Q: I heard about someone who bought a big house in Holmesburg and found out the previous owner had died in the house. No one had told them this before they bought it and they say their house is haunted. Don’t they have to tell you about stuff like that before you buy it? I thought they did.
A: The Real Estate Seller’s Disclosure law requires sellers of residential property (and their agents) to disclose all know “material defects” of the property that are not “readily observable.” Material defects are problems with the property that would significantly affect the value, or involves reasonable risk.
But how do you prove you have a ghost? And better yet, that it is the ghost of the previous owner, considering you could be the third or fourth owner in a Holmesburg home, given the age of the home. Who knows how many people could have passed in the home? In the early 1900s, people used to die at home all the time.
And while Pennsylvania sellers are expected to fill out a nine-page form known as the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, none of the questions ask if anyone has died in the home. The Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement does say, however, that Sellers are required to disclose material defects not included in the form.
Ultimately, although sellers aren’t required to disclose if someone died on the property in Pennsylvania, there could be circumstances where it would be wise to disclose it. With all the legalities involved in selling a home, you wouldn’t want anything you didn’t disclose to come back and haunt you.
Stacey McCarthy is a real estate agent with the McCarthy Group of Keller Williams. Her Real NEastate column appears every Wednesday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.