It’s Halloween – perfect timing for a spooky tale. There’s not much spookier than thinking you may have to lower the price on a rental property you’re managing because people are spreading a deadly rumor about one of your units. It’s not just the seasonal decorations that are scaring people – it’s the stories of a real haunting. How can you fill the vacancy after that? It’s time to get your pumpkins and witch’s hat, listen to the cackling of the fireplace as we tell the old story of a family looking into a new home only to find – gasp, it’s haunted! Boo!
Countless movies start this way: the house was built on a burial ground, someone died on the property, people were tortured and experimented on in the basement, it doesn’t really matter because it always starts the same way. A family moves and finds ghosts. But that’s just in the movies and television shows. In real life, there are a host of other problems. It’s not like the cameras stick around to show the families getting their act together to sell the house afterward.
No, that part is up to you to figure out.
Accepting the Paranormal
Whether you believe in spooky ghosts or not doesn’t actually matter in the rental housing industry. The reality is that 45% of Americans believe in ghosts, and those are just the ones who are willing to admit it. It’s not just properties that can be stigmatized – many people feel ashamed to admit this belief, and so the percentage could skew much higher than 45%. Once the rumor has spread that the property is haunted, then it is better to accept it as fact, because if you don’t, you’ve lost half your potential tenancy. Move on and get ready to market.
What's Required for Disclosure
Legally speaking, ghosts exist. You should always consult a lawyer for such advice, but legally speaking, they do. The law doesn’t state if ghosts literally exist, but according to the New York Supreme Court, people have the right to know you’ve had some spooks and scares. Often referred to as the Ghostbusters Ruling, Stambovsky v. Ackley debated a haunted house that Helen Ackley had sold to Jeffrey Stambovsky. Ackley had told newspapers and even Reader’s Digest about her poltergeist ridden abode. When out of towner Stambovsky saw the house, no one saw fit to let him know. Needless to say, he was not happy. Neither was the court and because she told national and local publications, the majority of justices said: “as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”
When dealing with your stigmatized property, ask a local lawyer what the laws are in your area, and double-check your local laws on how much you are required to disclose. It may be that ghosts aren’t a big deal, and you don’t have a disclosure law. Otherwise, it’s good practice to be honest when asked.
Fixing the Instigators
You could have a ghost problem. Or maybe you have trees scratching on the rooftop. There is every chance that the reason people say you have a Spooktacular home is because of some structural deficiency. It’s not that a ghost is opening and closing the door, it’s that the door isn’t hung straight, and gravity is just doing its thing. It could be a haunting, or maybe there are some squirrels in the attic.
There are plenty of things you can do to solve a haunted property without breaking out the sage and chants. Having the property ‘ghost-busted’ for lack of a better term won’t hurt, of course, and it can make a lot of people feel better, but fixing the problems that spur on more rumors may prevent future problems.
Give the property a thorough inspection to find the noisy, burbling pipes, creaky floorboards, or uneven airflow that causes an icy draft. Some of these issues may be easy to fix, and others at least give you a solid answer when a property tour brings it up. What’s that creepy draft? Oh, it’s just the window, don’t worry!
When it comes to renting out the haunted home, treat it like any other property you manage. Depending on public knowledge of the creepy happenings, you may have some straggling visitors looking to see a floating orb of white light during property tours, but for the most part, people are just searching for a home and saw the listing. Make sure the residents are comfortable with the space, and that it is warm and inviting.
The primary reason people do not want to live somewhere haunted is that it’s creepy. When you make it homey and warm, you can negate the ‘bad vibes’ people get that scare them off. Set up some candles, warm up some cookies, and bring out the rich wood tones to play up the warm, cozy feeling that your rental couldn’t possibly have an angry poltergeist.
And maybe burn some sage too. It couldn’t hurt.
What do you have?
Let us know in the comments!