Real estate broker Tara King may not necessarily believe in ghosts, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had to deal with a few when it came to selling a client’s home.
“There are a lot of agents who have had experiences with either clients who felt uncomfortable or they felt uncomfortable in a home,” she said.
A few times, things went way beyond strange feelings and chills up the spine.
There was a vacated home priced at $450,000, low enough to sell quickly given Denver’s hot market. Strangely, no buyers came forward, at least not until a vase containing the ashes of the owner’s wife, who had died in the home, was discovered and removed, King said.
The oddest case King, who works with HomeSmart Cherry Creek Properties, ran across involved a home in Denver where the seller had reported years of paranormal activities — pictures dropping off the walls, cabinets banging and doors opening by themselves.
The intermittent activity picked up when the family went to sell in 2016. A listing that should have sold in a week or two lingered on the market. Anyone who expressed interest quickly lost it. The basement mysteriously flooded for reasons the plumber couldn’t explain, King said.
The seller suspected the son of the previous owner who died in a hit-and-run accident might be wanting the family to stay. She hired someone to come in and ask whatever was behind the strange occurrences to stop. She personally asked for the home to be sold. Right after that, it went under contract.
King said some sellers and buyers will walk through a home and “smudge” or cleanse a home of negative energy with sage or incense. Some Catholics bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the yard. Others will bring in a priest or pastor to pray over a property.
All of the above might be fodder for campfire stories, except that buyers have filed real lawsuits over what are known in real estate circles as “stigmatized” properties. And in Colorado, disclosure rules lean heavily in favor of sellers when it comes to what they have to share.
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“Colorado provides protections for psychologically impacted property. Facts or suspicious circumstances that could stigmatize a property are not material facts. They aren’t subject to disclosure by owners,” King said.
If someone was killed or committed suicide or simply died of natural causes in a home, a seller or agent doesn’t have to disclose that in Colorado, much less things that go bump in the night.
But buyers sometimes find out after the fact, usually from neighbors, and they aren’t pleased about it.
An older survey from the National Association of Realtors found that only a fifth of potential buyers would pay the full price for a stigmatized home. The rest expect a discount, sometimes substantial.
A Trulia study last year found that nearly four in 10 people surveyed would avoid buying a home that they suspected of being haunted and only three in 10 were willing to live in a home where someone had died.
“We found that a sizeable portion of people don’t want to live in a home where a death occurred,” said Alexandra Lee, a housing data analyst with Trulia.
Given a choice, many also prefer not to live near cemeteries or funeral homes, especially in more affordable cities where there is a larger supply of homes, Lee said. Cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia and Silver Springs, Md., are exceptions.
A few buyers actually seek haunted houses, maybe because they are into hunting for either ghosts or a good discount. Just shy of three in 10 young men, aged 18 to 34, said they would be “more” likely to buy a home if they suspected it was haunted, Trulia found.
And older buyers, over age 65, are more likely to not care as much if a home is supposedly haunted or had someone die in it.
If haunted houses are for sale in Colorado, they aren’t being actively marketed as such. No listings came up with the search term “haunted” on REColorado.com. The term “ghost” only brought up listings with ghost wood or located near a ghost town.
Ghost wood, for those who don’t know, is harvested from trees killed by beetle infestations or wildfires. And no, it doesn’t make strange sounds late at night. Or at least it shouldn’t.