What to know if you are selling a haunted house
Seller disclosures are normally required for a home sale, but are you obligated to reveal that the house just might have ghosts?
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.
Growing up in a large house that was more than 100 years old, complete with a creepy unfinished basement that I thought looked like it came straight out of a horror film, I had no trouble imagining our house was haunted. But in reality, nothing very unusual happened there -- unless you count the bat I almost ran into one night in the basement.
It was when babysitting for someone else, in their very old home, that I experienced what I was certain was an encounter with the supernatural. I had put the children to bed and was reading in the living room when I heard very distinct noises in the room above me. At night. When the room was empty.
It frightened me enough to call the owners. They sent over their parents, who came and inspected the upstairs floor but didn’t find anything amiss. I was embarrassed, but remained convinced that I had heard something.
Years later, I mentioned that incident to one of the home’s current owners. I expected we’d share a laugh about my overactive teenage imagination. But instead, she started rattling off her weird experiences in the home. “It’s haunted,” she said, unfazed.
For me, the thought of living in a “haunted” house is creepy. But for others, there’s a certain appeal. In fact, some 62% of 1,400 consumers surveyed by Realtor.com said they would be open to buying a haunted home.
What if you are the one who owns a house like this, though? Do you have to reveal the unusual things you’ve experienced if you decide to rent or sell the home?
"The idea of a property being haunted oftentimes is considered one's perception," says Leslie Piper, Realtor.com's housing specialist. "If a seller has been informed by a previous owner that a home is haunted or if it is common knowledge, and it could affect the home's value, then it should be disclosed." She notes that law regarding these disclosures vary from state to state, adding:
Most states require that deaths or murders be disclosed as well as the time frame of when the incident occurred. In some states, it is recommended that even stories considered as hearsay should be mentioned in disclosures. If a seller truly believes to have witnessed a ghost, levitating objects or other unusual activities on the property, and it could influence a buyer's decision, then a seller should mention it as a courtesy.
One family I know rented a home for a year, and during that time, witnessed a number of strange incidents. They never truly felt comfortable there, even though the home was spacious and beautiful. Only as they were moving out did they learn from a neighbor that a child had drowned in the pool years before.
Should they have been told about that before they moved in? Probably.
"A landlord should inform a potential tenant if a murder or death has occurred on the property," says Piper. "As for circumstances surrounding possible hearsay, a landlord should use their best discretion if it would impact one's opinions of renting the property." But again, any requirements to disclose that fact would be a matter of state law.
What scares off buyers?
As for what will scare off a potential buyer or renter, the Realtor.com survey found the following frightening experiences would stop someone from buying a home:
- 75 percent: levitating objects.
- 63 percent: objects being moved from where they were placed.
- 63 percent: ghost sightings.
- 61 percent: supernatural sensations.
- 61 percent: flickering lights/appliances.
- 60 percent: strange noises (footsteps, doors slamming).
- 34 percent: warm or cold spots.
More from Credit.com:
- How to avoid problems with a home sale
- How to search for your next home
- The ultimate mortgage glossary
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