Buying a haunted house (or avoiding one)

So many people have been searching lately for “buying a haunted house.” My site has been drawing a lot of traffic because I’m one of few people who have written on the topic recently.

I use Google’s Webmaster tools to tell me what searches bring people to my website. It’s always been my goal to provide information that internet surfer’s like you need. The search for “buying a haunted house” has been on the rise, and my site has been attracting web surfers ever since I wrote the article about the house that was declared haunted as a matter of law (That’s right! The house was “legally haunted.“).

Whether you need to know what your legal rights are in conducting investigations before you close on a haunted house, or want to know how to avoid buying a haunted house altogether, I’m curious and I can help.

To the buyers who are excited about buying a haunted house.

The Seller must provide access for “all” tests

Your rights under the law of most states, especially California, stem from the contract. The California Association of Realtor’s contract (RPA, revised version, 12/18) has several clauses that help the buyers as they search for answers.

  • Paragraph 14B(5) tells the sellers that they must provide the buyer “access to the Property to conduct inspections and investigations for 17 [] Days after Acceptance.”
  • Paragraph 12B states that “Seller shall make the Property available for all Buyer Investigations.” (emphasis added)

Seller has the power to refuse certain tests.

Just because the seller must provide you access, does not mean that the seller has to permit your test. The contract allows the buyer to conduct all reasonable inspections, but it also helps to define reasonable by providing examples of tests that require the seller’s permission.

Under paragraph 12A, the following tests are either prohibited or require seller’s permission:

  • Shower pan leak tests on second floor showers,
  • Inspection of roof coverings,
  • Inspection of common areas of a condominium or other common interest subdivision,
  • Any inspection that causes “invasive or destructive” searches.

The primary theme among the prohibited acts can be summarized as this: “Leave the property as you found it.” Don’t remove shingles from the roof to inspect the plywood. Don’t cause water to spill into lower units causing permanent water damage. And, don’t do anything that would be invasive or destructive.

Be reasonable.

Given the above, in California, you have the right to perform all your tests on a property as long as you are reasonable. This means a seller cannot stop you from searching for ghosts using non-harmful techniques.

I had a buyer ask for permission to open walls with a sledge hammer once. He wanted to look for residue in the wooden beams behind the wall, just like Ghostbusters. This was an invasive and destructive test and was not allowed.

The same buyer eventually agreed to allow a religious ceremony to compel all ghosts to leave thinking that the ghost would “fight to remain” and thus he would see evidence of the ghost during the ceremony. The religious ceremony included chanting and the use of salt and a holy cross on a rosary. This test was allowed.

What tests to use…

The trick is that you have to be satisfied. No one can tell you what tests to use. I certainly cannot, because I do not personally believe that houses can be haunted. But just because I don’t believe does not mean that it isn’t possible.

Because your real estate agent may be like me and cannot guarantee that you are buying a haunted house, you have to be the one to determine what test you will use.

In my experience, it helps to decide the tests before you enter the contract and make a promise to yourself that you will decide whether your are buying a haunted house based on only those tests.

My buyers inevitably feel a sense of doubt after performing the tests they have selected. The doubt causes them to search for new tests, and they inevitably loose the house because they took to long to make a decision. Do yourself a favor: when buying a haunted house, decide on the tests first, then perform the tests. Do not add more tests later; this is a mistake.

Choosing the Right Realtor

Before you start a transaction like this, check to see if your REALTOR is on board. It helps to have a realtor who knows the law (like maybe one who has actually attended law school, like me). It also helps to have a realtor who knows the contract inside and out (like me). If you are not buying a haunted house in Bakersfield, then you will have to ask questions.

When you ask questions, pay attention to the tone in your REALTOR’s voice. Look at any strange facial expressions or signs of concern in your REALTOR’s face. Most realtors that I work with try to talk their buyer’s out of these inspections, because they feel that the buyer is wasting time with “silly investigations.” In my opinion, you should work with a REALTOR who wants to represent your interests. That means, that he or she will help you accomplish your goals. In other words, look for an agent who helps you accomplish your goals, even if they don’t personally believe what you believe.

Naturally, if you are buying or selling in Bakersfield, CA, then I invite you to call me. Get my contact information by clicking on the link below.