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How to get rich flipping haunted houses to millennials

Brett Arends, 02/27/2019

So-called paranormal activities tend to hurt a home’s resale value — but not when a young person is the buyer  

Merry-makers head to Salem, Mass., every Halloween for a big night of ghoulish celebrations.

But instead of zeroing in on the New England town famous for its witch trials, we should all be heading to Nyack, N.Y., on the banks of the Hudson River.

The reason? It has America’s only official haunted house.

That’s not me saying that. That’s the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

In 1991 the judges on the court ruled that the five-bedroom Victorian house at 1 Laveta Place, Nyack, is “haunted … as a matter of law.” The bizarre and historic ruling came out of a lawsuit relating to the home’s sale. Someone trying to buy the house pulled out when he discovered that the house was reputed to be haunted.

The court ruled that the house was haunted as a matter of law because the owner had represented it as such to various national publications, including Reader’s Digest. Essentially, you can’t go around claiming your house is haunted, and then deny it when it’s convenient.

‘Spectral apparitions’

That’s true, noted the judges dryly, “whether the source of the spectral apparitions seen by defendant seller is parapsychic or psychogenic.”

Which, if I read it right, means: Whether the ghosts are real or imagined.

The town of Salem has cashed in on Halloween, big time. Oct. 31 each year is now a massive profit center for the town’s merchants, and trying to get in or out of the New England town, or get a table in a local restaurant, is ... well, a nightmare.

Can Nyack be far behind?

Ghosts as an investment risk

But on this spooky national holiday, let’s add that the court’s ruling is not as nutty as it sounds. That’s because, according to a survey just conducted by real estate company Trulia, a reputation for ghosts can hurt the resale value of a home.

Apparently 43% of us are less likely to buy a home if we suspect it is haunted. That rises to 50% among those who didn’t finish high school, Trulia found.

If you’re stuck trying to sell a haunted house, Trulia says you are best off marketing it to millennial men ages 18 to 34, because 28% say they are more likely to buy a house if it’s haunted. (It’s a pity that so few of them have any money.) Otherwise, try selling to those with graduate degrees, or the over-65. Those groups tell Trulia they care the least that a house is haunted.

On the plus side, if you’re looking to buy a home, a search of its past history can pay dividends, says Ryan O’Kane, principal at Santa Ana, Calif.-based real estate firm Arbor Financial Group.

While you probably won’t find a history of specters or ghouls, you might dig up other details that can be deemed to “stigmatize” a home, such as a recent death, or its use in a crime (as featured in the TV series “Breaking Bad”).

Paranormal disclosures

Homeowners don’t always have to disclose those things; it depends on the state and the event. Do your homework. Sometimes it can help you negotiate as much as 10% to 25% off the purchase price, O’Kane says.

Superstition? Yes. Irrational? Sure.

But 20 years ago, I shied away from buying a condo in London after hearing that a woman, working as a prostitute, had been murdered in the front room by her pimp. Yikes. No kidding. Logically, this should have had no effect on whether I’d buy the place. But, of course, it did.

Trulia reports only 30% of home buyers say they are comfortable buying a home where someone died. So maybe deep down we believe in ghosts, specters, spirits or the supernatural more than we like to admit.

How to get rich flipping haunted houses to millennials

 
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