This time of year is full of spooky moments. If you’re selling a home that has a history of paranormal activity, it could scare buyers away, or intrigue them. Haunted houses are a great attraction for thrill seekers, but buying one is a completely different matter. There’s one central question that haunts sellers who find themselves in this situation: Do I have to disclose that my house is haunted?
Selling a Haunted House
All sellers have to provide disclosure forms to illuminate issues with the property and the home listed for sale. Regulations vary by state, with some having certain language requiring that sellers disclose material facts that could affect the value and/or desirability of the home, while others do not have these requirements and caveat emptor or “buyer beware” applies instead. So, where does paranormal activity fit in? Again, it depends on where you live, but many states do not require such disclosures.
However, there have been legal cases where buyers have sued sellers for neglecting to mention the fact that the house they purchased was haunted. In the classic 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, new homeowner Jeffrey Stambovsky won a lawsuit against the seller for not disclosing the home’s haunted history. In this case, stories about the previous owner’s experiences with paranormal activity in the home had been published in Reader’s Digest and the local newspaper, establishing the home as one with a spooky reputation. Though this case had a ripple effect in the housing industry, you should still check with your agent regarding the seller disclosure laws in your local market.
Although the laws around haunted disclosures are a bit murky, if a buyer asks about the history of the home, you as the seller have a duty to be honest. State laws even vary when it comes to disclosing recent deaths in the home, but if a buyer asks you specifically about whether such an event occurred, withholding that information from them could come back to haunt you, especially during negotiations.
This time of year is full of ghostly tales, and there’s nothing more thrilling than that moment of fright we experience during a spooky story. But unfortunately, failing to disclose the fact that your house is haunted could send chills up your spine and cause the buyer to back out of the deal. As always, lean on your agent’s expertise for the best way to handle your unique situation. You never know, your haunted home may generate added interest to buyers who have an affinity for the paranormal!
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