The ghosts of real estate

Castles in the Sand

I never really believed in ghosts and evil spirits. It was always fun to talk about other people’s experiences at parties but since I never had any first-hand knowledge it was just that, fun until it wasn’t.

Anna Maria Island has its share of ghost sightings including haunted restaurants, even one with a ghost cat. Hotels have had sightings – how about a bride ghost – and, of course, Coquina Beach has its resident ghost. Naturally, some clever entrepreneurs have packaged these events into entertaining tours around the Island, so you can get up close and personal. But if you’re selling your property and you think you may have a ghost, what do you do?

Thankfully, Florida absolves property owners of the responsibility of disclosing paranormal activity in homes or the fact that a crime was committed in a home. In addition, the seller does not even have to disclose that their property was suspected to be the site of a crime. Further, a seller has no obligation to disclose homicides, suicides or deaths that occurred on the property. Basically, you can sell your property with all the ghosts, ghouls and goblins as an added bonus.

Florida is one of more than 20 states with laws that say agents and sellers won’t be held liable for failing to mention that 20 years earlier a wife stabbed her husband in the home’s master bedroom, for instance, or the possibility of paranormal activity. Our state does not consider these events material facts and therefore property owners are not subject to possible lawsuits down the road; you can do absolutely nothing within the law. However, in plenty of other states, you may be legally required to say something about your haunted house, deaths, suicides or crimes.

To me it does sound a little unnecessary to disclose deaths in a property; after all, how does an aged grandfather dying comfortably in his bed impact the structural integrity of a home. Even more unfair is a home that has no past history, but rumors have taken over facts and turned it into a stigmatized property that now has to be disclosed to potential buyers. This has happened in cases of celebrity or well-publicized events like the home where JonBenet Ramsey lived. Owners of some so-called stigmatized properties have even resorted to changing the property address in an effort to remove some of the stigma. Unfortunately, since you can’t prove the unproven, sellers are stuck and must disclose in states that require it.

As a general rule, it’s always better to disclose everything you know about a home, whether or not the law requires it. It will give your buyer a sense of honesty that is always important in a business transaction and will allow you to move out with a clear conscience knowing you’ve done the right thing.

My up close and personal ghost experience happened in a 17th-century hotel in Rome. Although I never actually saw a spirit, they did move several things around and made a copy of The New York Times disappear and then reappear in the exact spot. It was enough to give me the creeps and start paying closer attention to cocktail party talk.

If you’re selling your home and you think that it may be stigmatized in any way, ethics should prevail; if it makes you uncomfortable probably a good thing to disclose it even though you’re not obligated. Have a boo time on Halloween!

More Castles in the Sand:

You found the perfect house; now what?

Is homeownership threatened?

Real estate market disruption