A Death in the Property


The most common question that I hear while holding an open house has got to be “Why are they selling?” There is, of course, multiple possible ways to answer that question. One of those ways is because of the death of a homeowner. Since I’ve been around the issue has gotten to be a fairly important one from a disclosure standpoint. Many many people want to know if there has been a death in the property.

One of the two main disclosures that sellers are responsible to fill out asks this question:

“Are you aware of any death, natural or otherwise, having occurred on the property within the last 3 years?”

At any trust sale listing that I’ve had, the question comes up all the time at the open houses. Some folks are not comfortable if the answer to that question is yes. It often has a bearing on the ultimate value of a home. I sold a buyer a fixer upper in Pacifica recently that was a trust sale and the buyer is getting an FHA loan. One of the criteria in an FHA appraisal is whether or not someones recently died on the property.

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s not a bad thing from marketing perspective. I’ve had more than one trust sale listing where the seller passed away of natural causes in the house at or near 100 years of age. In both cases we got multiple offers…the house was perceived as lucky.

What’s not perceived as lucky is the home where a violent crime has taken place with a death as a result. A murder took place at a waterfront house in Foster City a few years ago and the house took a very long time to sell and went for significantly less than it’s natural value because of that crime. Currently, there’s a 2639 sq ft, 4 bedroom house in San Mateo that’s in foreclosure and priced at an incredibly low $889,000 because of a murder that took place there late in 2008.

For what it’s worth, none of this I’m making light of. No matter how you look at it, if you’re buying it’s a good thing to know all of the facts. There may be a reason for that great deal you’ve found. The question will be, are you comfortable with the details?


  1. Joy Thomas says:

    Interesting question! When my husband sold his family home in San Mateo County, the details of the death rendered it a non-issue for some cultures and some people. When death occurred, he was carrying his father. Perhaps it was the fact that his dad was not actually resting on the house or that fact that it was a comforting way to die…

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