame. Check with your state to be sure of their regulations.
But here’s the caveat: If the agents and/or sellers didn’t know, they are not legally bound to disclose it- because they didn’t know in the first place! Agents are required to do their ‘Due Diligence” to safeguard against these types of oversights, but sometimes things can and do slip through the cracks of a real estate transaction. (Keep in mind we are not attorneys, and we don’t claim to provide any legal advice. Please check with a licensed real estate attorney from your state for ANY legal advice.)
So what can you do to prevent this? First, ask any agents involved AND the sellers if anyone has ever died in the house. If they say they don’t know, insist they investigate and get back to you with a definitive answer of “Yes” or “No”.
And now there’s another tool: DiedInHouse.com. Yes, now there is a website that can investigate whether or not someone died in a house, more importantly, in the house you want to buy! There is a fee associated with it, about $12 bucks, and the initial and immediate search does not always find out the haunting details, but the website does state that it will continue to search death records for a full thirty days and notify you of any findings.
Whether or not the website is accurate is yet to be seen or proved either way. But I can tell you this if it doesn’t find details of a death or deaths in a house, or in a few houses, and people rely on this information to purchase, but later on find out the opposite is true, the possible lawsuits could be frightening!
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