Selling a Haunted House?

By
Real Estate Agent with Atlanta Communities

 According to the National Association of REALTORS, 35% of people say they’ve lived in a haunted house. But when it comes to selling a home, is a homeowner obligated to disclose that the home he is wanting to sell is haunted?  Is the listing real estate agent obligated to disclose?   In the state of New York, sellers are obligated to inform buyers of all defects—including intangible ones like ghosts and hauntings.   In Massachusetts you only have to disclose if asked whether the property is the “site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.”  The state of Georgia does not address it, and “ghosts,” hauntings,” and “haunted houses” are not defined under Georgia state law.

The courts tend to rule that if the buyer thinks that something is detrimental then it is detrimental.    But what if the home’s owner does not believe in ghosts?

The Georgia Real Estate Commission often receives telephone calls asking how licensees should handle the sale of property said to be haunted. Textbooks  describe such properties as "psychologically impacted."   That term describes emotional factors, not economic factors, that may influence the price of a home or the decision of a prospective purchaser.

The law requires licensees to disclose material information about a property to prospective purchasers. Generally, the courts have held that whatever is material to the buyer or tenant is, in fact, material.   That means that licensees must disclose anything that affects whether the buyer would want to purchase the property or affects what the buyer is willing to pay for the property.

When a defect is physical, the issue is clear.   Licensees must affirmatively disclose material defects in the physical condition of the property.   However, they are not required to disclose whether a house seems to be haunted unless a prospect asks them. Nevertheless, the seller will sometimes make the licensee aware that hauntings may have occurred on a property.   If that occurs, the licensee should advise the seller that disclosing the possible haunting to prospects can eliminate future problems.   For example, a prospect who enters into a contract may seek to rescind the contract if he or she later learns that the house is haunted.   Disclosure at the outset reduces the negative impact of a prospect's future psychological response to learning about hauntings.   At the same time, it builds confidence in the agent's and seller's integrity.  

Cheryl Conner King, Partner with real estate law firm Morris | Hardwick | Schneider in Atlanta, Georgia, said, “Buyers in Georgia should always remember that Georgia is a Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) state.  If there is an issue of particular concern for a Buyer, the Buyer should make independent inquiry. “  

 

If it is of concern to a home buyer, the buyer may want to check out www.diedinhouse.com. This website tells who, if anyone, has died in the place they are about to call home. The detailed reports are just $11.99.  

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