Do you have to tell a buyer if a home was the scene of a crime?

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2020 | Real Estate |

When you’re selling a home, you naturally want potential buyers to focus on the positive aspects of a property — not the negative. Drawing attention to something tragic that happened there in the past by disclosing the fact that the property was once the scene of a crime seems counterintuitive to your interests.

So do you really have to tell a buyer the whole history of a home? Maybe.

Missouri has specific statutes that address this issue, and one of those statutes states that there’s no mandatory disclosure regarding “psychologically impacted” properties that have been the scene of a homicide or any other type of felony or a suicide. A buyer who finds out later that someone was killed by an intruder, for example, can’t later sue the previous owners for not mentioning it.

On the other hand, another Missouri statute does require sellers to disclose certain other kinds of criminal activity. If the property you’re trying to sell was once considered a “meth house,” where methamphetamine products were either made, stored or sold, that must be disclosed to any potential buyers before they commit to the purchase.

Is there any potential benefit of making a disclosure about a home’s “criminal past” if you aren’t legally required to do so? Possibly. Buyers are increasingly savvy shoppers, and the internet makes it easy for them to learn everything they might want to know about houses and neighborhoods. If a Google search would easily turn up the information about a criminal incident in the home that you never mentioned, a potential buyer may wonder what else you are hiding.

Working with an experienced real estate attorney can help you obtain all of the answers to questions like these — and keep you from making any costly mistakes.