Guess what? You can now find out whether a death took place on a particular property, thanks to a website called DiedinHouse.com. (With thanks also to Amy Swinderman of Inman News for pointing this website out.)
The service is not free, however. Obtaining this little tidbit of knowledge will cost you $11.99 for a single search, with discounts for multiple searches (most likely to be used by real estate agents).
This raises the question: How badly do you want the information?
First off, in some states, a prospective home buyer has other ways of obtaining information about deaths on a property. Home sellers in California, for example, must by law disclose in writing any deaths that occurred on the property within the last three years.
And even in states without such a legal requirement, you can, as a prospective buyer always ask the seller whether anyone has died in the house. Sellers might not be legally required to answer this particular question, but they can’t lie, either. (Outright lies are considered fraud in every state, providing grounds for a lawsuit.) Then again, sellers might not know about deaths that took place before they bought the house.
How about a Google (or similar) search using the property address or the owners’ names? This won’t bring up every death, but it will bring up the ones you’re probably most worried about–violent or especially tragic deaths. It might even bring up reports of hauntings!
These may be significant when assessing the home as an investment. A property where a notorious death has taken place might be “stigmatized,” and therefore hard to sell when you’re ready for your next move.
Before going too far down the rabbit hole of online and other searches, however, consider that before World War I, most deaths took place at home. If you’re buying a historical house in America, you should simply expect that someone has died there at some point–and perhaps think of it as the natural completion of a life cycle rather than as a manifestation of the macabre.