Did your house come with a spooky roommate?

So with Halloween around the corner this seemed like a fun topic to talk about.  What happens if you buy a haunted house?  What if your house is haunted and you want to sell it?

A poll conducted by the Huffington Post states that 45% of American believe in ghost, so one can assume that moving into a haunted house would be a concern for a fair number of Americans.  I know this sounds like the beginning of a horror movie but the concern can be understandable.  

In Texas Real Estate you are required, when selling a property, to disclose material defects of the property.  Now more often than not, we see material defects as foundation issues, leaky faucet or other items that we would hire a handy-man to come by and fix.   This does not include deaths on the property that are do to natural causes, suicide or are unrelated to the property condition.  (Texas Property Code § 5.008(c) (2014)) 

So when is a death required to be disclosed?  If the property itself was a contributing factor to the death, such as radon poisoning, failure of the building itself or other factors that can be contributed to the property directly.  Also when a murder has taken place on the property the seller and agent must disclose these facts as well.  

So again, what about Casper?  It seems that the Texas Property Code is eerily slight on this issue.  While technically it does not fall into the category as a material defect so it would technically not need to be disclosed.  However the Texas Real Estate Commission along with the National Association of REALTORS Code of Ethics state that an agent can not deliberately miss-lead a potential buyer.  So, unless the buy specifically asks about the paranormal activity then it would seem that this information is not needed to be disclosed.  

What is interesting is the number of court cases that actually cover the sale of a haunted house.  The most notable and famous is Stambovsky v. Ackley.  The gist of this case is the seller, prior to selling the property had be quoted in national publications and known locally as owning a haunted home.  Some stories had talked about the ghost shaking the bed every morning to wake up the seller.  If the seller wished to sleep in all that was needed was to tell the ghost that the seller was on vacation and the shaking stopped.  These activities had not be disclosed to the buyer and when the buyer found out about the haunting from a 3rd party the courts allowed the seller out of the contract.  While keeping in mind that the courts did not say it was because the house was haunted but used the premise that the house had a stigma which would lower the value of the property.  Due to the seller being open with the community about the haunting but not the seller, courts ruled in the favor of the buyer.  

If you choose to not disclose Slimer to the buyer of your property, chances are that the buyer will soon find out.  Maybe from Slimer and his friends or more than likely from the neighbors.  This can open yourself up to some legal situations and if you are in this situation, I would seek out the legal advice of a Real Estate Attorney.  If you came to me to list your property and told me it was haunted, I would be giving you referrals to agents I don't like or I would be contacting a Real Estate Attorney as well.  

So what else can you do to protect yourself from ghosts or to gain the knowledge of those deaths that are not required to be disclosed?  I tell every client that I work with that Google is their best friend.  Searches on the property address, neighborhood and area of town will gain a lot of information.  This isn't only to find out if you need to call the Ghostbusters, but also to see if there are issues, crimes or other environmental and developmental issues that are going on in the area that the seller may not even know about.  

If Ghosts truly are a worry for you, then many cities, like San Antonio, may have Ghost Hunters or have websites dedicated to ghost sightings where you can gain information.  Just because the seller of your home may not let you know about the footsteps in the middle of the night you can still have the knowledge and be able to quote the Ghostbuster's theme song, "I ain't afraid of no ghost!"