Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ask an Agent: Disclosure of a Haunted House

In a previous Ask an Agent, we discussed whether a seller is required to disclose a death on the property. In Texas, the answer is no unless the death was caused by a condition of the property (like the roof caving in, etc). But what about if the house is believed to be haunted?

Properties were a death has occurred, might be considered haunted, or was the place of drug activity, are referred to as stigmatized properties. These are properties that buyers are wary of purchasing for a non-condition related reason. Some stigmatization requires disclosure, like known drug activity. Think when Jesse Pinkman bought the house from his parents on Breaking Bad. He got it for a steal because they failed to disclose there had been a meth lab!

But hauntings are a real blurry line....most states (like Texas) you only have to reveal physical deficiencies, and a haunting can be really hard to prove. However, if your house is widely to be reported as haunted (think Amityville Horror house) you might want to consider being upfront since sellers are likely to find out anyway. In other states, like New York, you have to disclose a possible haunting.

You might be able to turn a ghost into a selling point instead of a determent. Shows like Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters have made it kind of cool to live in a haunted house. Since you can't prove if a house is haunted or not, I wonder how the case law will come out. What if you advertise ghosts and the person who bought the house doesn't witness any apparitions or strange bumps in the night? How do you know that a ghost just doesn't like you as much and just wants to stay in the attic? I just imagine everyone in court going to the house and the judge and lawyers using a Ouija board to find out.

If you aren't sure whether you need to tell possible buyers and/or tenants about spirits in your property, ask your agent. They should be familiar with the laws in your state to help you safely navigate the disclosure.

Additional Reading:
Selling Haunted Houses

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