A good friend up in Vermont sent me an email this morning, telling me that Vermont actually has a law on the books that requires real estate professionals to disclose to potential buyers if a house is haunted or stigmatized!
Personally I never really thought about it, but ghosts and Halloween are heavy in our warm late October air, so I became intrigued by the topic. I know… my wife and most of my close friends are becoming close-lipped these days as they accuse me of seeing a story in everything and are increasingly scared that I’m putting the kitchen sink with all the laundry (dirty and clean) in everyone’s view. No worries, my interest in haunted houses is mostly pragmatic.
I just wondered if real estate professionals in the state of Florida are required by law to disclose stigmatized and haunted properties to a potential buyer and since this is the week of Haunted Souls and All Saints, what better way to come clean than to pose a direct question to my friend and client Lila Keim, member of the extremely successful local Sales Team Werling at Prudential Chaplin Williams. Her first reaction was: “Florida does not require disclosure on property stigmas resulting from death in any form; accidental, purposely or self inflicted”, which would imply that even if the buyer asks, you don’t have to disclose.
Florida’s Law is quite laconic on the issue as it says that a homicide, suicide or death needn’t be disclosed to a prospective buyer in a real estate transaction because it’s not a material fact that requires disclosure. Even though the property may be the site of an supernatural act or occurrence, this has no effect on the physical condition of the property or its environment or the structures located theron. Kind of makes you wonder about the mental condition of the buyer, doesn’t it. Do kids line up at the front door for Trick or Treat if they or their parents knew about a house being haunted?
In Massachusetts it’s a slightly different story: if the buyer doesn’t ask, the seller and seller’s agent don’t have to tell. But if the buyer asks, the seller and agent must disclose.
In Virginia the seller’s written consent to disclose is required. The law says that being haunted or stigmatized, does not materially affect the value and for a broker to disclose, seller’s written approval is needed.
Across the country in the upper Northwest States of Washington and Oregon, the Law only mandates that previous drug manufacturing in the property has to be disclosed. (Chemical seepage is apparently rampant in those states).
Illinois is also very pragmatic by simply stating: Since ghosts would not have an effect on the physical condition of the structure, they do not need to be disclosed.
In Hawaii spirituality and the ancient stories of the Menehunes have made it law for sellers to disclose non-material things that effect value and desireability to a buyer – and that includes ghosts, if reported present.
New Jersey thinks differently.
In New Jersey lawmakers have introduced the mental aspect besides the materials one. Realtors “should” disclose whether or not a house was believed to be haunted, is the going public opinion. Realtors in New Jersey are required by law to disclose “Psychological Impairments”. According to The Book, statute 11:5-6.4 “… the term “Psychological impairments” includes but is not limited to, a murder or suicide which occurred on the property or a property purportedly being haunted.”
Lila Keim’s personal opinion is to disclose anything that can make or break the sales up front. No need to work hard on a sale and than at the last minute see it fall through because of a non disclosure of a material or non material fact.
If you’re interested in the occult and its effects on real estate across the nation, here is some more info http://www.hollowhill.com/guide/buying-selling.htm or this one http://www.hauntedrealestateblog.com/wordpress/
Oh and I hear that Wicked Davies in town, a well reputed haunted spot in our community, is for sale. Wonder if disclosure of this fact is needed, since the nightly Ghost Tours have made it a stop on the itinerary.