Entry 342: This Could Kill Your Property Value

We now continue our brief series about morbid, single-minded websites my daughter emailed me.

In my last post, I introduced you to doesthedoggiedie.com, a site which warns parents in advance about horrible, horrible movies like Old Yeller in which, well, you know.

Then my lovely daughter sent me a link to a website called diedinhouse.com where, for theDIH%20Logo%20Banner2[1] low, low price of just $11.99, you can find out if anyone ever died in your house.

Diedinhouse.com positions itself like a kind of Carfax for the easily queasy. Whereas Carfax tells you if a used car you’re about to buy has been involved in an accident, Diedinhouse.com tells you if the home you’re about to buy or rent has been involved in a murder. Or a suicide. Or even if gramps simply passed away peacefully in his sleep…in the bed that comes with your furnished apartment.

I can understand dropping 12 bucks to find out if the $800,000 colonial you’re considering was the location of a mass murder involving power tools. Some people are turned off by that sort of thing. Although others, I think, would consider it a point of pride. “See here,” they might say to a visitor while giving the grand tour, “there’s still a bit of brain on the bannister.”

At the very least, you could use the fact that the home was once wrapped with crime scene tape as a negotiating tool. “The inspection revealed a small leak in the roof and the built-inhazeltonsweeney1[1] bookshelves appear to be made out of femurs. How about you cut your price by $10,000?”

And I suppose it’s reasonable to want to make sure no one has used the oven in your rental for some Sweeney Todd-like endeavor before you move in with your wife and two young children.

But why would you request a diedinhouse.com report for a property you already own?

“Homeowner: Do you know your’s home’s history?” asks the diedinhouse.com website.

Well, let’s see. I know it was built in 1957. It’s had four owners. And nobody seems to know exactly where the well is. But let me buy a diedinhouse.com report and find out more.

“Hey, Barbara,” I would call to my wife after reading the report, “did you know the second owners of our house hung themselves in the guest bathroom?”

“No I did not know that,” Barb would reply calmly. “Thank you for imparting that information. Now excuse me while I go throw up. In the master bathroom.”

stairsWhat good does it do you to know that kind of thing about your house? What are you going to do about it, move? If it bothers you, I don’t think just changing the shower curtain is going to solve your problem. The only way knowing if someone died in your house would be remotely useful is if the death occurred as a result of, say, the Bessler stairs to the attic suddenly coming down on their own and crushing a person. Then I might want to call in a handyman.

Of course, there is one instance when a homeowner might logically shell out $11.99 for a “who died in my house” report: when it is suspected that the deceased is still residing there.

Or, as the diedinhouse.com site says, “Looking for former residents who have died?”

Yeah, well I’m not looking for them exactly. I’d just like to know who I’m addressing when I plead with them to stop moving the furniture around.

The website seems to think there might be another good reason: “Do you want to gain buyers’ confidence?” I can just see that conversation: “We redid the roof in ‘08, the kitchen is totally remodeled, the living room is hardwired for Surround Sound.  Oh, and nobody’s ever died here.”

That is quite the selling point.

This got me to thinking, though: If a homeowner did discover via diedinhouse.com that there had been a death in the house, would he or she be required to disclose that to a perspective buyer?

According to my real estate agent wife, the answer is usually no…unless the buyer asks you. And that is a great reason not to get a diedinhouse report: plausible deniability. “Oh,” you could reply to the rather creepy homebuyer who has inquired about your property’s mortality rate, “I don’t know that anyone has passed away here. But how, um, thorough of you for asking.”

I also found a reply to the death disclosure question on Yahoo Answers, which added this word of advice:

“Finally, since neither the seller nor the listing agent is likely to disclose the information you want, how do you find out if anything has happened in a home you are considering? Easy! Just ask the neighbors. Deaths, rumors of ghosts, etc. are juicy items of discussion between nearby neighbors anytime an event of this nature occurs. Knock on a few doors, introduce yourself as a prospective buyer, and ask what they know about the home you are considering.”

Well wouldn’t that be an excellent way to make new friends? “Sorry to bother you, but we’re thinking of buying the house next door, and we were wondering if there has ever been any sensationally violent crimes there. No? Great. And can you tell us if you ever hear moaning in the night?”

I can guarantee you those people will not be showing up with a pie when the new neighbors move in. Unless maybe they’re the Sweeney Todd-type people.

I haven’t even mentioned a huge selling point of the diedinhouse.com service. You can get a “Free follow up in 30-Days.” What the hell is that? In case you’re wondering why the seller’s wife isn’t at the closing? Otherwise, once you move in, I think you’d probably be aware if someone died in the house since the original report.

It could even be you!

See you soon.

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