Sellers are required to disclose material defects such as a structural issue or a leaky roof, but when it comes to a haunted house’s reputation, if it elicits an “emotional response,” that’s when it gets tricky for real estate agents. Haunted houses are often stigmatized and scare buyers away in what may otherwise be a perfectly fine structure.
A recent survey conducted by Realtor.com shows desirable features like a reasonable price or a bigger kitchen helps buyers get past the spook factor. The survey found that 1 in 3 people are willing to take a chance on a haunted home if the deal was attractive.
In one extreme example of a haunted house impacting the sale of a property was Stambovsky v. Ackley, a landmark case in New York better known as the “Ghostbusters Ruling.” In 1989, a woman named Helen Ackley was selling her circa-1890 Queen Ann Victorian. It was a nice house right on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York, with 5 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths…..oh, and 3 poltergeists. According to Ackley, she had reported the existence of ghosts in the house to newspaper and magazine articles on 3 occasions between 1977 and 1989. Stambovsky was a buyer from out of town and claimed that Ackley and her real estate agent failed to tell him that the home had a haunting reputation. He argued that the house’s ghosts, real or imagined, affected the value and the potential for resale.
The New York Appellate Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor stating, “as a matter of law, the house is haunted,” mostly because Ackley proclaimed it to be. Stambovsky was refunded half of his down payment and set a precedent to make sellers disclose if their house had a ghost. After the court case, Ackley had no issue finding people who want to live in a haunted house. Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson owned the home for a short while before selling it in 2015 for $1.7 million. Although, nobody reported any spooky occurrences since Ackley sold it.