Did Someone Die in My House? [How to Find Out in 2019]
Everyone has thought the same morbid thought: has someone died in my house? Some may be motivated by sheer curiosity while others may think there’s paranormal activity in their home. It's important information to know considering that it could impact the value of your home.
Regardless of your motivations, I’ve compiled a list of strategies you can use to potentially answer that question.
Ask the Homeowner or Agent
If you’re considering buying or renting a house and want to know if someone died within the home, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, some states require the seller to notify the buyer if someone has died within their home.
Take for example the State of California, which considers someone dying in a home within the past three years a material fact. The sellers are therefore obligated to disclose it to buyers if the death occurred in the past three years. Other states (like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona) do not consider death to be a material fact and don’t require it to be disclosed. Talk to a real estate agent to learn about your state’s laws on the matter.
Regardless of state law, you are still able to ask the seller (or listing agent) whether a death has occurred within the home. It’s not an absurd question to ask considering that the manner in which someone dies could reveal something about the home itself. What if the home’s location was a contributing factor in the previous occupant’s death? This could be the case if someone died in a home invasion because the home was located in an area with a lot of transient passerbys.
The bottom line is that asking doesn’t hurt! Owners probably won’t be eager to disclose what happened but it’s within your rights to ask. It is unlikely that they will lie about a death occurring on the property since they would be opening themselves up to a lawsuit in the future.
Search Address on Google
The next best (and free) way to find out any dirt about your property would be through searching the address on a search engine like Google. You might be able to find some online news articles or contemporaneous information on blogs or forums.
Quick tip: Try entering the house number and street name in quotes and leave the type of road (Avenue, Street, etc) outside of those quotes. For example, the search 123 Main Street NW becomes “123 Main Street” NW. This will help broaden the search results and may turn up more information about your house. If it’s too broad, try including the type of road in quotes as well.
Also, try a Twitter Search while you’re at it. Sometimes you’ll find addresses mentioned by newscasters people who report on information over police scanners. Doesn’t hurt to try!
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 today! Check it out:
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.
Talk to Locals
Talking to neighbors is another free strategy that can yield far more valuable information than anything that can be found on the web. Chances are, some of your neighbors have been living in their homes for decades. They know all about the past occupants of your house and could provide some very useful information.
As you can imagine, someone dying in a neighborhood is a big deal. There are ambulances, police, firefighters, the coroner, and sometimes even news media. Anyone in the neighborhood at the time will surely remember it and could recall what happened to you. They’ll be able to provide a far more vivid and accurate depiction of what happened than news or police reports. Don’t be afraid to ask!
There’s an entire site dedicated to finding out if someone died in your house, aptly named DiedInHouse.com. This website was founded in 2013 to solve that very question. Each search (one per address) costs $11.99 and will also notify you if your property is stigmatized in any other way, like have been used as a meth lab or to house sex offenders.
The catch is that the website pulls information largely collected after 1980, meaning that you may have trouble obtaining information on deaths prior to that point. However, the website is legitimate and provides valuable information.
Out of curiosity, I shelled out the cash to run a report on my address.
DiedInHouse can’t find any verified deaths at my property. And apparently, my home wasn’t used to house a sex offender or meth operation - that’s good. However, they do include an interesting disclaimer when listing past residents:
This means that someone probably died at or near my home. Rest assured, I will update this article if and when I begin noticing any ghouls or spirits.
Overall, DiedInHouse provides a comprehensive amount of information about a home and those who are particularly fascinated about their home’s history will find it worth the price. Some may wish to remain willfully ignorant, though!
Looking for a free alternative to DiedInHouse? Try HouseCreep, which has a database of thousands of different stigmatized properties.
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.
Conclusion: Does It Matter?
Most people don’t care about deaths that may have occurred many decades ago. However, home buyers do care when a home is the site of a particularly violent or sensational death.
A non-natural death can decrease the value of a home from 10-25%. Someone dying of non-natural causes within a home is said to create “psychological” damage. Some people who purchased stigmatized properties aren’t bothered by the events that occurred within the home, but are annoyed by the gawkers constantly driving by.
I’ll conclude with some much-needed levity. The comedy show Nathan For You contained a segment involving a Los Angeles real estate agent who rebranded herself as the “Ghost Realtor”. She’s able to guarantee that a home is free of ghosts by partnering with a psychic. Anyone concerned about ghosts in their home will find the clip amusing. Enjoy!