The closer we get to Halloween, the more often I’m asked about haunted houses and other topics that might be part of a property’s colorful history. Whether the site of alleged ghost hauntings, notorious affairs, a felony, or death (natural, murder, or suicide), each property’s marketing opportunities are varied and unique.
While many past acts on a property have no impact on its physical integrity, sellers speculate as to the best approach. After all, only buyers can determine to what extent, if any, such emotional factors would impact their purchasing decision.
When faced with “skeletons” in the closet, sellers should consult with their Realtor to determine which disclosures are required. Some prior acts may cause the house to be categorized as astigmatized property. Depending on state law, you might be required to inform buyers of any problems, real or perceived.
For our market area, it’s important to note that both Tennessee and Georgia law provide that a property owner or real estate licensee cannot be held liable for failure to disclose whether a property was site of a homicide or other felony, suicide, or death of any kind. Required disclosures include facts related to a property’s physical structure and condition. Yet, Realtors are obligated by the Realtor Code of Ethics to “treat all parties honestly,” and should answer truthfully when they have factual knowledge.
The initial burden of disclosure is on the seller regarding all aspects of the property. Realtors should advise their client of the benefits of proactive disclosure, which could prevent future issues, including contract recension. Not only does disclosure on the front-end reduce possible negative impacts of a buyer’s reaction to a property, being proactive can establish goodwill and build confidence for all parties to the transaction. After all, when it comes to real estate transactions, it’s more than a property’s physical integrity on the line.
If there is such thing as a haunted house, the paranormal occupants eventually will make their presence known to new occupants. And it’s been my experience that a buyer’s new neighbors are likely to make reference to former occupants now deceased from natural or other causes. Despite any legally required disclosure, it’s still a good idea to give buyers a heads up. Being proactive about what you know can establish transparency with potential buyers about all aspects of a property, real or perceived.
The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga. The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,700 members, and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee, and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information,