Spirits Raise Home Prices

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Alexandra Chauran, a 32-year-old fortune teller in Issaquah, Wash., bought a home there with her husband in December 2011. But she hardly blinked at the $350,000 asking price when she discovered the house was haunted.

A possessed property—perhaps a deal-breaker to some—actually allows a seller to command a premium on the real estate market when the buyer is an enthusiast of the occult like Chauran. It's hard for experts to put a finger on the exact value a ghost adds, but that intangible factor can clinch a deal.

Chauran and her husband met the previous owner of the four-bedroom, three-bath home who explained how the spirit of a boy who died on the property still lingers. That's when the Chaurans decided they had to make this their home and brought their two young children in tow when they signed on the dotted line.

"The story just increased our enthusiasm for the sale," Chauran said. "It was just a quirk that I found awesome."

In fact, by and large, a ghost, as long as it's friendly, will not scare buyers away. In its "Haunted Housing Report." Move, Inc.'s Realtor.com found that a home's spooky history will not deter most from making the purchase.

"Survey data reveals that while the majority of consumers are open to purchasing a haunted home, many buyers conduct their own research on a home's history to be aware of any weird incidences," said Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications for Move.

Even Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer bought a spooky Palo Alto funeral home, the erstwhile mortuary Rolle & Hapgood & Tinney.

 

Still, there are certain thresholds even the most adventurous buyers have—many balk at the purchase if there are tales of levitating objects—62% at least might consider the possibility of buying a haunted house.

In 1994 Alexandra Holzer and her husband bought a five-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath colonial in Chester, New York for $140,000. Given that Holzer is the daughter of pioneering ghost hunter Dr. Hans Holzer—perhaps best known for adopting "possession theory " for the Amityville house of horrors—she was glad to discover that her house was haunted.

Located on land next to the defunct institution Camp LaGuardia and off the Heritage Trail where Civil War troops marched, the house offers no shortage of appearances from the ghosts of escaped mental patients and soldiers.

Holzer explained that the cachet haunted houses have now may be augmented by shows like the Syfy channel's "Ghost Hunters" or the popularization the paranormal in series like "Twilight."

"I think today with pop culture and the way we see it in films and on TV when we see ghost hunting, I think it's interesting when we go and we hear a purported haunted house is for sale," Holzer said. "You might have the buyer interested enough to say, 'I'm just gonna buy it, because I want to live in a haunted house.' That wouldn't be happening 15, 20 years ago."

In fact, certain companies and real estate agents will emphasize the in-house phantasms as an advertising gimmick; forget about a back-yard pool or a finished basement -- Casper is the new selling point.

The House of Munster

If you're looking to get in on a nice piece haunted real estate, look no further than Bonnie Vent, who provides a matching service for interested buyers and sellers.

Currently, Vent is working with actor Butch Patrick, best known for playing Eddie Munster, whose grandmother's haunted Victorian Mansion in Macon, Ga. is currently for sale. Patrick would like to use this location for a paranormal reality show and is looking for a buyer that is interested in getting involved with the project.

The house was built in 1875 and was given as a wedding gift to Lizzie Wardell, the daughter of the second owner. Wardell married Harry Rubey, and the two remained in the house for several years until they left for Hollywood when Rubey became a financier in the motion picture industry. After some time, they returned to Macon and built a new home, but the original home, which passed through several owners and on to Patrick's grandmother, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lizzie Wardell Rubey, floating around the four-bedroom, two-bath abode in a white blouse.

Patrick has felt (but never seen) "the lady of the house," though his sister and grandmother have spied her many a time.

"My sister's not a druggie or an alcoholic, and she's seen her several times," he said. "And my grandmother would never let us go in the basement. I've been pushed aside, seen things move—like a curtain."

Patrick says he could see the appeal in buying haunted real estate and argued that it might bring added incentive.

Sonja Legan, the house's real estate broker at Tiger Country Realty, is uncertain on whether the lady of the house will be as enticing as the 1.5 acres of land, the original open staircase, the nice foyer and family room or the wrap-around porches and privately fenced back-deck.

"Clearly it would depend on the buyer and the intention of the property," she said. "We have folks that really love the idea and others that would not buy for the same reason."

Business Boo-n

As Elise Goldstein-Clark discovered, a property's haunted nature can be a plus for business if the house is converted into a bed and breakfast. In December 2002, she and her husband Dan, bought a three-story Italianate brick building constructed in 1922 as the Empire Coal & Coke Company's Miners Clubhouse in Landgraff, WV. The Clarks bought the property (which includes the building, and the property across the creek) for $10,000. They couldn't be in the building without a mask on until after her husband gutted it, power washed it out with bleach three times and dried it out, and took five inches of mud out of the basement.

"The building was a twice-flooded, slated for demolition, mold-filled, door-less mess," Goldstein-Clark said. "Everyone- including the SBA-told us we'd bought a worthless, flood-damaged piece of garbage. They all thought we were nuts; people would stop their cars across the street and laugh at us as my husband was working on the restoration."

But, Goldstein-Clark said, when they opened the home as the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre in May of 2003, inexplicable situations started occurring: crystals shattered , a painting got removed from the wall. Goldstein-Clark insists other guests have experienced these bump-in-the night occurrences, and she's capitalized on her supposed haunted property in promoting the inn.

"A lot of our guests are what you'd call 'cultural heritage tourists,'" she said. "They are interested in the area's history of railroading and coal mining." That dovetails with some of the haunted history involved with the ghost they've nicknamed "Molly."

"A bed and breakfast that claims to be haunted can add a romantic mystique that draws business," said Vent, the matching service provider.

Fine, Spooky Line

Though ghosts may make for a scarier housing market with the elevated prices, there's a delicate balance between haunted and too-creepy.

For example, truly stigmatized properties—homes with a troubled past involving a murder or other criminal act—will sell 15 to 20% below market value and stay on the market three months to a year longer than normal, according to Randall Bell, CEO of Bell, Anderson & Sanders, a firm specializing in real estate damage economics.

Of course, those who pay top-dollar for a poltergeist want to get their money's worth.

"I've heard that people have bought houses and paid premiums for the fact that they're haunted and moved out disappointed that they weren't haunted," Bell said.

--Written by Ross Kenneth Urken for MainStreet

More from Mortgages

What Is the Prime Rate? Definition, History and Rate in 2018

What Is the Prime Rate? Definition, History and Rate in 2018

How to Invest in Real Estate: Buying vs. Not Buying Property

How to Invest in Real Estate: Buying vs. Not Buying Property

How Is Social Security Calculated? Find Your Benefits

How Is Social Security Calculated? Find Your Benefits

12 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score in 2018

12 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score in 2018

How to Buy a House in 12 Simple Steps

How to Buy a House in 12 Simple Steps