Cindi Hagley says she lived in "several haunted houses" growing up, and now that she's a realtor, she's taken a special interest in them. Her firm, The Hagley Group of San Francisco, has a division specifically devoted to selling "stigmatized homes," and she even provides free consultations to realtors around the country who are dealing with homes that have a past, whether that past includes reputed hauntings or a crime.
So how does Hagley do it? Well, first of all, even if your house is haunted, you might not have to worry about cutting the price. In Hagley's home state of California, houses are in such demand that the value likely won't go down because of a few ghosts.
"Real estate is through the roof in California, and there are more buyers than there are sellers. So it should not affect the value of a home," she said. "There are folks that think, because it’s haunted or because there was a murder or suicide, they can come in and get it for 50 cents on a dollar. But I don’t think I’ve ever sold a property discounted because it’s haunted."
Though a death in the home or a reputed haunting might not drop your price, you do still have a legal obligation to disclose such things (in California, at least), particularly deaths, which must be disclosed to buyers for three years. Hagley's strategy is to hold that information back as long as she can, and not just because she doesn't want word getting out to ghost hunters that they can view a "haunted house."
"I’ll usually hold that [information] till the end, because if I put that upfront and it’s available to other agents, I get looky-loos, I get creepy people, these ghost-hunting groups want to come through — the last thing I ever want to do is provoke anything," she said. "So I usually save that to the [end]. If people fall in love with a home, there are things that they’ll look past. I think an alleged haunting is one of them."
Though Hagley says the ratio of people who walk away from buying the home after hearing about a death or haunting is "about 50/50," allowing the potential buyer to fall for the house first seems like a good idea. What if you need to go further, though? What if someone wants the dark energy of their potential new home ... dealt with? Or what if they just can't be sure they can live in such a place until they've tried it? Well, Hagley has that covered. Her firm not only employs psychics and clergymen to help "cleanse" homes, it also sometimes offers buyers the chance to take a house for a little test drive.
"If it’s a bad energy — it sounds so crazy to talk about — but if it’s something that’s toying with people, then I need to figure out what it is, and I need to cleanse that home," she said. "So I have a couple people. My main guy’s name is Mark Nelson, and he’s out of Los Angeles, and he’s a great psychic. So we go in and we try to figure out what it is, who it is, and we try to get them to pass on. First we’ll try a psychic, but some people who are super-religious will have a clergy member come in and bless the home. We also let buyers test-drive the home. If they think it’s going to be creepy living there, then we’ll let them stay there for two or three nights and test it out. We’ll bring food in, we’ll cater it and hang out there, see what happens."
So, when it comes to "haunted" homes, it seems a sound strategy goes a long way to selling the property no matter what its past might be. Still, even Hagley admits sometimes houses are just too much for her.
"I’ve been in homes where the energy has just been so off that I don’t want to be in that home, and I’ve refused listings, or I might go ahead and take the listing, but I won’t go back into the home," she said. "I’ll do what I can from afar, and I’ll have my colleagues do whatever else. There’s some nasty energy out there, and I just won’t be around it."
Would you buy a haunted house? Have you already bought one? This seems like a nice occasion to share some tales of creepy real estate, so if you've got one, head to the comments and let us know.