Do You Have to Disclose a Recent Death when Selling a House?
When a parent or loved one dies, their home is often one of the first items to be put on the market. Because a house is considered part of their estate, the sale of the house can be used to help pay for the funeral, settle debts, and serve as an inheritance for the family left behind.
However, when the parent or loved one actually passes away within the physical structure, selling the home might not be as easy as listing it with a real estate agent and hoping for the best. Death has a way of putting many buyers off, and you might find yourself hesitant to divulge personal details that are painful to you.
Death of Natural Causes
When death occurs because of natural causes, it is not anyone’s business where the death occurred—and it may be illegal for potential buyers to ask you directly. Unless there are extenuating circumstances that physically impact the structure of the home (in cases where death was not discovered right away or a fire occurred), the death is not relevant to the home’s value.
However, you may still wish to let your real estate agent know all the details. Although they may do nothing more than wave off the information as unimportant, it is good to be up front so they can prepare for questions from buyers.
Death by Murder or Suicide
When a catastrophic death occurs, you may be legally obligated to disclose the details before the home can be put on the market, since it is considered to have a major impact on the home’s value. Regulations regarding this kind of disclosure depends largely on location, so check with a local real estate agent or property official to be sure.
Even if this information is not legally required, it still tends to be common knowledge—especially if death occurred fairly recently. News reports, property details, and neighborhood gossip can all contribute to the stigma surrounding the home, and chances are people will find out about it anyway. Most potential buyers would prefer to know that you are being upfront about the situation right from the start rather than trying to hide things.
Dealing with the Stigma of Death
Everyone deals with the stigma of death a little differently. For some families, it is unthinkable to consider living in a home where a recent death occurred; for others, the previous owners are less important than things like square footage and having access to good schools.
Your goal in trying to sell a home where death occurred is to find the second kind of buyer. Highlight the home’s good points as much as possible—even if it means putting in a little money or hard work. Make the curb appeal even more inviting, apply fresh coats of paint and flooring, do what you can to create an airy, cheerful atmosphere.
There’s nothing you can do to change a home’s history, but you can help give it a positive future.