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What kind of death must be disclosed to home buyers?

DEAR MR. MYERS: My father died peacefully in his Pennsylvania home earlier this year after a long bout with cancer, surrounded by our family and close friends. Now we’re selling the property because my surviving mother is moving into a retirement home. Our real estate agent says the death does not have to be disclosed to potential buyers, but I’m not so sure. What do you think?

ANSWER: Disclosure laws regarding the death of an owner or other person in their own home vary from one state to the next. In California, for example, sellers must disclose any deaths that occurred in or on their property within the previous three years. A handful of other states have similar requirements.

In other states, though, sellers are specifically prohibited from disclosing whether a death has occurred in the home, in part to protect the departed’s privacy. That’s the case in Pennsylvania, where your late father’s home is located. Other states that have similar rules include Arizona and Georgia.

Still other states have laws that say that a death doesn’t have to be disclosed unless it was the result of a murder or other crime. No matter where a seller lives, a good real estate agent should know the state’s death-related disclosure laws.

An unusual website, DiedinHouse.com, claims to be able to tell buyers whether a person has died in a home that they’re considering purchasing anywhere in the nation. For $11.99, the firm will search its database of more than 130 million death certificates, police reports, newspaper clippings and other documents to provide an answer.

Each report also has a variety of other valuable info that could influence a decision to buy a house or rent an apartment. It includes everything from the number of any registered sex offenders or known crystal-meth labs in the area to data about local schools, and even the location of some of the community’s entertainment hot-spots.

Detailed samples of past reports are posted on DiedinHouse.com’s website. Discounts are available for those who want to purchase additional reports on other properties.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: A poll conducted by Time Magazine and CNN found that seven out of 10 Americans say they would prefer to die in their own home, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that only 25 percent actually get that final wish.

DEAR MR. MYERS: When we were on vacation in Canada, we came across an intersection in a suburb of Ottawa – Mulder Avenue and Scully Way. Is this in honor of the popular “The X-Files” television series, or is the crossing’s funny name just a coincidence?

ANSWER: It’s no coincidence. The oddly named intersection is indeed a tribute to the long-running science-fiction series, whose two main characters are alien-chasing FBI agents Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

Dozens of episodes of “The X-Files” were filmed in cities and towns across Canada, where TV- and movie-production costs are much lower and the government offers generous tax credits to entertainment companies.

DEAR MR. MYERS: I recently returned from my second tour in Afghanistan and will retire from the Marines on Dec. 31. My fiancee and I would like to buy our first home, but we want to wait to start shopping until we’re married in June. Is there a time limit on a veteran’s ability to get a no-money-down VA mortgage loan?

ANSWER: No, there is no time limit on your ability to get a loan backed by the Veterans Administration. If you receive an honorable discharge and can meet the program’s other requirements, you can get a low-rate VA loan with no down payment even if you wait for decades before purchasing your first house.

In addition, the VA’s home-loan program can be used over and over again. So, when you buy your first home with the Veterans Administration’s help and later decide to sell it, your next house also can be financed through the program.

You can get more information about the VA’s various mortgage plans by calling the agency at 800-827-1000 or by visiting its website, va.gov. And as we approach Veterans Day, a grateful nation thanks you for your service.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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