Most of my knowledge about haunted houses comes from my parents and mass media. For example, I remember my father taking my sisters and me for a drive on a beautiful sunny day. As we passed by a lone house on a dirt road, my father said nonchalantly, “There’s the haunted house” (where else would you take your young daughters while cruising?). Of course, we started pounding him with questions like, “Do things move on their own? Do people see ghosts? How do you know it’s haunted?” My father, who always took the time to answer any question we might pose regardless of subject, informed us that apparitions weren’t seen, but that radios were heard playing and people talking in empty rooms. Everyone knew the house was haunted, he explained, that’s why it was called “the Haunted House.” (He also told me that most haunted houses are destroyed by fires, but I saw in the movie Poltergeist that they can also collapse in on themselves and disappear into an alternate dimension.)
There’s a real estate term for a property that “everyone knows” something about: “stigmatized property.” Basically, a stigmatized property is a property with which, for one reason or another, people have a negative association. And it doesn’t have to be hauntings—it can be just about anything that makes a property distasteful in public opinion. Perhaps it was the site of shady dealings or financial debt. But defining a property as stigmatized can be confusing, and how to handle being a realtor for them can be daunting. Just check out these (Stigmatized Properties Make a Tough Sell or Got Ghosts? How to Sell a Haunted House) on the subject from Realtor Magazine.
So, how do you know if the property you’re thinking about buying is stigmatized? Ask! Laws vary from state to state about what has to legally be disclosed to potential buyers. For example, in California, a death on the property doesn’t have to be disclosed if it has been over 3 years since the event took place (unless the buyer asks). As noted in an article about stigmatized property in Seven Days, in Vermont, a realtor only has to disclose information that they believe affects the property value. So, if you are wondering why the beautiful house with the fantastic garden hasn’t sold—ask. It may be because people say that when the wind blows just right you can hear Old Man Johnson’s ghost whistling as he putters away in the basement, or it could be because when the wind blows just right you can hear the kid next door practicing for the International Whistling Convention.
If you have questions about buying and selling stigmatized properties, ask your friends at Pall Spera Company Realty.