Archive | June, 2014

Worried About Buying a Haunted Home? What’s the Real Estate Industry’s Take on Haunted Houses?

24 Jun

There have been some changes in Colorado real state rules and regs re buyer agency and disclosure of psychological stigmas. This article has not yet been updated and does not reflect these changes. Contact the author for updates.

Haunted Houses have been the source of many a scary story, and the practice of real estate has not been immune to them. Ask any real estate broker who has been in the business long enough if he/she has ever had a strange experience in one of the homes they were showing or selling. Whether a believer or not, many would admit that they did.

Consider the broker who is selling a home in a nasty divorce situation… sometimes one can just sense the acrimony, even though it may now be vacant. There is a spectrum of energy left in homes, ranging from just a little bit to downright humongous! Consider a home where there was a murder, a suicide, or some other kind of violent energetic episode, and you may be considering a haunted house!

How do you as a buyer of real estate know whether a house is afflicted with negative energy? Your own perceptions are the first to be acknowledged; if you just don’t feel good there, perhaps it is best to move on. But if you are persistent, and you think the home is just “too good of a deal”, some remedial action is possible. Hiring a feng shui consultant or a house healer may be in order. In more extreme cases, a priest or minister can be asked to bless the house, or a psychic can be called in for a session. If you’re more inclined to the high tech approach, bring in your local ghost hunters with all the latest equipment. We won’t talk about exorcisms, the most extreme solution.

What if a broker thinks that a home for sale is haunted? Does she have a duty to tell the buyer? Colorado real estate law does speak to this issue: under Section 38-35.5-101 of the CRS Statutes:

Nondisclosure of Information Psychologically Impacting Real Property we note in Paragraph 2…
“No cause of action shall arise against a real estate broker… for failing to disclose such circumstance occurring on the property which might psychologically impact or stigmatize such property.”

Language in the standard listing contract in Colorado has been revised to read:

5.2. Broker must not disclose the following information without the informed consent of Seller:
91 5.2.1. That Seller is willing to accept less than the asking price for the Property;
92 5.2.2. What the motivating factors are for Seller to sell the Property;
93 5.2.3. That Seller will agree to financing terms other than those offered;
94 5.2.4. Any material information about Seller unless disclosure is required by law or failure to disclose such
95 information would constitute fraud or dishonest dealing; or
96 5.2.5. Any facts or suspicions regarding circumstances that could psychologically impact or stigmatize the Property

In other words, Colorado law makers didn’t want brokers to be able to inadvertently stigmatize a property by saying it was the scene of emotionally violent acts like murder or suicide, let alone being haunted (see Related Story for a different state’s interpretation).

On the other hand, you as a buyer would certainly want to know this before you inherit some things in the house you may not want. But what if a property has a well known reputation, like Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs? When it was recently on the market, the listing broker made no bones about disclosing the “haunting.” But since it was purchased there has been no further news. If it were to come up for sale again and I was the new listing broker, would I disclose the alleged haunting to an uninformed buyer (Better to Disclose)?  Only if I could get the consent of my client in this state, even though one could argue it would be hard to stigmatize a property that already has such a reputation.  Would I disclose as a Buyer’s Broker who represented the buyer and not the seller?  Yes.

But what if that property in Colorado* did not have such a reputation, and you were shown it as a buyer? What if you sensed something wrong? Even if you were convinced it was haunted and the broker showing it agreed, the next time he showed it to a different buyer he would not be required to disclose his opinion.

Haunted Houses are part of the real estate market and part of our modern culture, regardless of what you may or may not believe. Whether you’re buying or selling, it dosen’t have to be Halloween to sleep well in a haunted house!

Paul Hill
All Rights Reserved

*Most states have their own laws regarding disclosure of  psychologically stigmatized properties due to death, murder, suicide, etc., but may not specifically refer to hauntings, ghosts, or other paranormal phenomena. Consult your local broker or your state’s department of real estate for details.



Selling Points!*

23 Jun

Traditionally, one buys a home using the same tried & true criteria:  price, location, condition, square footage, bedrooms/baths, amenities. There are of course other items, but these are among the most important.  A choice is made on financial considerations as a function of the physical parameters of the property.  Is the home worth what you can buy it for, given its physical attributes?  If you decide that it is, you or your broker will draft an offer and negotiate the sale.  Once it’s accepted, your lender’s appraiser will evaluate and confirm its value by comparing it to similar properties that have sold.  Successful inspection, title work, mortgage commitment… then off you go to closing!  Unfortunately, too many new owners experience some degree of buyer’s remorse when they realize, perhaps months or even years later, that their home’s life is not what they expected.  The reasons for this are many.  Maybe a hidden defect becomes apparent as time goes by.  Maybe the owner’s sense of community and shared values is compromised as the true nature of the home’s setting unfolds.  There can be many other negative results, but prior to making an offer, employing a more holistic approach using the following Selling Points* criteria can assure better outcomes…

Character.  A home’s character can be defined as a unique set of attributes that provide depth and dimension to the experience of inhabiting it.  Yes, this is a subjective determination, but most of us know when a house either has it or lacks it.  The factors that determine character may be architectural touches, the layout of the floor plan, or the building materials used, but each contributes to a secure sense of place and comfort.

Aesthetics.  This is closely related to character.  Again a subjective call, but the fact is homes that are visually pleasing in terms of design, landscaping and setting have a positive curb appeal that enhances both current value and insures the appreciation of future value.  Financial aspects aside, a family will feel good in a house that looks good!

