Buyer Beware: How Do You Know if a House is Haunted?

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What does “haunted” mean, exactly?

Abandoned building interior with damaged floors and ceilings. Light is coming in through the dirty and damaged windows.

Some buyers are sensitive to paranormal activity, while others are unfazed.

In other words, ghostly encounters are subjective, so if you’re the kind of person who believes in disembodied spirits, it’s a good idea to let your REALTOR® know before you begin house hunting.

And while REALTORS® are obligated to disclose “material latent defects” – serious, hidden issues with a property that could not have been reasonably perceived during a home inspection, which might render the home dangerous or unliveable – “haunted” doesn’t fall under this category.

It could, however, qualify as a psychological “stigma.”

What is a “stigmatized” home?

a haunted-looking house during a foggy evening
Photo by Ján Jakub Naništa on Unsplash

A spooky feeling isn’t reason enough to advertise a home as haunted but if something truly sinister happened on the property, it might be deemed “stigmatized.”

According to The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), a stigma can be defined as “a non-physical, intangible attribute of a property that may elicit a psychological or emotional response on the part of a potential buyer.”

Stigmas that could affect a buyer’s decision-making process include:

  • if the property was used for ongoing crime;
  • if the property was owned by a notorious individual or criminal;
  • if the house was a former grow-up that has been remediated; and
  • if a murder occurred on the property.
a house with a weather-damaged roof
Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

Stigmas are difficult to define; there’s also no specific legislation that requires sellers to disclose stigmas to buyers.

If there was a murder in a house,  this could deter most buyers but stigma is often a matter of perspective; one person’s stigma is another person’s opportunity.

Rule out physical issues first

a house with a dark exterior
Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

It’s no coincidence that old, rickety homes cause more jitters than brand-new builds. Older homes tend to be less thermally isolated from the outdoors, which can cause popping, creaking and groaning sounds, especially as the wood adjusts to lower humidity levels and cooler temperatures.

If nothing amiss has occurred and the house simply feels ghostly, it might be a structural problem that’s spooking you. Things like strange noises or flickering lights might be due to an electrical problem, a noisy furnace, faulty wiring or old pipes – and not a disgruntled poltergeist.

Cleanse the house of “bad energy”

Lavendar and Sage bundle Burning, in a bowl surrounded by crystals

If that eerie feeling still persists, don’t be afraid to “de-haunt” your house with candles, incense or burning sage.

Sometimes, haunted is a selling feature

a cobblestone street lined with dark bricked-buildings
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you live in a community that is known to be haunted, the presence of an other-worldly spirit can be an asset – especially if short-term rentals are your game.

“There are definitely thrillseekers out there who want to stay at a B&B or hotel that is said to be haunted,” says Jalila.

Most people don’t want to live with an evil spirit 24/7 but for a night or two, it can be an enticing tourist attraction.

Ultimately, it’s a judgment call

a dark home in a field under black clouds
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

No matter the type of home you’re looking to find (or avoid), do your due diligence and always work with a REALTOR®.

Can’t get enough of the heebie-jeebies? A creepy bargain might be in your future – but buyer beware!

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