How to Know if Someone Died in Your House

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|10 min read

Death is a natural part of life. However, not every buyer is okay with moving into a house that someone recently died in. Non-natural deaths (suicide or homicide) can stigmatize a house and make it less desirable on the market.

Many potential buyers don’t want to move into a space with such negative energy. Experts estimate that a non-natural death can lower the value of a home by 10-25%.   

If you are in the market for a new home, you can learn if someone died in the house before you make an offer. This can help you avoid bad energy – and potentially ghosts if you believe in them – or it could help you make a competitive offer on a stigmatized property.

You could get a great deal on a house with a motivated seller in the wake of a death. Here’s how to know if someone died in your house.

1. Inquire with Your Real Estate Agent

The first person to talk to is your Realtor. They will ask the seller’s agent about the history of the property. Your agent can help you learn about the previous owners and why they are selling the house.

This can also provide clues about how motivated they are. For example, if a couple is going through a divorce, they might be more willing to accept a lower offer if it means selling the house and moving away from each other. 

Your real estate agent should also be familiar with death disclosure laws in your state. These are meant to help buyers learn about the history of a home to create transparency in the buying process. 

Asking your Realtor to speak with the seller’s agent might not give you all the answers you need, but it can alert you to potential red flags with the property. If the listing agent is being vague or dodging questions about the house and the people who live there, they might be hiding something. It could be worth your time to dig deeper to learn about the property.

2. Review Death Disclosure Laws

Death disclosure laws determine whether a seller or seller’s agent is legally required to alert potential buyers to deaths on the property. If you live in a state that has one of these laws on the books, you should know if there was a death on-site before you move forward with the buying process. 

There are resources online that can provide insight into these laws on a per-state basis. For example, in Alaska, a Realtor must disclose any murders or suicides in the home over the past year. If they are unaware of any deaths – usually because the seller doesn’t mention them – they are not held liable.

Many states take a caveat emptor approach, which means buyer beware. The seller doesn’t have to disclose any deaths or other psychologically damaging information. It’s up to the buyer to do their own research. However, some states have explicit laws where if the seller is asked about a death on the property, they are required to answer truthfully. 

What about paranormal activity?

Similar laws apply to paranormal activity in a home, which is often the result of deaths on the property. John Adams, a real estate expert in Georgia, says a seller doesn’t need to disclose any ghostly presences in the house unless they could significantly affect the value of the home. 

It is in the best interest of the seller to disclose paranormal activity in the name of transparency. There have been lawsuits where buyers sued sellers because they knew about the activity and didn’t disclose it, which misled the buyer about the true state of the house.   

Adams even recommends to sellers that they should let buyers get the home inspected for paranormal activity if either party is worried that it will affect the living experience or value of the home. 

Whether you want to know if someone died in a house because of ghosts or simply to learn about the home’s history, look up the laws that protect you as a buyer.

If you don’t live in a state where a seller has to disclose a death in the house, it’s up to you to learn about the home’s history. Start by conducting a quick Google search using the home’s address. This should bring up any stories from local newspapers related to the property. 

If nothing comes up, take a step back and search for the street name and the city. Some news outlets won’t include the whole address. Instead, they will only publish the street name when reporting on a violent death or significant event. This will take more time. You might have to filter through stories from other homes – especially if you live on a popular street or large neighborhood. You also might have to identify whether the home is yours based on the photos included in the story.

This is the most common way to find out if someone died on your property without digging into deeper newspaper archives or seeking out specialty help. 

4. Talk to the Neighbors in the Community

If the owner isn’t willing to disclose deaths on the property, start asking around. After a home inspection or a showing, walk around the neighborhood. Chat with some of the neighbors about the house and see if they are willing to share any gossip. This is a good way to learn more about the property and to find out if someone’s died there. You might even meet your future neighbors and start your relationship off with a good conversation. 

You can also reach out to other community members to learn about the home. The local library is often home to vital records and documents related to the town. Such information is often buried in the archives but could be worth digging up. 

If you are looking at older houses, stop by the historical society to see if they have any information. They could have copies of printed newspapers in their historical archives that talk about the history of the area. Paranormal activity can last for centuries. The strange noises you hear during a walkthrough could be from a death in the 19th century if you are buying a historic home.

5. Directly Ask the Homeowner

If you don’t want to search through death certificates and other vital records, reach out to the homeowner or ask your agent to do so. They may be required to disclose any known deaths, even if they didn’t own the property when they occurred. 

If you encounter the owner during the inspection process, you can simply ask if anyone has died in your house. This should clear up any confusion about the situation. 

Talking to the homeowner can also reveal information about the people who they bought the house from, giving you insight into the property’s history. For example, they might mention how there was drug activity on the property which is how one of the residents died. This can provide valuable insights that are hard to specifically search.

6. Examine Public Records

Local government offices can also help you learn if someone died in your house. You can look at death notices and see if any records are tied to your home. Even if a death didn’t specifically happen on your property, it could be associated with the previous owners and their families.

Fortunately, many public records offices are going digital. You won’t have to look at countless paper files and records. You can quickly use built-in search bars to find any information related to your home.

7. Explore Newspaper Archives

You can also turn to local newspapers to see if anyone has died in your house. Depending on the media outlet, the newspaper archive might also be digitized, allowing you to search quickly for your address and the names of the previous owners. 

There are many benefits of checking in with local newspapers. First, you can research beyond your property. You can research the names of previous owners to see if there are any obituaries that were published in the paper. You can also find in-depth newspaper articles about any important events tied to these people or the property. 

Another thing to consider in your search is that your home might have been rented out in the past. Checking ownership records is a good step, but it’s not the only source of information. If someone rented your home and died while living there, you might have a harder time tying the death to your property. This is particularly true if the tenant’s body was returned to their family in another part of the country to be buried. The local paper might not have covered the story if the person who passed wasn’t connected to the community.

8. Utilize Online Services

If you are still convinced that someone died in your house despite not being able to find death notices or newspaper archives on the topic, you can use a specific search engine to get the answers you need.

Diedinhouse.com and Housecreep.com are paid services that alert you to problems with people who previously lived on your property. Along with deaths, they highlight drug labs and other crimes that police scanners pick up. 

For example, if you search for an address in South Dakota, the websites will tell you whether a death is considered a material fact in the state that needs to be disclosed. They will also pull up news reports that you weren’t able to find on your own.

9. Hire an Investigator

In the event that you try these other options and can’t find the answers you need, consider hiring a professional investigator to find out if someone died in your house. These experts can look into the previous owners and any relations that might have passed on the property.

For example, the owners might not have died in your house, but one of their visiting family members could have. The owners might also have been able to avoid any crime reports if they died by natural causes or by suicide.  

This is a good channel if you want to know if anyone’s died on your property in any way. Many folks pass quietly through home hospice care and don’t require news stories. An investigator can look at obituaries and other avenues to determine if anyone has passed away in the home and if that person was in distress when they died.

Find a Realtor to Research a Property’s History

There are multiple ways to learn whether someone has died in your house. This is important whether you are making an offer on a home or are already living there. Real estate agents can check property records and death certificates to learn what happened in your house.

They can also help you understand if you are living in a stigmatized property because of any violent deaths. This will give you a clear picture of your property values if you plan to move forward with the purchase or potentially sell in the near future. 

Use FastExpert to find a real estate agent in your area. You can learn about various Realtors and their specialties – including those that sell stigmatized properties. It’s possible that your dream home was the site of a recent death. If you are okay with that and have full transparency about the situation, you can move forward with the purchase process.

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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