Dated wallpaper. A lack of curb appeal. A… ghost? While supernatural activity may not be among the most common challenges REALTORS® face while selling properties, it certainly isn’t unheard of. Every community has homes rumored to be haunted or the site of a grim event. Here are a few simple strategies you can utilize to help land the sale of a stigmatized property.
First of all, don’t let a property’s reputation intimidate you. A survey from realtor.com® revealed that nearly 60% of respondents would consider buying a haunted house. These respondents went on to say that other factors, such as more square footage, a nicer neighborhood, and the most popular factor—a price reduction—could actually lead them to choose a home with a haunted reputation over another option.
Secondly, REALTORS® need to understand what their state laws require in regard to disclosure. Because Virginia operates under the common law concept of Caveat Emptor, meaning, “Let the buyer beware,” Virginia REALTORS® General Counsel Laura Farley explains, “There are no obligations for a seller or a licensee to disclose anything about a property that doesn’t impact the physical structure of the property.” With that being said, a REALTOR® is obligated to answer honestly if asked a direct question about a property. While you could technically say, “That is not a required disclosure, so I will not answer the question,” you may want to affirmatively disclose this information with your seller’s knowledge and permission, as it’s a demonstration of good will for a buyer to learn about it from a REALTOR® instead of a nosy neighbor. Furthermore, if a REALTOR® can get ahead of the message, they can control how the message is delivered and exactly what is made known. “One important note with this strategy is because this is a not a required disclosure, you’ll need to make sure your seller has consented to having you disclose it,” says Farley.
A third strategy for selling a supposedly haunted property is to embrace the reputation! A certain segment of the population will be drawn to the possibility of living in a haunted home. With this in mind, be strategic and creative with your marketing. One idea is to begin marketing the home in October. Another option is to create a lighthearted sign rider to accompany your usual “For Sale” sign. Real-life examples of riders for stigmatized properties have included “Friendly Ghost Conveys” and “Probably Not Haunted.” These sign riders are a playful way to convey the home’s reputation, helping to ensure that potential buyers are prepared to learn something unusual about the property.
Lastly, consider the market data. Given the current state of Virginia’s housing market, which is largely a seller’s market with many homes selling at or above asking price, if you know potential sellers with a spooky property on their hands, now might be the perfect time to list it. Just be sure to clear up any cobwebs before the showings begin!