In the spirit of Halloween and my own interest in the paranormal I was wondering how one would go about selling a house if you were convinced that something out of the ordinary was inhabiting your home with you, i.e. ghosts. Would you have to tell potential buyers about any spooky happenings?
Haunted houses would fall into the category of “stigmatized property”. The National Association of Realtors defines stigmatized property as “property that has been psychologically impacted by an event which occurred or suspected to have occurred on the property, such event being one that has no physical impact of any kind” (but may affect the value) . In real estate lingo, a residence is “stigmatized” if any tragedies have taken place there such as a suicide or murder, or any unpleasantness such as cult activity, drug dealing, prostitution, other criminal behavior and even paranormal activity. Jeffrey Dahmer’s old house would be a good example of a stigmatized property.
So that brings me back to the question, do I have to tell a buyer that my house won’t be completely empty of residents when they move in, if you know what I mean? I learned that it depends on where you live. For example in Virginia, traumatic events such as murders, suicides and ghostly occurrences only have to be reported if the property is affected physically in some way. Examples include blood stains that keep reappearing or actual “ghostly” substances running from the walls, you know, the usual. In California, I’d be required to disclose a death on the property only if it occurred in the last 3 years.
In my state, under Michigan’s Seller Disclosure Act, residential sellers do not have to disclose any information about their home apart from its physical condition. So, even if I come eyeball to eyeball with a ghost in my house I do not necessarily have to tell potential buyers. I think I’d have a hard time keeping my mouth shut if something like that happened! I think my screams would alert the whole neighborhood about my ghostly encounter.
I don’t know. There seems to be a lot of gray area in the law. I guess honesty is always the best policy. And, if you are the one buying a house and you suspect supernatural activity, perhaps you should interview some neighbors or previous owners of the house to get a more in depth history of it. In the end though, even in this day and age, the concept of “caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware” still stands.