A haunted house can be a dud or a deal
It’s Halloween, the night when ghosts, goblins and paranormal activity is at its ultimate. But if your house is haunted, this particular holiday may not be much fun, since selling a stigmatized home is just one more challenge to overcome right up there with 20-year-old air conditioners and neighbors’ barking dogs.
A property can be stigmatized if it is associated with an event or situation that could negatively affect its chance of selling. Houses that are thought to be haunted or that were the sites of murders or suicides are often considered stigmatized.
In some states, sellers and their agents are required to disclose any information regarding a haunting to potential buyers. However, Florida does not have any statutory obligation written into its laws and, therefore, has a caveat emptor or buyer beware attitude regarding stigmatized properties.
There can be a couple of upsides to owning a house that has been stigmatized with the primary one being price. It’s not unusual for properties where murders have occurred, especially ones that attracted a lot of media attention, to sell below market value.
The townhouse in California where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered in 1994 sat on the market for two years and was ultimately sold for $590,000, $200,000 below the asking price. The property was remodeled and the address changed before it resold in 2006 for $1.7 million, turning out to be a great deal for the owner.
Then, of course, there are people who are looking for homes with an interesting history they feel would add to the character of the property. A savvy homeowner can tap into a specialty niche of buyers who actually are looking for haunted houses to use as hotels or inns or just because they are either into the paranormal or just want to promote interesting dinner conversations.
Some haunted houses never sell, like the house where members of the Heaven’s Gate community in California committed mass suicide. It was eventually taken back by the bank and sold at a very deep discount. The Petit house in Cheshire, Conn. where a mother and her two daughters were murdered and the house burned five years ago has been turned into a park and place of remembrance.
Others are sold as unique and interesting properties with a fascinating history by people who do not mind living with the stigma and the possibility of ghosts or just don’t believe in them and see a good buying opportunity.
If you do, however, believe in ghosts you’ll be happy to know that most ghost busters maintain that ghosts generally haunt the houses they lived in and are not hostile. They can even be Casper like and befriend you and your family, making it possible to live happily and comfortably with them. That is until the For Sale sign gets planted on the front lawn when your friendly little mascot may not seem so cute.
Just like disclosing the age of your cooling system and roof, disclosing anything that may be a considered a stigma or a material fact about your home is an absolute. If you don’t want your real estate transaction to be haunted, the best thing is to be honest about any real or perceived defects in your home.
Hope your Halloween is booootiful, the ghosts friendly and the buyers qualified.