There are rules on what a seller and their agent need to disclose to prospective buyers about their home for sale. In Scottsdale and the surrounding Phoenix towns, we use a comprehensive disclosure form that the seller needs to fill out called the Seller Property Disclosure Statement, or SPDS.
There is nothing on the Seller Property Disclosure Statement that asks the seller if they are aware that their house is haunted. In the 4 decades I've been selling homes in Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Carefree, North Phoenix, and surrounding areas, I've never come across a supposed haunted house. At least no one has disclosed it and I've never heard back from buyers telling me that a house they purchased was haunted.
If a seller felt that their house was haunted, they are not required to disclose it. Why? Sellers and their agents have no legal duty to disclose "stigmas", which have no direct physical impact on a home. Such stigmas are personal to different people - some might not care about them while others might.
What are other real estate stigmas for home selling?
Other stigmas can be murder or any violent act that occurred in the home, including suicide. It would be bad memories for the surviving homeowners but doesn't affect the property itself.
Another stigma would be if someone died in the home. As long as the death didn't affect the house itself, this doesn't have to be disclosed. An owner that had HIV or falls in a class protected by discrimination laws does not have required disclosures for future buyers.
The one crime that does have to be disclosed
There is one crime that has to be disclosed and that is if the property has ever been used as a methamphetamine, ecstasy, or LSD lab. Sellers chuckle when they read that line and some are actually shocked.
A home that was used to create methamphetamine leaves a toxic residue that can be absorbed into walls and floors plus window treatments & furniture, causing illness in future residents, especially children. A home that had a meth lab needs to be completely remediated before it can be considered safe to live in again.
Personally, I wouldn't want anything to do with a home like this. Why take the chance? Even if the home was listed at a low price or remediation was done and proven, I'd never feel comfortable.
Other ways to find out if stigmas exist in a home
Neighbors are the best way to find out if a stigma exists in a property you're interested in. However, you might not find this out until after you purchase the home. You might be lucky enough to find a neighbor outside who will tell you, as a prospective buyer, any secrets they might know about the home. Some of this information might not even be true.
There are other resources you can pay to find out certain things for a fee. You'd have to do an online search to find such a "house detective" company.
Some sellers will be honest
Even if not required by law, some sellers figure you're going to find out eventually, and will let you know upfront, or they will allow their agent to pass on the information. An agent cannot pass on this kind of information unless the seller gives them permission. They are only allowed to disclose material defects they're aware of.
If a seller fails to disclose not only could there be legal consequences but also the risk of facing litigation if someone buys your place without knowing about its ghostly inhabitant. That said, it pays off for homeowners who are selling properties where specters might lurk about to provide full disclosure beforehand. Asking yourself what would happen if somebody bought the property unaware of supernatural inhabitants should urge sellers to ensure such information does not go undisclosed.
Exploring Court Cases: Spirit Selling and Legal Implications
Talking about the legal aspects of selling a home with an apparition dwelling in it, there aren't many court decisions that relate particularly to this topic. But some relevant cases have come up which can give us better knowledge on what is necessary legally and how sellers may be responsible for not revealing the existence of ghostly inhabitants. Nowadays such things are taken more seriously than they used to be; if you're planning on purchasing or selling any property then it would pay off greatly to do your research before making any big commitments!
In 1991 an out-of-town buyer found out about ghostly activities in a home that there was an accepted contract on. He had already done the home inspection but of course, a normal inspection isn't going to prove or disprove if a house is haunted. You can read about the case here.
In 2010, there was a noteworthy case in Massachusetts involving spirit-selling. Two couples were suing each other regarding the purchase of property from a seller who failed to mention anything about the “ghostly activity” present in the home. Even though technically, this particular seller wasn't obligated to disclose any supernatural activities within their house, it would have still been beneficial for them as it could possibly raise its market value. What's more - should sellers be legally compelled to inform buyers if something spooky is going on?
The takeaway here is that if you believe there might be spooks in your home or any other kind of problem, it's important to disclose this before trying to sell the property. Failing to do so could land both you and the buyers in hot water down the line with a potential legal battle. This goes double for issues like mold or lead paint as unscrupulous sellers who don't reveal these details face much harsher penalties should things get dicey later on. While ghosts are harder to detect than those pesky substances, they can still cause serious problems without proper disclosure - something most homeowners wouldn't want anyway!
Would you buy a haunted house?
Did you know that more than one-third of Americans actually believe in ghosts? Some haunted houses are sought after and can actually sell for a premium because of it. Many buyers will shy away from a house that had a murder or other grisly crime committed in it. I've had buyers ask me if someone died in the house, and since I wouldn't normally know that, I have to explain that even if someone did, the agent or seller is not required to let us know.
John Wayne Gacy's house was demolished, but another house was built on the lot with a different address. Not sure how I'd feel about a new house built on the site of a serial killer's house where he actually buried bodies in his crawlspace.
I don't think being told a house I loved was haunted would stop me from buying it. I think that's because I'm extremely skeptical about haunted houses. I've never been faced with a home that had a murder or death, although I always wondered if the owner of the first house I ever bought died in the home - I purchased it as an estate sale through the family.
In conclusion, it's evident that a seller isn't legally required to reveal if their house is haunted or not. Ultimately, this decision comes down to the individual seller's moral judgment and perspective. However, when considering selling an allegedly ghostly abode it should be taken into consideration how everyone involved in the process would feel about such a property purchase - what could potentially be best for all those concerned?
If you're in the market for a home, haunted or not, in Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills, North Phoenix, Paradise Valley, or surrounding areas, call Judy Orr at 480-906-1500.
Photo of meth lab provided by Nathan RussellPosted by Judy Orr on