31 Oct 2012
Property Inspector: Should buyers beware haunted houses?
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
TheMoveChannel.com's Property Inspector, taking a closer look at global real estate each month.
Do haunted houses give you the creeps? Don't be afraid of no ghosts, says TheMoveChannel.com's Property Inspector, because they can be a spooktacular investment - as long as you don't mind the odd bump in the night.
In this month's podcast, the Property Inspector interrogates psychic detective Bonnie Vent, whose website San Diego Paranormal Research allows owners of haunted houses to advertise their home for buyers interested in paranormal properties. And the smart money, Vent reveals, is in bed and breakfasts.
"I've had this real estate page up for about 6 years now," she tells the Property Inspector, "and what I've noticed is that haunted bed and breakfasts are where there's added value. To have a haunted reputation is always a good thing because people like the idea of coming to stay there. It's very different to wanting to buy a haunted house and live there permanently until death do them part!"
But ghosts in the attic can be a real estate curse as well as a blessing. When selling a property, paranormal activity can lead to legal complications - and, in some cases, lawsuits.
"There was a case in the UK, where I think people are much more open to these things than other places. This couple from another area bought a house and they were very excited because they got a great deal and they moved in and the neighbours all said: ‘Oh, so you're the ones who bought the haunted house!' Well, it was very commonly known in that area, so the buyers sued the sellers for not disclosing the information and they actually won the case. Not because it was haunted, the courts can't decide that, but because it was widely known in the local community. So the buyers got out of the property deal."
Indeed, in the USA, different states have different laws regarding the disclosure of information about properties for sale. Are sellers required to be honest about ghosts?
"There is no law that relates to haunted property," explains Bonnie, "but there are laws about disclosure of murders and suicide and things of that nature. Now, for example, in the state of California, if there has been a death on the property within the last three years, you have to disclose that. They call them stigmatized homes."
A little activity goes a long way
The legal euphemism may sound daft, but smart money is often attracted to houses with horrible histories, which tend to sell for less money. Is that discount a result of buyers negotiating, or do sellers have to lower the price to attract investors in the first place?
"If you already know it's a stigmatized home, usually that's the agent," adds Bonnie. "They will go out and get consultants to do a valuation and they have all these formulas they use based upon what happened there."
Of course, with that lower price comes a higher risk of living in a haunted home. But the odd floating table or two doesn't bother some investors, she reveals:
"Some people will buy stigmatized homes, not caring or believing if that activity exists, but just to save money! A lot of people contacting me looking for haunted houses are actually looking for cheap houses. They say they're OK with a little bit of activity as long as it's Casper: The Friendly Ghost!"
She adds: "In San Diego, we had a very famous incident involving a mass suicide in a mansion and they reduced the value of the house over and over again but nobody wanted it because it had such a bad feel to it. Ultimately, they wound up destroying the house and building something else on the land."
The Man in the Mirror...?
Sometimes, intrepid buyers can strike lucky and end up with a celebrity spirit under the stairs. Michael Jackson's former house, which was recently sold, has been associated with paranormal activity ever since his death - something Bonnie has personal experience of.
"There have been reports of lights going on and off without anyone there and music coming out of the house," she reveals. "A lot of people believe Michael is still there - and I'm one of them. I was in communication with Michael a couple of hours after he passed away. He asked me to take him to the house and walk him through it because he was still confused about what happened, but that's easier said than done in the living world!"
But even the King of Pop's ghost can't stop the paranormal price drops. "They were asking $24m for the mansion," continues Bonnie. "The purchase price was something between $17 and $20m."
Not afraid to enter the world of haunted real estate? Bonnie Vent gives TheMoveChannel.com's Property Inspector her top five tips to picking up paranormal property:
Paranormal Activity? 5 Key Tips to Buying Haunted Property
Always look for logical explanations
"There are tried and true things that people report as paranormal activity. Usually it's electrical, lights going off and on, that kind of thing. We've all grown up with spooky stories and we tend to jump to those as an explanation. On the other hand, it can be very basic things like the wiring's bad in your house! You always want to look for logical explanations. I had one case where they were experiencing lights going off and on and they were scared, but actually they had a problem with ants. These ants were walking back and forth across an outlet and causing the lights to short circuit!"
Don't just look at the property
"There are lots of factors you need to look at - it may not be the house, it may be the property it sits on. Paranormal activity could even be caused by people in the house. Poltergeist activity, for example, a lot of that comes with teenagers. They're emotionally upset because of the hormones and that energy goes out into the atmosphere and lingers, because we're made of energy as living beings. And the same is true of those that have passed over. They retain their personalities. Some like to linger because they really love their home and don't want to leave and others have unfinished business or are looking for some form of resolution. It becomes a complicated issue when you sell the house because the new owner may come into the home and not experience anything whatsoever."
Beware of spooky vibes - even in fake haunted houses
"I used to work with someone very heavily involved in the haunted house attraction industry. I went to a convention and talked to these people. They're known as ‘haunters'. Now, these haunters will look for spooky looking houses. You don't have to be psychic to feel a spooky vibe and they look for that and augment it. So sometimes when you're going through a fake haunted house, people have actual experiences... "
Be careful who you sue
"There was another case in the United States in New Jersey that wound up on a television show, and I think made the press in the UK too. It was the first case where someone sued over not being told that their house had paranormal activity. It was a rental case and the judge said there was no way the court could rule on whether the property was haunted or not - they lost the case and had to pay three months' rent!"
Do your research
"If you're trying to avoid a situation where maybe there's something wrong with a property, then as always, if it looks too good to be true and the price is really cheap and you can't figure out why, you might want to check the home's history..."
Notes to Editors
Founded in 1999, TheMoveChannel.com is the leading independent website for international property, with than 400,000 listings in over 100 countries around the world, marketed on behalf of agents, developers and private owners.
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