Ask the Homeowner or Agent

If you’re considering buying or renting a house and want to know if someone died within the home, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, some states require the seller to notify the buyer if someone has died within their home. 

Take for example the State of California, which considers someone dying in a home within the past three years a material fact. The sellers are therefore obligated to disclose it to buyers if the death occurred in the past three years. Other states (like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona) do not consider death to be a material fact and don’t require it to be disclosed. Talk to a real estate agent to learn about your state’s laws on the matter.

Regardless of state law, you are still able to ask the seller (or listing agent) whether a death has occurred within the home. It’s not an absurd question to ask considering that the manner in which someone dies could reveal something about the home itself. What if the home’s location was a contributing factor in the previous occupant’s death? This could be the case if someone died in a home invasion because the home was located in an area with a lot of transient passerbys. 

The bottom line is that asking doesn’t hurt! Owners probably won’t be eager to disclose what happened but it’s within your rights to ask. It is unlikely that they will lie about a death occurring on the property since they would be opening themselves up to a lawsuit in the future.

Conduct additional research

If a death seemed suspicious (or murder happened), the local newspaper almost certainly covered it in an article. A short Google search will reveal the home’s recent history. If you believe a prior owner died in the house, you can check local death records and obituaries for previous owners. Visit the county recorder’s office to obtain a list of prior homeowners. You can locate death records and obituaries in your local library’s newspaper archives (also often found at a local library). How can I confirm death in my house?

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Do some more research

If a death was suspicious (or if a murder occurred), the local paper definitely wrote an article about it. Some quick googling can show you the recent history of the home. If you think a previous owner might have died in the home, you can cross-reference past owners of the property with local death records and/or obituaries. You can find a list of previous homeowners by visiting the county recorder’s office. You will be able to find death records in your local library and obituaries in newspaper archives (also often found at a local library).

In Most Cases, Its Not Required to Disclose Deaths

Laws around death disclosures vary state by state, but most states do not require sellers to disclose deaths of natural causes that took place in the home. It is only legally required to report these types of deaths in the states of Alaska, California, and South Dakota, and only for deaths that have occurred in the past three years, Elron says. In Georgia, disclosure is only required if the homebuyer asks (this also applies to landlords whose renters ask), Supplee says. 

Real estate transactions use Caveat Emptor, which translates to “Buyer Beware,” meaning the responsibility is on the buyer to discover adverse material facts, says Florida-based home insurance specialist and licensed Realtor Robyn Flint. 

“Legally speaking, Realtors are not typically required to disclose if a person has died in a home,” Flint says. While they are legally required to disclose foundation issues or a leaky roof, someone dying naturally inside a home falls outside the standard of adverse material facts, Flint says, reiterating that you should always check your state laws.

On the other hand, in most states, real estate agents must legally disclose if there has been a violent death or a highly publicized death on the property, Elron says. That’s in part because it can affect property values.

Google it

If the thought of visiting a local government office or brick-and-mortar library scares you more than any haunted spirit, you can also try a search engine. Google the address, and look for any links from local news stations or obituaries.

“You should also experiment with queries that include your address followed by terms like ‘death,’ ‘murder,’ or ‘homicide’ so you can get a complete picture of your situation,” says interior designer Brett Elron of BarterDesign. Elron says as an interior designer, he’s had plenty of clients want to know if their home has had a death inside of it. 

“Before we had huge hospitals available close to every location, dying at home was the norm.”

#3: Newspaper Archives and Local Gossip

Many deaths — especially those that occurred in suspicious circumstances — are reported in local newspapers.

You can always try searching online for reports or obituaries concerning the home, or look in the library for archived newspaper reports. Neighbors are also a good source of local gossip.

If you are brave enough to knock on doors and ask some fairly awkward questions, you may be able to find some helpful information.

Is The Property Value Affected If Someone Died In My House?

Though it’s not something discussed on paper, it can affect your property value. Depending on the deaths, it could cause a serious drop in demand as well as home value. Sometimes, it can exceed 3 percent of the home’s value.

Locate Death Certificates

Winston Churchill's death certificate.

