Congratulations—you've found the perfect prewar apartment overlooking the park! It has everything: Restored hardwood floors, enormous windows, a red brick decorative fireplace...and the souls of several dead people.
You didn't think you were the first person to live in a 150-year-old brownstone, did you? That is adorably naive. No, you were not the first person to whine about its rattling pipes and hard-to-furnish L-shaped living room. And you won't be the first person to die in it, either. But why speculate? A new website, DiedInHouse.com, will tell you just how many former residents sucked in their final desperate breath in that very spot you've selected for your Sodastream.
It's easy—just enter your address and credit card information (the service costs an eminently reasonable $11.99) and voila—you will be apprised of who has died in your home, when, and more importantly, how they died. It is then up to you and your family to determine who gets the bedroom where the murder/suicide took place, though unfortunately the site does not offer any sort of family mediation service so you're really on your own there.
This, however, is not a joking matter. An extensive FAQ addresses several questions you should have:
Q: How was the idea for the website developed?
A: I found out that someone had died in my house before I bought it, I assumed it was part of the disclosure process, but found out that it was not. I discovered that most states do not have any laws to disclose a death occurrence in a property no matter how it occurred (murder, suicide, accident, illness or natural). I discovered that there is not a single place to go and that the research is very time consuming.
Q: Do people care if there is a death in a property?
A: Yes, a 2007 Associated Press Poll found that 1/3 of Americans admit to believe in Ghost. I wonder how many do not admit it. You may not believe in ghost, but you do not want to live in a house where someone has died, no matter how. A death in a home can impact its value and time to sell.
If you do not mind either way, a stigmatized home can be a bargain and the information can be used as leverage to negotiate a reduced price or rent.
Q: Can someone buying a new home benefit from running a report?
A: Yes, a Michigan couple had no idea that the previous owner had taken his life in the basement, before the house was completed. The house was new when they bought it. They now own a home they love with a past they can't come to terms with. They wondered, didn't someone have to tell them and presumed it was a law to disclose. The bank and others knew, but did not tell them.
The land could have had a traumatic event occur on it. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr. raped and murdered at least 33 teenage boys then buried 26 of them in the crawl space of his home in Chicago, IL . The house was demolished and in 1988 and a new house was built in its spot.
This issue is of particular importance in New York, where buildings are old and brokers are not required to disclose when a property was the site of a "homicide, a suicide, or another death." Reluctant to pony up the measly 12 bucks? Here's one for free: If you live in one of the shiny new condo units at South 4th Street and Bedford Avenue, we've got some bad news for you.