By Rachael Mason
Is it legal to sell a haunted house?
In short, yes. However, if you are aware of things that have occurred in your house in the past that might affect its sale, you may be legally obligated to report them to potential buyers.
A landmark case on haunted real estate is Stambovsky v. Ackley, which was decided by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division in 1991. Helen Ackley and her family had reported the existence of ghosts in their home in Nyack, N.Y. The house was featured on a haunted house tour and had been written about in articles in a local newspaper and in Reader's Digest. However, when a New York City man, Jerry Stambovsky, decided to buy the house, neither the Ackleys nor their realtor told him about the house's ghosts.
He made a down payment on the property, but when he found out about the spirits, he asked to have the contract rescinded. The court ruled that, "as a matter of law," the haunting of the house had been established when the owners publicized their ghost stories. Since Ackley had informed the general public about her house's supernatural occurrences, she owed as much to the buyer. The court told Stambovsky that he could rescind the contract of sale.
When does an owner have to reveal information that might influence the sale of their property?
Guidelines vary from state to state. In Florida, for example, "The fact that a property was, or was at any time suspected to have been, the site of a homicide, suicide, or death is not a material fact that must be disclosed in a real estate transaction."
Massachusetts Law addresses hauntings in particular: "The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. "Psychologically impacted" shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following: … that the real property has been the site of an alleged para-psychological or supernatural phenomenon.
If you have questions about selling your property, you should consult a lawyer. If you're concerned about property you'd like to buy, a little research may be in order. Haunted houses often have a reputation in the town where they're located, so local residents can be a great resource. Some haunted spots, like the Ackley house in New York, may have even been written about in local or national publications.
What is stigmatized property?
Stigmatized property is real estate that might not be desirable to buyers or tenants for reasons unrelated to the physical condition of the building or land. Haunted houses fall into the category of stigmatized property, as do dwellings where murders or suicides have occurred.
A famous example is house in Amityville, New York where Robert DeFeo Jr. murdered his family in 1974. The next family to live there was reportedly driven from their home by evil spirits and told their story in the 1977 nonfiction book "The Amityville Horror," which was turned in a blockbuster movie.
What's the best way to sell a haunted house?
Even if the law says you don't have to talk about your house's supernatural history, it might be best to share the information anyway, according to Realtor Mag, the official publication of the National Association of Realtors. In particular, you should report objects moving on their own, hearing voices when no one else is around and seeing odd lights, the magazine says.
Who would buy a haunted house?
At least a third of the population, according to an October 2012 survey conducted by Realtor.com. Thirty-two percent of respondents said yes, they would consider buying a haunted house. An additional 33 percent said that they might think about it.
And of those surveyed, a full 2 percent said they would pay more than market value for a house that was considered haunted. Of course, everyone else would expect to pay less for the property—as much as 51+ percent less than the market value.
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