That's the Spirit: Selling Your Haunted House
The pained groan of a creaky floor. A whisper that turns into a howl when wind blows through a drafty window. Light fixtures that sway seemingly without provocation. For many of us who live in San Francisco's Victorian or Edwardian homes, these are just everyday occurrences that we accept as par for the course. But what of doors that open and close on their own, or lightbulbs that seem to unscrew themselves, or fleeting shadows that pass by the corner of your eye? Does your house have a spectral tenant, and if so, could it affect how you sell it? In California, sellers are required by statute to disclose all material facts that may affect the buyer's enjoyment of the property. For the most part, this involves physical matters -- damage and repairs, as well as external influences such as fire hazards, noise problems, and so on. But since not everyone believes in ghosts or hauntings, the question as to whether this is material -- or fact -- is nebulous.
However, sellers must also disclose certain “emotional defects.” For example, you must disclose whether anyone has died in the house within the last three years; moreover, if a death occurred in the house longer than three years ago, and the buyer asks, you must come clean with the information.
Put yourself in the buyer's shoes. In the example above, if you were the buyer, and learned that there was a death in the house only after having to ask about it, you would probably have a diminished view of the credibility of the seller, and begin to wonder what other facts about the house had not been disclosed.
The same holds true for your otherworldly guest. If he or she died in the house say, a hundred years ago, you technically do not need to disclose it. But if you know about it, and believe that their presence is still felt, you might want to let the buyer know that they are taking on a tenant who may be beyond the scope of eviction law.
Keep in mind that, so long as you're not seeing blood running down the walls or furniture flying about the room on its own, a rumored haunting may not be a deterrent for buyers; some may even find it charming and consider it a bragging right. But if a buyer has an ethereal encounter and learns after the fact that you knew about this ghostly guest, you could be in a very dark place indeed. When in doubt, think like a ghost, and be transparent.
Here's some more information on haunted listings:
- Got Ghosts? Here's How to Sell a "Haunted" House
- Ghoul Disclosure: Must Home Sellers Disclose Paranormal Activity?
- 4 BR, 2 BA, 1 Ghost: What the Law Says About Selling Haunted Houses
- Stigmatized Property: Haunted Sales
- How to Sell a Haunted House
- Realtor.com's Haunted Real Estate Survey Says 32 Percent Of Homebuyers Would Purchase A Paranormal Property
- Buying a Haunted House: How Will You Know Beforehand?