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You've heard that living with roommates can help you save money. But you probably haven't thought of picking ghosts for roommates as a housing affordability strategy. Turns out, buying a "haunted" house could be a strategy to save on real estate.
While it's hard to get precise numbers on how many homes in the United States are believed to be haunted, a 2020 Realtor.com survey found that 13% of respondents said they believed their home was haunted. So your chances of coming across a haunted house while shopping for a home may be higher than you think. But are you brave enough to snag one in the hopes of saving some money?
What Is a Haunted House, Legally?
When it comes to a legal definition of "haunted," it doesn't matter whether you believe a house is haunted—it matters whether the home has a reputation among the general public as being haunted.
The legal precedent for declaring a house haunted was set in 1991 by a case called Stambovsky v. Ackley. Helen Ackley had previously publicized her house as haunted before she sold it to Jeffrey Stambovsky. However, Stambovsky was not fully aware of this at the time he made his down payment.
The New York Supreme Court ruled that sellers must disclose that the house was publicly considered haunted. The court case focused on the reputation of a home. Some buyers, like Stambovsky, may not want a home with a spooky reputation.
Four states have specific rules about the disclosure of an alleged haunting at a property for sale:
- New York: Sellers must inform buyers if sellers have built up the haunted reputation of a property.
- New Jersey: If a buyer asks if a home is haunted, sellers must respond truthfully.
- Massachusetts: Paranormal activity is a factor that does not need to be disclosed.
- Minnesota: Paranormal activity does not need to be disclosed.
Whether or not your state explicitly states how a haunted house must be dealt with in property sales, you could stand to save money if you're willing to live in a home considered haunted. But should you make an offer?
Can I Save Money Buying a Haunted House?
Houses known for hauntings may fetch lower prices. Like homes where someone has died, homes with a reported haunting may be stigmatized properties.
If the reported haunting stems from a non-natural death on the property, such as a murder, the value could drop 10% to 25%, according to Randell Bell of Landmark Research Group. And many buyers—about 40%—would expect a discount on a haunted house, according to a survey by Realtor.com.
Some—about 35%—would accept the haunted house if it was in a desirable location. Another 32% would choose a haunted house if it was bigger, or—for 29%—had more bedrooms specifically.
Overall, buyers expect to get more bang for their buck on stigmatized properties, and prices may reflect that. You could save money shopping for a haunted house—if you're brave enough to live with the consequences.
Less Spooky Ways to Save on Real Estate
In a tight market, buyers may want to consider any angle that can get them a reduction in home price, including buying a haunted property. But there are other less paranormal options to look for when you're trying to save on a house:
- Reduce your required square footage. Dropping the square footage you expect in a home by even 300 square feet can save you thousands of dollars. Look for homes with smaller square footage but flexible, organized floor plans that make the most use of the space available or may be conducive to a future addition.
- Add to your commute. Moving a little further from the city can help you save on property costs.
- Check local tax mill rates. Local property taxes can vary from town to town. Even moving down the road could save you thousands in housing costs.
- Get your contractor hat on. Buying a fixer-upper is a well-known way to save money on a house. But they come with the big caveat that you need to have practical skills or knowledge to carry out some DIY renovations. Or you need to have extra funds to pay a contractor to renovate—as long as you still come out further ahead than you would have if you paid for a move-in-ready house.
Real estate purchases can feel overwhelming. But there are ways to save money even in a difficult market and find a home you love—with or without the ghostly roomies.
Could Your Credit Score Use Some Supernatural Assistance?
Your credit score can be a major asset when it comes to finding an affordable home. Don't forget to improve your credit score to get the best odds of approval and rates on your mortgage when house shopping. A few strategies that can have a positive impact on your credit include:
- Making all debt payments on time.
- Paying off debts.
- Reducing your credit utilization.
- Diversifying your mix of credit accounts.
- Using Experian Boost®ø.
When you sign up for Experian Boost, you get credit for your on-time utility and video streaming bills, as well as possibly your rent. You could see your score boosted in minutes, getting you that much closer to ideal mortgage loan rates and a more affordable home.