- HomeDisclosure, a provider of pre-diligence property reports, is now serving up data on home deaths, including murders and suicides.
- The reports can bring to light information that agents aren't required to disclose but impact a home's appeal to many buyers.
- The data further cements the reputation of HomeDisclosure's new parent company, Attom Data Solutions, for mixing sensitive data into online real estate services.
Some homebuyers recently received a head-turning come-on in their email inboxes: “Unlock Death in Home Information with HomeDisclosure Today.”
“Surely you would want to know if a violent murder or suicide took place in the home before you sign a contract,” reads the email, after readers learn that homes where a tragic death has occurred can fare much worse on the market than others.
“Death in Home” data is the latest dirt that HomeDisclosure, a purveyor of “pre-diligence reports,” is digging up for the public.
The home-vetting resource’s introduction of the data is particularly notable because real estate agents and sellers in most states aren’t required to disclose home deaths to buyers, even though the information could theoretically make or break a deal.
Prospective homebuyers who pay the $10 fee get reports of individuals who have perished from murder, suicide, accidents or natural causes.
The report might be the most affordable of its kind, underpricing the still-living granddaddy of online home death data, DiedInHouse.com, by $2.
When HomeDisclosure was testing its service, “we learned that our customers wanted to know if someone had died in a home before buying or renting it,” said Sean Mooney, senior director of product and user experience at HomeDisclosure, in a statement.
In addition to home death data, HomeDisclosure reports also reveal local crime level, school quality, median income, racial makeup and property loan and equity information.
Right to know or TMI?
A death in a home is not considered a “material fact” in most states, so agents and sellers are not required to disclose the event in writing, RealtyTrac wrote in a blog post. California, Alaska and South Dakota are the exceptions, RealtyTrac says.
In California, sellers must reveal if anyone has died in a home anytime in the past three years, including death by natural causes, while in Alaska and South Dakota, owners only have to call out murders and suicides that have struck in the past year, RealtyTrac says.
In some eyes, HomeDisclosure might be ushering in a level of transparency that all states should have already mandated.
“Not every state requires a death in the home to be disclosed by a seller, but it’s clear that consumers want this information available earlier in the sales process to help them make a better decision, which may include negotiating a discount off the asking price,” Mooney said.
A home death’s potential impact, particularly a violent one, can shave 25 percent off a home’s value and increase the time a property sits on the market by 50 percent, according to DiedInHouse.com, which has gained a competitor with HomeDisclosure’s entry into the home death data space.
But some states might have resisted forcing sellers to call attention to deaths in their homes for a reason — maybe even a humanitarian one.
Perhaps their calculation was that the cost of potentially penalizing homeowners for having suffered a recent tragedy — by requiring a disclosure that could slash their home’s value — outweighs the benefit of apprising potential buyers of a historical event thought by some to raise poltergeists.
But depending on the type of death, it might also be an indicator of local violent crime.
Leaving nothing behind closed doors
HomeDisclosure’s debut of this data further cements its parent company’s reputation for spotlighting unsavory property attributes — a tendency that can empower consumers, but not without potentially causing headaches for some agents.
In addition to home and neighborhood attributes that aren’t morbid, Attom companies serve up data including the locations of sex offenders, meth houses, environmental hazards and a criminal offender index.
In 2014, RealtyTrac, a sister company of HomeDisclosure, sparked complaints from agents and multiple listing services (MLSs) by tacking sex offender data onto property listings, leading the firm to later purge the data from listings.
The display of some sensitive real estate data by online real estate services, including those operated by Attom Data Solutions, has sparked debate in the industry, leading to some scrutiny by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Fair Housing Alliance.