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The Most Important Question to Ask When Buying a Home.

Updated on July 8, 2014

Common Questions

Just imagine you have been looking at houses all day and you finally find one that ticks all the boxes, in fact you can imagine yourself living there happily for some time. You have a list of questions that you want to put to the agent and most of them are quite common enough. Some of the most common questions Real estate Agents get asked might include;

  • How long the property has been on the market
  • How many times it has been listed
  • Is the house susceptible to flood
  • Have there been any renovations and have they been done by a qualified trades person
  • Why the vendor is selling
  • Is the vendor negotiable on price

Overlooked Question

There is a very important question that is either overlooked or doesn't get asked for fear of embarrassment. This questions could be too late to ask once the papers are signed and so this is why I would like to draw buyers attention to it.

Has anyone died in this home?

For a lot of people this may not be a big issue especially if the death was by natural causes. But what if someone had died a slow painful death from cancer or worse still if someone had been murdered in the house you are keen on buying? Would that change your mind about wanting to live in it, perhaps even to raise a young family in?

Isn't it better to ask the question straight up?

Can I Ask You a Question?

Have you ever asked an agent if there had been a death in the house?

See results

Sales Agent Obligations

The majority of Real Estate Agents will respond truthfully when asked questions because their reputation is paramount and the industry is extremely competitive. However I believe the questions need to be asked in the first place. Even the best Estate Agent might be tempted to withhold information regarding a murder unless by law they were obligated to disclose it to prospective buyers. You would need to contact the appropriate organisations in your country or state to check the obligations of disclosure to buyers.

Most house hunters are worried about the price of the home and how much mortgage they will left to pay, how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are and will their furniture fit in, or if the location is close to schools and shops. Then comes the price negotiating and all the paperwork, all of which can be very stressful.

Imagine going through all of that, moving into your dream home and then finding out there had been a murder in your lovely new home, which is similar to what happened to a woman in Missouri.

Home's Violent Past

In March 2014 a lady received a call from a friend telling her her house had been featured on a documentary on television. The home's previous occupant had used it as a torture and murder chamber for (allegedly) over twenty women ten years prior, had subsequently been charged with killing two of the women but had hanged himself while in custody in prison.

The murderers mother, who owns the house, failed to disclose this information to the new tenant and even gave her a dining table that was featured in crime scene photographs. Wanting to get out of the lease agreement proved difficult, that is until the St Louis Housing Authority intervened, because the owner insisted she had told the tenant even though there is no duty to disclose in that state.

Although this story relates to tenants of rental properties it is clear that this could happen to anyone. Luckily this lady was able to break her lease and leave the house but if you are purchasing a house the contract are much more difficult, if not impossible, to break.

The Need to Know

Personally I would much rather know of a homes history and then make my decision, but for those who would rather not know they take a risk in finding out in the future and having to find somewhere else to live or to live with the knowledge every day of what had occurred.

Some people might not care about a homes history and if the home had been the setting for murder they might see it as a plus. They might be able to secure the house for a bargain price (sometimes up to 3% less). But if the house has become so well known due to a high profile crime just like the house in the infamous JoBenet Ramsey case, then nothing would be worth the constant stream of tourist traffic past your home. It all comes down to people's perception of death, murder and crime and I suppose who died or was murdered.

Houses once lived in by now dead celebrities; dead by natural causes, suicide or murder vary in selling price and time to sell. Many real estates handling once famous clients estates have reported unusually high numbers of 'lookers' who really just wanted to see the house the celebrity lived in and had no intention of purchasing. Other genuine buyers are not particularly interested in the celebrity and are simply after a bargain. None the less with Oscar Pistorius' home being put up for sale to pay for legal fees there will no doubt be hordes of 'lookers' along with a handful of bargain hunters.

Beliefs

Our beliefs are an important factor in most every decision we make. When it comes to buying a house our beliefs play a part as well. If there is a nice story surrounding the home such as the owners hosting their daughters wedding on the property, or at one time it used to be owned by a well known and liked entrepreneur, then we get the 'feel' for the house. How many times have you entered someones home and not liked the way you feel? Perhaps not everyone experiences this but for some people it is constant.

It is not only psychics who are aware of a homes' past, some people experience a creepy, sometimes bad feeling about a home or even a particular room. So it is very important to take your beliefs about death and the afterlife, and any feelings you have about a house into account before you sign on the dotted line. in fact there are many cultures who take this very seriously and are, what some might call, superstitious about houses that have housed death.

To Do List For Renters and Buyers

  • Make a list of questions to ask your agent
  • Ensure that list includes 'Has anyone died in this house?'
  • Try to get this disclosure in writing before you sign anything
  • Google the address, you might be surprised what you find, in fact google the suburb because it might give you a good idea of how safe the neighbourhood is.
  • Chat to any neighbours. It will give you a feel for who you will be living close to and the opportunity to find out if the agent has misled you with his answer to that question
  • Dont forget to be realistic about the answer to the question, after all the older the home, the more likely it has seen a death, maybe even two.
  • Ask yourself the question. How do I and my family feel about living in a home where someone has died?

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