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Haunted house for sale? - Buyer beware

Haunted house for sale? - Buyer beware

If a deal seems too good to be true, there could be a ghostly explanation. Don't be afraid to ask.

So, you've just moved into your new home. Beautiful house, fantastic location, and you got it for a good price. The previous owners seemed very keen for a quick sale. Wondering why? Well, could it be that they thought it was haunted? Stranger things have happened. Beautiful properties have become houses of horror thanks to unexplained happenings. Some families decide to move out. Others learn to live with their ghosts, or resort to exorcism.

Or, in the case of the actor Nicolas Cage, they simply don't sleep in the house. In 2007, he shelled out $3.5m for LaLaurie Mansion, reputedly the most haunted house in New Orleans. "At any given moment," said Cage, "I have five or six ghosts surrounding the house, all looking up at this haunted temple, and I'm in there." The family came over for dinner but refused to spend the night, nobody would sleep there. They eventually sold the property in 2010 at a loss of $1.4m

Being saddled with an unwelcome spectral guest is more common than you might think. According to a 2005 study by the Portman Building Society (now merged with Nationwide Building Society), one in three people surveyed claimed to have lived in a house that was haunted, or rumoured to be.

Would you tell your buyer?

The question is, if you've got a resident spook, do you come clean about it to prospective buyers? And if you don't, could you be prosecuted under the Property Misdescriptions Act?.

"The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 does not refer to haunted houses," says the London-based lawyer Conor Walsh. "But it does create a general duty to avoid making false or misleading statements." Theoretically, this should stop a seller from claiming that a house is not haunted – or, indeed, that it is haunted – when he or she believes otherwise.

In the US, it's a different story. There was a case in 1991 where a seller was ruled liable to the buyer for failing to mention that the property she was selling was haunted, which could have affected the value. "The court held that a buyer would be highly unlikely to discover the existence of such activity himself prior to purchase," says Mark Pawlowski, professor of property law at Greenwich University in London. "And therefore the onus was firmly on the seller to make disclosure."

Being haunted can add value

If you own a country estate, a resident ghost could well prove a boon. "An interesting and spooky history – particularly involving any famous or infamous characters – can add intrigue and appeal for more eccentric buyers," says Charles Wasdell, head of research at

Such a reputation certainly brings in the visitors to Blickling Hall in Norfolk, which is supposed to be the most haunted of all properties owned by the National Trust. Ghosts aren't always welcome, however, on NT properties. "The trust does exorcise some properties. It doesn't shout about it, though," says Siân Evans, author of Ghosts: Spooky Stories and Eerie Encounters from the National Trust

According to Wasdell, exorcism is worth exploring if you're plagued by an unruly ghoul. "Every Anglican diocese in the UK has a specialist team of exorcists ready to vanquish evil spirits," he says. "So, if you're worried that a ghost is going to damage your sale chances, you can always call them in."

Remember Caveat emptor - Buyer beware

There is no general requirement for the estate agent or seller to disclose specific information about a property's history unless asked. So if you want to be sure that you won't be sharing your new home with the ghosts of its former tenants, don't be afraid to ask..

If you've bought or sold a haunted property recently we would love to hear about it.


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