Suicide on Property

Q: I have a house listed for sale. One of the owners committed suicide there recently. The incident garnered a good deal of attention in the local paper, so I know that the  buyers will find out about it eventually, but do I have to disclose it to prospective purchasers as a material fact?

A: Your inquiry concerns stigmatized property. In offering real property for sale in North Carolina, the law provides that it is not a material fact that the real property was  occupied previously by a person who died (or had a serious illness) while occupying the property, provided, however, that no seller may knowingly make a false statement  regarding any such fact. (See General Statutes, Section 39-50.) So, while a listing agent needn’t volunteer information to a prospect about the owner’s suicide, if a listing agent or the seller is asked a question about it, each must answer truthfully. However, practically speaking, if you say nothing about it because you are never asked about it,  you might later be faced with an irate buyer who finds out about it from a neighbor. So, you might consider, with the seller and your broker-in-charge, the benefits of  affirmatively disclosing it up front, just as you would a material fact.

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