Haunted Real Estate: Is Anybody (Still) Home?


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It’s almost unheard of for a buyer to purchase a home without a series of professional inspections looking for everything from vestigial asbestos to broken appliances to pest infestations. But what about the infestations we can’t see? What about, you know, ghosts?

“It’s definitely a question I get asked,” says David Buck, a realtor with Hawaii Life. “Not every day, but for some people it really matters, especially the kind of death [that occurred], or if the property’s adjacent to a graveyard.”

Kristin Mukai, a realtor with Prudential Locations, agrees. “Believe it or not, ghosts and graveyards are a big deal to many Hawaii buyers— and not just during Halloween time. A really common question is, ‘Has anyone died in the unit?’ If the answer is yes, most times, it's an immediate turnoff.”

Mukai adds, “Living in Hawaii, there is also the fear of buying something built on ancient burial grounds. The superstitions can go on and on.”

Obviously, there’s an incentive for sellers to keep their mouths shut. But are they allowed to?

Hawaii has robust real estate seller disclosure laws, but they’re ambiguous when it comes to properties that have been the site of a death or crime. In fact, since the mid-90s, the law doesn’t mention death or crime disclosures at all. What continues to stand is this: Sellers may exclude the fact the “property was the site of an act or occurrence that had no effect on the physical structure or the physical environment.” So, unless the lingering spirit-tenants are breaking windows American Horror Story-style, a seller may be able to justify keeping quiet.

Despite the lack of legal clarity, realtors do encourage sellers to disclose as much information as possible. The Hawaii Association of Realtors’ standard disclosure form even includes this YES/NO question for sellers to complete: “Are there any additional facts regarding the property or neighborhood (e.g., history of homicide, felony, or suicide…)?” While the current Hawaii law has not been tested in court, it is safe to say the days of “let the buyer beware” are over.

Still, your best bet for avoiding a former murder site may be to ask the family on the other side of the fence if there’s been a notable incident—criminal or paranormal. Chances are the neighbors know.

 

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