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Real Estate Fight Club

Aug 2020

Episode 49: Should You Disclose If a Murder Happened in a Home?

August 31, 2020

In Episode 49 of the Toe-2-Toe Podcast, hosts Jenn Murtland and Monica Weakley debate the ethical obligation realtors have to disclose to buyers if a home they’re looking at has had a murder, suicide, death or other disturbing incident happen there. Listen to Monica’s reasons why you should, Jenn’s reasons why she’s hesitant to make a definitive statement, and find out where the tie-breaker falls on the issue! 

Episode Highlights: 

  • Do you need to disclose a murder/suicide/meth lab/etc, that happened in a property?
  • Each state has legal guidelines about this, but Jenn and Monica are referring not to legal obligations but ethical ones.
  • Jenn’s initial response is that information is generally not applicable to the sale.
  • She doesn’t believe it’s unethical to not disclose.
  • Jenn also believes that she doesn’t need to disclose because most of the time if a murder or suicide happened recently, chances are a neighbor will be outside during showings offering that information for you.
  • Monica believes disclosing this information is important context about the history of the house.
  • If you disclose, and the buyers care about it, they won’t buy it; if you disclose and they don’t care, then it won’t matter.
  • Monica makes the distinction between unusual and disturbing situations like murder/suicide, and a natural death occurring in the home.
  • Monica also would disclose a meth lab because of the toxicity, and it’s along the same lines as disclosing lead-based paint.
  • Jenn and Monica discuss what they would do if a murder didn’t necessarily occur in the home but a convicted murderer or other criminal lived there.
  • Ultimately, Monica believes anything that might be important to the buyer should be disclosed.
  • Tie-breaker Maryann Ries comes on and uses the golden rule as her benchmark: “Would I want someone to disclose this to me?”
  • Particularly if something affects the value of the house, like a murder, it should definitely be disclosed to buyers.
  • Another question to ask is how long ago the incident happened—the longer ago, the less likely it is to affect the value.

3 Key Points:

  1. Some buyers won’t care about the history of the home.
  2. The context of the event that happened is important. For example: was it a long time ago? Did it involve someone who lived in the home but the event didn’t happen there?
  3. Consider whether it’s something you would want disclosed to you as a home buyer.

Resources Mentioned: