A guide to haunted homes
Do sellers need to inform people that their house is haunted? Believe it or not I get asked this every year right around Halloween, which also happens to be my favorite time of the year.
It’s a great time to live in Central Florida; there’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, A Petrified Forest in Altamonte Springs and all kinds of festive Halloween-themed gatherings all around town. But what if your own home is haunted all year round? It’s a question many have, along with what to tell their prospective buyers regarding murders and suicides. With Halloween right around the corner I thought I’d dive right in and answer these queries as best I’m able.
So first off let’s clarify: I’m not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. I did however speak with two actual attorneys, one of whom advised me not to write this piece; at least not without clarifying that I’m not practicing law. The second attorney I spoke with is Nishad Khan. Khan is a fantastic real estate attorney with whom my brokerage shares a building, and he frequently partners with our agents for any legal real estate needs. Who better to ask about this oft-posed seasonal disclosure quandary? And ask I did!
Kahn told me that according to Florida law, a seller is not required to advise a potential buyer of an alleged haunting, nor of a suicide or murder. Some people have described properties such as this to be stigmatized or psychologically impacted. Specifically, Florida Statutes 689.25 address murders and suicides as not being material facts that need to be disclosed to potential buyers. It’s also said in many real estate circles that the best practice and safest may be to disclose the above things anyway if the sellers agree. So it would appear that even though you aren’t necessarily required to let buyers know someone killed themself in your home, if that were the case it might serve you to make them aware.
Hauntings are so hard to quantify in the first place. How does one determine that their home actually is haunted? To begin with not everyone would even believe you had ghosts in your shell regardless of whether or not you saw something spooky. If they did agree, the methods used to rid ones’ home of ghosts would often be specific to that persons’ belief system. Catholics may call a priest while wiccans may smudge the home and utilize other rituals. Heck, some may even find a haunted home to be appealing!
As for deaths in homes, I can tell you buyers are mainly of two minds in this regard: some simply do not care and some care very much. I sold a really fantastic place to a buyer where an elderly person had lived and passed on peacefully. The buyers had no objections and the home has been gorgeously updated and they report no disturbances. I actually find properties like this to be some of the best on the market, family homes that are well maintained and loved even until the very end. I’m working with other buyers who will inquire and research online to determine if the homes they are interested in have been the scene of a murder or a suicide and specifically want to avoid those types of homes. Ultimately if a home is in a great location and desirable, a buyer can be found for it.
What if you are looking to encounter some ghosts this Halloween season and not just faux haunted houses? There are properties and stretches of land in Central Florida and nearby known for their spectral sightings. St. Augustine is one of my favorite places, and everyone has likely heard of their ghost tours. The lighthouse offers tours of its grounds, buildings and the lighthouse itself at night on certain dates. The Seven Sisters Inn Ocala is said to have multiple spirits and was featured on “Ghost Hunters.” One can never forget Cassadaga right around the corner, ripe with lore about spirits ghosts and chock full of mediums and psychics. There are even several suspected haunted plats of land and buildings right here in Orlando proper.
So, if you’re looking for a good scare, check out some of the haunted attractions right here in our backyard or around the corner. If you think your house is haunted and you want to sell it, you’re not under obligation to disclose it but may choose to. After all, who really knows if there is a restless spirit beside you or just a draft? Happy haunting and stay safe this Halloween season.
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