Market Wise Q&A column: What Happens When Death in Home is Not Disclosed?


Pat Kapowich for the San Jose Mercury News  

Q: We snapped up a home after it reappeared on the market.  The sellers had a sale that fell apart. We bought it and were thrilled at the time to do so after writing so many offers while home shopping.  On Monday we spent several hours and almost a $1,000 on inspections.  That afternoon the next door neighbor and my husband started chatting on the adjoining driveways.  We learned that the original owner passed away “a few years ago” in the house.  It turns out this information was not disclosed us, or to the first buyers who cancelled because the death “was not within the last three years.”   We feel this is a shady way to conduct business. We are asking for a cancellation and reimbursement of inspection and appraisal costs, or a price reduction.  Which is more likely to happen?



A:  Likely neither. It feels like they might prefer the pugnacious style of selling and negotiating. The seller and his or her agent understand that in California they do not have to legally disclose a death that occurred more than three years from the date of a purchase.  That law came about during the AIDS hysteria.  The agent and the seller actively decided not to share the death with the first buyer, or the second. Stunning, considering the first buyer cancelled.  They are following the lead of many businesses and individuals who want everyone to believe, that if an activity is legal, it is also is deemed - ethical.  Not, so.


For centuries, Americans would be born, live and die in the family home.  Americans kept deceased loved ones in the family home for friends and family to pay their respects before burial.   That mourning process changed during the proliferation of funeral homes in the 1920’s. In contrast, there’s a certain segment of the melting pot of American individuals who will not buy a home even located near a cemetery.  Savvy real estate attorneys understand the law competes with the legal duty to disclose facts that ‘materially affect the value or desirability of the property.”  Professional sellers’ agents know they can skillfully sell any home while disclosing all known facts ~ once.  The amateur status seller and agent you are “doing business with” will soon be entering the ring for a third time.



Contact Realtor Pat Kapowich, The Santa Clara County Association of Realtors President's Choice Award Winner for 2013 at (408) 245-7700 and/or