I’m superstitious and want to avoid buying a haunted house.  Does a seller have to disclose that information?

We live in an old town, with homes dating back to the early 1800s.  With old homes comes a lot of history, and sometimes a ghost story or two.  While approximately half of our states do require disclosure of paranormal activity, Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  Pennsylvania also does not currently require a seller to disclose if someone has died in a home, although they cannot affirmatively lie if asked.

Many other states have adopted far more comprehensive disclosure laws.  In our neighboring New York, paranormal activity must be disclosed.  In California, any death in a home in the preceding three years must be disclosed.  And in Massachusetts, the law is even more comprehensive, requiring disclosure of paranormal activity, as well as whether the home was ever the site of a felony, suicide or homicide or whether someone with HIV ever lived in the home.

Our disclosure simply asks whether there are any material defects, which is defined as anything that could significantly impact value. Material defects would clearly include any major problems with the physical structure, as well as pending tax assessments and disputes over property boundaries with adjoining landowners.  But what about those ghostly apparitions or eerie cries in the night?  According to a well-known California appraiser who specializes in diminution of value, a well-publicized murder can reduce value by 15% – 35%.  Does a ghost reduce a home’s value and need to be disclosed?  Right now, the answer is no in Pennsylvania, although sellers wishing to avoid lawsuits would be well advised to disclose anything that could be seen as stigmatizing a property, including paranormal activity and deaths in the home.  For some buyers, value actually increases with the prospect of living among ghosts.  But before disclosing the ghost in your attic, be sure there isn’t a rational explanation for what you are experiencing.

Buyers, if you don’t want to move into a haunted home, what can you do to protect yourself in the absence of required disclosure?  You can start with the internet – do a thorough search of the property address and sellers’ names.  That will likely turn up information on any more recent concerns with the property.  You can also pay for a property report at Diedinhouse.com, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. Some recommend burning sage to rid the home of spirits, and if all else fails, you can always call Ghostbusters!

305 Chestnut Road, Edgeworth – New Listing 

Utterly charming historic Village colonial set on a large lot with fully fenced backyard and private back patio, ideal for warm weather entertaining.  Nicely remodeled throughout.  Large kitchen with huge walk-in pantry and mudroom. Finished lower level includes large walk-in closet and full bath. Beautiful architectural detail and wood floors throughout. Dramatic ceilings, sun-drenched rooms.  $475,000  See more…

 

 

 

415 Orchard Street – New Listing 

A fabulous renovation of this incredibly spacious Village home.  Three finished levels including lower level with full bath. Beautifully renovated kitchen with breakfast “café,” coffee bar, mudroom with lockers.  Beautifully finished wood floors. Delightful covered front porch.  Quiet back patio. Fenced rear yard is ideal for pets. Exceptional condition throughout.  $795,000  See more…

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I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
 
 
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
Associate Broker
HOWARD HANNA
REAL ESTATE SERVICES
401 Broad Street
Sewickley, PA 15143
Cell: 412-779-6060
Office: 412-741-2200 x238
kbarge@howardhanna.com