Here's How To Find Out If Someone Died In Your House

Here's How To Find Out If Someone Died In Your House

First, Prepare Yourself

If you’re looking at an older home or a historic property, it’s important to consider the customs and circumstances of eras gone by.

“Before we had huge hospitals available close to every location, dying at home was the norm,” says Denise Supplee, a licensed Realtor and co-founder of SparkRental.com. You could leave it at that and just assume somebody may have passed away in your home. But, if you insist, you can also … 

Search Historical Newspapers

If you live in an older home, searching newspaper archives may yield some fruitful information. You can search an address into these websites and you may find a digitized article that mentions your house. My go-to website for such searches is NewspaperArchive.

Take a look at this death report from a local Indiana newspaper from October 1950: 

The home was built in 1899 and is still standing t

The home was built in 1899 and is still standing today! Check it out:

I’m sure the occupant would be curious about

I’m sure the occupant would be curious about the lives lived in their home in the past. I know I would be! Hopefully, Jesse is resting peacefully and the place isn’t haunted. 

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee your address will be printed in a historical newspaper. However, the older your home is the greater the odds that this will have occurred. 

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Does Actually Work?

As with any online search tool, it’s essential to realize that the information you’re getting is based on public reports as well as volunteered information from local residents. The site itself makes a point of having a disclaimer that there’s no guarantee to the accuracy of the information. In general, it seems to have good records starting in the 1980s as that’s when information on deaths in homes become public record in most parts of the country. The site also claims to gather historical information that goes further back, but it certainly isn’t perfect.

However, most people who use it agree that there is a decent amount of accuracy provided by the service. So while it’s not 100 percent accurate, it usually is accurate enough to be relied upon. 

In Most Cases, Its Not Required to Disclose Deaths

Laws around death disclosures vary state by state, but most states do not require sellers to disclose deaths of natural causes that took place in the home. It is only legally required to report these types of deaths in the states of Alaska, California, and South Dakota, and only for deaths that have occurred in the past three years, Elron says. In Georgia, disclosure is only required if the homebuyer asks (this also applies to landlords whose renters ask), Supplee says. 

Real estate transactions use Caveat Emptor, which translates to “Buyer Beware,” meaning the responsibility is on the buyer to discover adverse material facts, says Florida-based home insurance specialist and licensed Realtor Robyn Flint. 

“Legally speaking, Realtors are not typically required to disclose if a person has died in a home,” Flint says. While they are legally required to disclose foundation issues or a leaky roof, someone dying naturally inside a home falls outside the standard of adverse material facts, Flint says, reiterating that you should always check your state laws.

On the other hand, in most states, real estate agents must legally disclose if there has been a violent death or a highly publicized death on the property, Elron says. That’s in part because it can affect property values.

How do I find if someone has died UK?

Death records in the UK are public and you can generally find out the details of a deceased person’s death and burial online, such as with GOV.UK, publicrecordsearch.co.uk or deceasedonline.com.

Dig into Public Property Records

Getty / Loretta Hostettler

A variety of public land and property records can be used to identify the former owners of your home, as well as the land it sits on. Most of these property records will be found at the municipal or county office responsible for creating and recording property records, although older records may also have been moved to state archives or another repository. 

Tax Assessment Records:  Many counties have current property assessment records online (locate them through a search engine with [county name] and [state name] plus keywords such as assessor or assessment (e.g. pitt county nc assessor). If not online, then you'll find them computerized at the county assessor's office. Search by owner name or select the property parcel on a map to obtain the real property parcel number. This will provide information on the land and any current structures. In some counties, this parcel number can also be used to retrieve historical tax information. In addition to identifying property owners, tax records can be used to estimate a building's construction date by comparing the assessed value of the property from one year to the next. If buildings aren't specifically mentioned, you can identify possible construction by noting the date of an assessment that increases out of proportion to other nearby properties.

Deeds: Recorded copies of various types of land deeds can be used to identify former landowners. If you’re the homeowner, your own deed will likely identify the prior owners, as well as reference the prior transaction in which those owners first acquired title to the property. If you are not the home’s owner, then you can locate a copy of the deed by searching the grantee index at the local recorder’s office for the name(s) of the current property owner(s). Most deeds you read should reference the immediate prior owners of the property (the ones selling the home to the new owners) and, usually, the deed book and page number of the previous deed. Learn how to research a chain of title and how to find deeds online.

