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Jay Edwards: So should I have disclosed that ghost?

Jay Edwards: So should I have disclosed that ghost?

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If you’re like me you’ve always been a little fascinated with the unknown world of ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. When we bought our second home, the seller was a kind old widower who had built the house back in 1939. He was 85 and was getting married again and moving to a lake house with his new bride. Sadly, we heard that he passed away a few weeks after we moved in.

KM says she saw his ghost from time to time over the next 10 years. Usually at night, when I was snoring. We sold the house in 1995 and his ghost didn’t come with us. I never disclosed to the buyers that he was there.

The Seller Property Disclosure from the Arkansas Realtors Association has 53 questions on the form that homeowners, when they list their house for sale, are expected to answer to the best of their knowledge. But of those 53, none ask, “Is your house haunted?” or, “Have you ever seen a ghost on the premises?”

The one that comes closest to covering these type things is question number 35, which asks, “To your knowledge, are there any facts, circumstances or events on or around the Property, which, if known to a potential buyer, could adversely affect in a material manner the value or desirability of the Property?”

I checked no. Blame KM. She said our ghost seemed nice, not adverse.

Poltergeists do become an interesting issue when it comes to real estate. Just ask Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky, who nearly 30 years ago were smoothly moving towards closing on their large Victorian on the Hudson River in Nyack, N.Y.

Most everyone in the tiny village of Nyack had known for years that the 5,000 square foot home owned by Helen and George Ackley was haunted. The Ackleys didn’t mind telling their neighbors after they had seen a ghost in the house, or about being awakened every morning by their shaking bed. Other than that minor inconvenience they had lived in harmony with whatever it was haunting them.

The buyers Helen and George failed to share their haunted house tale with the Stambovskys, who had over $30,000 in escrow at the title company, and were trusting they would soon take possession of an unencumbered property.

Being a friendly town, word of the hauntings got back to the Stambovskys, who, like most people who just want a good night’s rest, backed out of the deal.

But the Ackleys weren’t agreeable to that, and refused to refund the deposit. So the Stambovskys decided to sue, which led to a ruling from the New York Appellate Court that, because a routine home inspection would not, at least not always, uncover the presence of a ghost, it is the responsibility and the duty of the sellers to disclose to all potential buyers that their house is haunted. Since then, the “Ghostbuster” decision from Stambovsky vs. Ackley has been widely taught in law school classes around the country.

In another story out of a 2016 issue of “Realtor Magazine,” an agent in Omaha turned one of his listings into a marketing opportunity. Instead of focusing on the renovated kitchen or great location, he instead promoted the home’s haunted reputation. But the owners ended up taking it off the market before it sold, saying the hauntings had taken a sudden violent turn and they were getting out quick and turning it into a rental.

Which leads to another question, do renters get their deposit back if they break the lease because of a ghost? As for the creative real estate agent, he did say his marketing strategy was getting a lot of attention before they decided not to sell.

Some of the paranormal experts the writers interviewed for the story said there are people that really don’t mind living with ghosts. Like the Ackley’s, whose son-in-law said that they didn’t mind the ghosts so much. “They felt they were benevolent and looked after the family.”

Which is just the kind you’d want.


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