Do You Need to Disclose If a Property Is Haunted?

Do You Need to Disclose If a Property Is Haunted?

Chicago is an old town. It was officially incorporated as a city in 1837, and, in the time since then, it has seen legendary fires, legendary mobsters, and legendary sports stars all come and go.

Our fair city is historic, important, and crowded enough to beggar one big question in the minds of many skeptics and thrill-seekers alike: Is it haunted?

While it’s impossible to ever know for sure if there are really ghosts or ghouls lurking around the Windy City, occasionally people are curious enough about spirits to ask about them during showings – or to at least think about them as they tour that old Lincoln Square mansion or refurbished North Center two-flat.

Ghosts hold such a fascination in the minds of some homebuyers, in fact, that some real estate professionals are actually putting an ethereal spin on their old or dilapidated listings.

Believe it or not, it’s true! In one famous case, an Omaha-based real estate agent emphasized that a home was haunted in order to drum up interest from the community, particularly since the property had already been listed but failed to sell. Once that agent refocused the listing language on footsteps in the attic, doors opening and closing of their own volition, and the interest of prominent paranormal investigators, he saw a renewed interest – even though the owners eventually took the house off the market completely, out of concern that the haunting was growing more severe.

Elsewhere, some real estate pros have seen increased interest in a listing after somehow making it clear that the property isn’t haunted; earlier this year, in fact, the addition of some colorful language and a $10 “Not Haunted” sign turned one ramshackle Idaho property into a hot commodity, thanks to some viral activity online.

Want to hear something even more remarkable? There are actually legal precedents for disclosure when it comes to hauntings and ghostly activity. No, really! If you have reason to believe that your home is haunted, you would be strongly advised to tell your real estate professional to disclose that information – all thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sometimes called “the Ghostbusters ruling.”

Stambovsky was initially set to buy a home in Nyack, New York, but refused to close on the sale and demanded his deposit back once he learned that the property was haunted. Though a court initially ruled against Stambovsky, he appealed and won.

In essence, the court determined that, while the onus is on the buyer to inspect for defects based on New York’s caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) rules., a simple inspection could not have unveiled ghostly activity. What’s more, the seller, Ackley, had previously made reference to the house being haunted by talking to Reader’s Digest and the local press. So while there was no legal way to prove that the house was haunted, that was immaterial – the courts determined that, having informed the public at large that the house was haunted, the seller owed the same to the buyer. In short, she turned the presence of ghosts into a material fact, and set a precedent that could still stand today.

There is good news for sellers, though! If you feel that your house is haunted, it may not affect your sale at all to spill the spectral beans: According to a 2013 study by Realtor.com, 26 percent of buyers would consider purchasing a haunted house for sale, and 36 percent might consider making the purchase. Only 38% of buyers would be turned off completely. Of those who would be ready to buy, a full 12 percent would pay full market value or more for a haunted house for sale; 34 percent would take that haunted house off your hands if the asking price were lowered as little as one percent.

What do you think, Chicago? Would you go “zoinks” and run, or jump at the chance to own a haunted Chicago property? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter! And if you’ve got a tricky property you’ve been looking to sell – haunted or not – we’d be happy to help.

It’s safe to say that we ain’t afraid of no ghosts here at Real Group, so you shouldn’t be either! Drop us a line today for any or all of your realty needs.

Thinking of buying a home? Search all of the listed homes in Chicagoland now.

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