Do I have to tell buyers that someone was murdered in my house?
Dear Real Estate Urban Diplomat,
My husband and I purchased our home a couple of years ago in an estate sale. We got it for less than asking since it had languished on the market for several months—because, well, someone was murdered in it. Now, we’re preparing to sell. Do we have to tell potential buyers about the death?
—Sell Bloody Murder, Willowdale
Lucky for you, the Real Estate Council of Ontario takes a harder stance on disclosing dysfunctional bathrooms than it does on divulging grisly axe murders. You’re not legally obligated to tell buyers about your house’s violent history, so long as there are no lingering effects on the home’s appearance or function (e.g. bullet holes in the walls, REDRUM written in blood on a bedroom door). Keep in mind, though, that a buyer’s real estate agent is obligated to point out anything she knows about the property that might be unsettling to her client before making an offer, so prospective buyers are likely to learn the truth anyway. Better to be up front about the murder—and the lack of paranormal activity you’ve experienced in your two years there—than risk having buyers back out as they’re getting set to sign the paperwork.
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An earlier version of this post stated that real estate agents are obligated to point out anything that might be unsettling to their clients before closing. In fact, a buyer's agent should do so before the client makes an offer.