Do some more research

If a death was suspicious (or if a murder occurred), the local paper definitely wrote an article about it. Some quick googling can show you the recent history of the home. If you think a previous owner might have died in the home, you can cross-reference past owners of the property with local death records and/or obituaries. You can find a list of previous homeowners by visiting the county recorder’s office. You will be able to find death records in your local library and obituaries in newspaper archives (also often found at a local library).

The Power of Deduction

Let’s think logically for a moment: the older your home is the odds that someone died in it. For example, back in the Victorian era, it was common for births and deaths to occur at home. For a century-old house, the odds are pretty high that at least one member of a past family died within the house; particularly given the life expectancy in the early 20th century. 

Unfortunately, this thought experiment doesn’t yield much certainty. While it may be probable that someone has died in your home in the past, finding conclusive evidence may be challenging. 

#3: Newspaper Archives and Local Gossip

Many deaths — especially those that occurred in suspicious circumstances — are reported in local newspapers.

You can always try searching online for reports or obituaries concerning the home, or look in the library for archived newspaper reports. Neighbors are also a good source of local gossip.

If you are brave enough to knock on doors and ask some fairly awkward questions, you may be able to find some helpful information.

How to check if someone has died in your house

Whether you live in a state that requires the disclosure of previous deaths in a house, there are several ways you can go about finding out the answer yourself.

Ask the seller or your real estate agent

One way to find out whether someone has died in your home is simply to ask the real estate agent or seller. Depending on your state, the realtor may or may not be required to tell you, but you’ll never know until you try.

Search the home’s address

Entering a prospective home’s address in a search engine is a simple but effective first step to finding out if something notable has occurred in the house. This doesn’t have to be a death, but there could be other events that are worth knowing about, like certain crimes or house fires.

Research public records tied to the home’s address

Census records, deeds, and death certificates are all examples of documents that could be connected to a home’s address.

Search your community’s local news site

Even if your prospective home’s address isn’t explicitly named, you may be able to discover incidents tied to the house by using keywords associated with more general items, like the street or neighborhood name, or the names of past owners.It’s possible you may also come across obituaries of a previous owner that note that the deceased person died in their home.MORE: How to settle into a new house

Visit local community archives or genealogical societies

Your local library’s archives and regional genealogical societies may have records containing information about the house and previous inhabitants. If you’re lucky, they’ll be staffed by people who know the community like the back of their hand and might know the answers you’re looking for themselves or will at least be able to point you in the right direction.

Talk to neighbors

You don’t have to risk scaring your neighbors from the get-go by asking about deaths—you can simply ask what they know about the house and people who have lived there over the years. If you’ve done research on the home ahead of time and suspect a death might have occurred on the property, the information you’ve found can help you steer the conversation gently in that direction. Plus, talking to neighbors can give you a general sense of what people in the neighborhood are like and how well they know each other.

Use online databases

Some websites keep track of various events that happen on properties, from crimes to fires to deaths. Examples include HouseCreep.com and DiedInHouse.com.Some are free to use (and will have dubious levels of credibility), while others may require you to pay to search their records. Use these resources at your own discretion.You can also review census records via the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration or online databases set up by your area’s vital records office, which can be particularly helpful if you live in an older home.MORE: How to bundle home and auto insurance to save money

Why isn’t it easier to figure out?

Although curiosity is virtually universal, there is a reason most states don’t require sellers to disclose deaths which occurred in a house. If a particularly gruesome death occurred in the house, the property could become unnecessarily stigmatized and de-valued. However, if you are truly concerned that someone may have died in a house you’re looking to buy, do your own research and talk to the neighbors. 

Need some help finding a home? We can help. Trelora real estate serves Colorado, Seattle, Phoenix, and Raleigh. Our mission is simple: full service real estate for a fraction of the cost. When you hire a traditional agent to help you buy or sell your home, you pay that agent 3-6% of the home’s value. Trelora offers sellers a full-service experience for just 1%. Buyers pay nothing out of pocket and receive an average refund of $6,000 at closing. Take the smart way home. 

Christopher Stjernholm Christopher has been been in the Real Estate industry for 8 years and has had the opportunity to close over 1,000 deals while acting as the Managing Broker for thousands more. Christopher is passionate about continuing to find ways to simplify, maximize, and serve Trelora’s clients exceptionally well and spends his time building teams to deliver high levels of service. When not doing real estate Christopher can be seen training for marathons and ultra relays with his 2 year old daughter, eating pizza, and drinking a steady stream of Diet Coke.

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