PR Case Study – Do You Have to Disclose a Death in the House Before Selling?

Public Relations Example:

Are you interested in real estate media marketing… in other words, do you want to land in print or on television sharing your real estate expertise? See how this real estate agent landed on her local CBS television affiliate by pitching a relevant, timely, newsworthy story.

Watch Video Below:

PR Client:

Lizzy Conroy, Realtor, Keller Williams

Successful PR Topic:

Using Halloween as a theme for a real estate related topic – does a seller have to disclose a death in the home before selling?

Why is this PR story relevant:

Tying the story to something seasonal, i.e. Halloween, makes it timely to a media outlet.

Why this pitch appealed to the media:

The media is always looking for interesting topics for their audience. Taking a seasonal topic like Halloween and then tying in something scary like a death (which is related to Halloween), it becomes a story that is timely and relevant. Also, the business topic of does a seller have to disclose a death in the home, is something that could be pertinent to people watching. According to the National Association of Realtors, 5.34 million existing homes were sold in 2019. Those numbers make this a relevant story to the media.

Media outlet that was pitched:

WUSA-CBS – Washington, D.C.

Free PR interview transcript:

So here’s a question that might only come up on a day like today. If you’re looking to buy a house, how do you know if it’s haunted? More seriously, if somebody was maybe murdered in the house that you’re thinking of buying. Does the seller have

to tell you? What are sellers legally required to reveal to you? We sent our Peggy Fox out searching, prowling in fact for answers. Maybe someone died there and their ghost lives in the attic or doors open and shut by themselves and strange

noises come from the basement at night. Who’s going to tell you before you buy that house? Does the seller have to tell you if the house is haunted? No, absolutely not. Lizzy Conroy with HBC Group Keller Williams sells houses throughout the

Washington region. If a house is haunted it’s a spirit in there. It has nothing to do with the foundation or the roof or the drywall or the plumbing or heating and electrical and you know something being haunted it’s sort of an opinion

it’s not necessarily a fact. What if someone died in the house or was murdered there? That has nothing to do with the condition of the property. So you’re not required to disclose that. Virginia is a buyer beware state, so sellers don’t have to disclose

much. Only if they have actual knowledge of material defects plus any known building code violations or a meth lab. If there was a meth lab in the home you have to disclose that. In Maryland, it is a disclosure state and as they say in Maryland:

disclose disclose disclose. Now, if something is breaking, if your foundation is settling and you mistake that maybe for a ghost and it’s really just the condition of the house than yes, that is a material defect and if you know about it, you have to

disclose it. One more thing sellers have to disclose; bats. I’ve seen properties where they’ve had tons of bats in the attic and when the bats live in the attic, they infiltrate the attic. So if you know that there are bats in your attic, you got to get that

fixed or definitely disclose that to the buyer. There is at least one state that requires sellers to tell buyers a house is haunted. It’s called the Ghostbusters ruling in the state of New  York, but it only requires sellers to disclose if they have shared this

opinion to the public at large. Otherwise, it’s for them to know and for you to find out. In Arlington, Peggy Fox, WUSA9.


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