Bettmann/Getty Images

As you begin to identify the people who owned and lived in your home, the next step is to learn how and where each of them died. The best source for this type of information is usually the death certificate which will identify both the residence as well as the place of death, along with the cause of death. Many death databases and indexes can be accessed online—generally indexed by surname and year of death. You’ll have to look at the actual death certificate, however, to learn whether the individual actually died in the home.

Some death certificates and other death records can be found online in digitized format, while others will require a request through the appropriate state or local vital records office.

Someone Died In The House, Now What?

When an individual dies in the house, either attended or unattended, the first step is typically cleaning up the physical aftermath of their passing. This process can include removing blood, bodily fluids and any other physical items that may be harmful. When a family or property owner is left to clean their home after someone died in the house, it can be overwhelming. Rather than reaching out to friends or family to help, if someone has died in your house or a house you own, calling a professional trauma cleanup company like Aftermath is the best solution

Aftermath Home Trauma Cleaning Services

Don’t attempt to clean a house after a death is discovered. All Aftermath technicians employ a systematic approach to cleaning that ensures every trauma scene meets or exceeds hospital-grade disinfection standards. Contact us today for professional trauma cleaning services after a death in the home. 

Read the seller disclosure form

Read over the seller disclosure form to see if there’s anything that looks suspicious or anything that looks like it has been purposefully left blank. If so, talk to your real estate agent about having a conversation with the seller about the history of the home. It’s in their best interest to tell you the true history of the home because if you find out information about a death which would turn you away from buying the home at the last minute, the deal could fall through.However, most states don’t require the seller to disclose deaths which occurred in the home. California is the only state which requires a seller to disclose all deaths which occurred in the house over the past three years. The only other two states with death disclosure laws are Alaska and South Dakota, which require an owner to disclose any murders or suicides which occurred in the house within the past year. Some states do require a seller to disclose death information is a buyer asks, but the lines are a little blurred on exactly what is necessary to disclose.

More after jump! Continue reading below ↓

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What Are The Websites That Show If Someone Died In The House?

The most commonly-used service is DiedInHouse.com, which lets you find out if there are any known records of people dying in a specific house. It gets pricey, though—approximately $12 per search!

How to check if someone has died in your house

Whether you live in a state that requires the disclosure of previous deaths in a house, there are several ways you can go about finding out the answer yourself.

Ask the seller or your real estate agent

One way to find out whether someone has died in your home is simply to ask the real estate agent or seller. Depending on your state, the realtor may or may not be required to tell you, but you’ll never know until you try.

Search the home’s address

Entering a prospective home’s address in a search engine is a simple but effective first step to finding out if something notable has occurred in the house. This doesn’t have to be a death, but there could be other events that are worth knowing about, like certain crimes or house fires.

Research public records tied to the home’s address

Census records, deeds, and death certificates are all examples of documents that could be connected to a home’s address.

Search your community’s local news site

Even if your prospective home’s address isn’t explicitly named, you may be able to discover incidents tied to the house by using keywords associated with more general items, like the street or neighborhood name, or the names of past owners.It’s possible you may also come across obituaries of a previous owner that note that the deceased person died in their home.MORE: How to settle into a new house

Visit local community archives or genealogical societies

Your local library’s archives and regional genealogical societies may have records containing information about the house and previous inhabitants. If you’re lucky, they’ll be staffed by people who know the community like the back of their hand and might know the answers you’re looking for themselves or will at least be able to point you in the right direction.

Talk to neighbors

You don’t have to risk scaring your neighbors from the get-go by asking about deaths—you can simply ask what they know about the house and people who have lived there over the years. If you’ve done research on the home ahead of time and suspect a death might have occurred on the property, the information you’ve found can help you steer the conversation gently in that direction. Plus, talking to neighbors can give you a general sense of what people in the neighborhood are like and how well they know each other.

Use online databases

Some websites keep track of various events that happen on properties, from crimes to fires to deaths. Examples include HouseCreep.com and DiedInHouse.com.Some are free to use (and will have dubious levels of credibility), while others may require you to pay to search their records. Use these resources at your own discretion.You can also review census records via the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration or online databases set up by your area’s vital records office, which can be particularly helpful if you live in an older home.MORE: How to bundle home and auto insurance to save money

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