Corpse Found in Foreclosure Auction Home


Buying a home at foreclosure auction? It’s not unusual for some things to be left behind for the new owner. Sometimes you get the appliances. Sometimes you get the curtains or drapes. Sometimes you get the previous owner’s dead corpse.

Yup.

That’s what happened in Maryland recently when one new buyer took receipt of their purchase from a foreclosure auction. Neighbors say that the 39 year-old woman had special needs and was being taken care of by her grandmother until a year ago.

“As we grew up into adults, she never grew up,” a neighbor of the woman told the news outlet, noting that she had special needs. “So she needed help with things and didn’t process things as well as an adult would, even though she was an adult.”

When the grandmother passed away, they say that the woman began receiving visits by a caretaker and other family members.  Eventually those visits stopped, and the neighbors assumed that the woman had left with the family.

Sadly, this was not the case.

Shortly after the bank foreclosed on the property, the utilities were shut off. 

It’s unclear how long she had been dead, according to the local NBC affiliate, but police have found no signs of foul play.

Neighbors say they wish that they had checked on the woman more.

“Especially when her grandmother passed away, that’s what made us come over and just make sure everything was cool — she had food, she had rides to the store, things like that,” the neighbor said.

“If we knew that she was still in there, we would have at least knocked on the door,” the neighbor said. “We would have at least asked her, ‘Is everything OK?’”

Although it’s impossible to prevent every imaginable scenario when buying a property at auction (here’s 10 Tips When buying Foreclosure Auction Properties) it’s never a bad idea to talk to the neighbors and ask some basic questions. 

You never know what kind of surprises (alligators, spiders, guard cats) you might be able to avoid.

What if the Death was NOT a Surprise?

In the case of the Maryland home, the dead body was a surprise to everyone. But what if a known death occurs in a home? Is the seller obligated to disclose that information to potential buyers? What effect does that have on the selling price?

They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. There’s a really good chance that homeowners and buyers are going to have to deal with at least one of these – maybe even both!

Whether or not someone has died in a home is going to depend greatly on the age of the home. There was a time when people were born and died at home. My grandfather insisted on leaving the hospital so that he could die in the home he had been born in. It’s probably not as common today as it used to be, but certainly if you are looking at buying a Victorian era home, there’s a pretty decent chance that someone may have died there at one time or another.

What impact does a death like that have on a property’s selling price? Beyond that first buyer, not much. We have recently uncovered that most real estate is haunted anyways. But what if the circumstances were different? What if someone was murdered in a home? Not surprisingly, the details matter. Homes that were the scene of a particularly infamous death can languish on the market for years. Many are simply torn down without ever being listed. 

Even if a house IS listed, it’s estimated that a non-natural death can lower a home’s market value by as much as 25%. Few people are going to want to live in a house that was the scene of a violent crime. Having said that, the opposite effect has been known to happen as well. Sometimes the home will take on a celebrity-status vibe which may drive the price up, but in general you can expect these homes to sell for far less than they’re worth, if they sell at all.

So how do you find out whether someone has died in a home? Well, if you are dealing with a reputable real estate agent or investor, they are likely to disclose that information as something that might negatively affect the home’s value. It’s much easier to disclose that information up front than end up in court later if the buyers seek damages related to willful concealment. If you are buying at the county foreclosure auction finding out is much more difficult as you are buying sight unseen. Here are 10 Great Tip when Buying at County Foreclosure Auction to minimize these risks.

Beware though! If you live in Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, or Georgia agents and sellers are not required to disclose deaths in a property.

Death is inevitable, but when it happens inside a home it can change that property forever. It’s best to know if there are any dead bodies lurking in your new investment property, and if you do find one, you need to know how it effects your deal. Hopefully you know better for next time, if there is a next time.

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