It’s just another dreary day in your haunted mansion. The wind howls. A murder of crows scurries across the roof. You pour a cup of coffee. It tastes like blood. So what? You add a little cream. The ghosts are creaking around on your secret stairway again. Eerie children’s laughter echoes in the halls. After the fourth banshee scream from the basement, you think to yourself, “you know what, maybe it’s finally time to put this house on the market.”
But who wants to buy a haunted house? According to a study by two business professors at Wright University, houses where murder, suicide, felonies, hauntings and murder/suicides have occurred spend an average of 45 percent more time on the market than a regular house, and sell for an average of three percent less than comparable homes.
So why don’t sellers just keep the dark history secret? Because in some states, like California, Alaska and South Dakota, it’s against the law. Sellers in those states are required to disclose any stigmatizing “psychological defects” such as a murder or suicide that occurred on the property or else face potential legal consequences. Pacific Northwest buyers beware, realtors rejoice. There is no such stigmatized property disclosure law in the PNW (though honesty is still the best policy).
Photo: Sydney Parker
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone wants to find out what happened in a house, those records are available to the public. Software engineer, Roy Condrey decided to become the go-to resource for homebuyers after he discovered his own house had a gruesome history. If you are looking to get some serious chills, check out Condrey’s aptly named, DiedinHouse.com to find out, well — who died in your house. DiedInHouse uses data from over 130 million police records, news reports, old death certificates and more to determine (for a price) if your house is haunted.
If the word is already out and you are tasked with selling a home that has a notorious reputation, here are a few tips for getting your haunted house off the market.
Appeal to the Addams Family
Photo: William Warby/Flickr
Believe it or not, there are a subset of homebuyers specifically looking for ghostly housemates. To help connect ghoul-friendly home buyers with haunted homes, The San Diego Paranormal Research Team (SDPRT) offers a listing service for real estate agents who are looking to target this spooky demographic. If leads result in a sale, SDPRT takes one percent of the gross. The demand for haunted houses on the site is significant. Some buyers are intrigued by the opportunity to get a low price on a house that’s been devalued by its reputation, but most seem to have genuine interest in building a life in a home with a deadly history.
Offer them a Night of the Living Dead
Photo: Jeffry Dougherty Jr/Flickr
According to realtor Cindi Hagley, whose California-based real estate firm, The Hagley Group, specializes in homes with a stigmatized past (in addition to unhaunted houses), you can help buyers get comfortable by inviting them to sleepover before making a final decision. “If they think it’s going to be creepy living there, then we’ll let them stay there for two or three nights and test it out. We’ll bring food in, we’ll cater it and hang out there, see what happens,” Hagley told Vulture. As long as nothing goes bump in the night, you’ve got yourself a sale.
Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr
Seattle resident Lynda Bazan and her son, Micah Schlede purchased the infamous Georgetown Castle in 2004, knowing full well of the home’s reputation. The home was originally built in 1902 by notorious gambler and tavern owner, Peter Gessner. Gessner built the home for his young wife Lizzie, but unbeknownst to Gessner, Lizzie was having an affair with the manager of their chicken farm. Distraught, Gessner committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid, a horrific and painful way to go.
Photo: Sydney Parker
The Queen-Anne style nine bedroom home was later converted into a brothel catering to Boeing workers. Local ghost hunter lore says that Mary Christian, a “lady of the night” had a baby in the house, but it was murdered by the father. Rumor has it that the father buried the baby under the front porch and then locked Mary in a turret where she went mad.
Photo: Sydney Parker
The current owners of Georgetown Castle were undeterred by this disturbing history. They painted the house pumpkin orange, fixed the roof, replaced fifty-two windows, added heating and relandscaped the whole yard, reported Pacific Northwest Magazine. The mother/son pair opened their home to many mediums and ghost hunters who wanted a chance to reckon with the paranormal activity.
To take it a step further, you could bring in a “house healer,” to clear the home of evil spirits. Whether that cleans out the bad juju in the literal sense or just has a placebo effect of bringing peace of mind to the future homeowners, doesn’t matter. What’s important is to turn your scary, nightmarish hell house into home sweet home.
A Nightmare Dream on Elm Cherry Street (change the address)
Photo: Jan Tik
If you can’t beat em’ join them. There are certain crimes too horrific to be hidden in the rafters. When a property makes national news, a fresh coat of paint might not cut the mustard. In 1969 the Manson family brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others in her home in Benedict Canyon where she lived with her husband, director Roman Polanski. The house on 10055 Cieldo Drive was demolished in the 1990s. In an effort to start anew and ward off rubber necks, a new house was built on the property with a different house number. The home was purchased by Full House creator Jeff Franklin. The change in house number hasn’t exactly deterred thrillseekers, but for stigmatized homes with a slightly lower profile, changing the house number might just do the trick. Or treat (sorry).
Living in a spooky house may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who believe the truth is out there, there’s no place like haunted home.