Privacy.  One of the most overlooked aspects of home buying, privacy is a function of both sight and sound. You want to be insulated from sight lines that allow your neighbors and passers-by to look into your life, and at the same time you don’t need to see unpleasantness around you, whether it’s transitory or permanent.  Sound becomes a factor if it constitutes noise pollution… detracting from your sense of privacy and often undetected on a first or even second showing, especially if it occurs randomly or in the wee hours.

Eco-Consciousness.  We can broadly define  eco-consciousness as an awareness of your home’s proper place in the ecosystem.  Some places contribute to it better than others, but as applied to a house, we think of how it does or does not integrate with you, it’s local environment, and our planet as a whole.  Eco-conscious variables include the positive benefits of solar gain and shade, natural light infusion, energy efficiency, and water purity and availability.  Negative forms include anything that diminishes integration with our environment or damages our health, from light, noise, odor, water and air pollution to toxic contamination.

Sustainability.  A close cousin to eco-consciousness, sustainability in housing refers to how they are built, maintained and improved.  Whether building new or remodeling the old, did you or the contractor use long lasting, energy efficient and whenever possible recycled materials and non-damaging construction techniques?  You want your home to be built with as little resource depletion as possible, and you want it to outlast your mortgage!

Energy Flow.  Every living space (and workspace) has a flow of energy in, around, and through it.  Asian philosophy calls this flow Qi (chi), and the study of it in living spaces is feng shui .  Whether you believe in this phenomenon or not, today more and more real estate practitioners are evaluating this characteristic for their clients.

While a prime determinant of positive energy flow is the arrangement of your home’s decor, it is also a function of your home’s setting, design and floor plan, which cannot easily be altered.  Better to select a property with optimum energy flow to start, and enhance it later with your own decorating and furniture designs.

Physical & Spiritual Health.  Eco-consciousness is to sustainability as energy flow is to both physical and spiritual health.  On the negative side, houses and the living spaces within them are energetic containers that absorb and hold not only germs and pollutants, but also the bad experiences of those within it.  These may linger after who or whatever introduced them are long gone.  On the positive side, most people would prefer that their home hold in sunshine, warmth, the smell of homemade cookies, and the sweet memories of those who had lived there before.   Physical things:  There are things in and about a home that can damage the structure, make you sick, or hurt your children!  Here is just a partial list:   bacteria & virusnatural cleanersradonmoldexpansive soil, lack of fresh air exchangersdustchemicals from carpetingChinese drywallPVC pipelead paint or pipeswindow blindsformaldehyde insulationgas appliances, etc.   Non-physical things:  Like energy flow, the spiritual health of a house can be felt by those sensitive to its influence, but it is important to know that it exists independently of your belief in it.  Those who live in negatively affected space may begin to feel that way themselves, as poor spiritual health in your home has a cumulative effect.  Living spaces can and should be screened for this condition before a purchase is made.

Topography.  The lay of the land… topography (and its inverse, subography) determines more than anything else how well your home is situated on the planet, and it’s degree of connectedness to surrounding areas.  Was the soil appropriate for building; is it fertile enough for planting and gardening?  On your lot are there elevations, pathways, natural barriers and openings, flat areas, rock outcroppings, and room for dogs and kids to roam?  

On the negative side, does your house lie above or near a geologic fault line; is it literally “undermined” by old mining tunnels (not uncommon in western Colorado), or is your lot’s underlying substructure ideal for gas or oil drilling?  Most owners in Colorado own only surface rights to their property, and seldom possess the mineral rights beneath (also learn about the 1951 Oil & Gas Conservation Act).

On the positive side, is your home on or near a desirable natural formation, like a south or southwest facing slope or hillside?  Are there views of landscapes or cityscapes that you need to augment your imagination and creativity?  To let your mind and body roam, is your property adjacent to a national forest, open space, or even a golf course or cemetery?    Does that empty land across the street promise to remain that way via conservation easement, or is it subject to development beyond your control?

Access to Resources.  Whether you as a homeowner are outgoing, community-oriented and gregarious, or self-sufficient, individualistic and to-yourself, your access to resources outside the home is important. Where your home is in relationship to other people, places, and things should be strongly considered. Things like gas prices and traffic will not only affect your commutability to work, but also your convenience to quality schools, adequate shopping, and availability of family and friends. More importantly, time and distance from providers can be critical when it comes to both emergency and routine health care.   Walkability measures how easy and convenient it is to walk (or bike) from your house to where you have to get to on a daily basis without using gasoline!

These are resources that just about everyone needs.  Cultural amenities like libraries, universities and museums also mean a lot to many people.  Natural resources outside your property, like parks, hiking trails, running rivers, etc. are equally as important to others.  Living in the country can be isolating or rewarding, whether for the purpose of quietude and privacy, or simply as a matter of perceived survival. Similarly, life in a suburban subdivision can be sterile and conforming, or it can be comfortable and secure. Know thyself; understand your fit into the rural, urban, and suburban cultures around you, and you will know the resources you require…

Safety & Security.  Often used interchangeably, safety can be defined as your immunity from danger, whether accidental or the result of deliberate behavior.  Security refers to the protection you establish to insure your safety. Feeling safe where you live involves many elements, including good police & fire departments, a low crime rate, gated communities, neighborhood watches, home security systems, etc.  Protecting you, your family and your property against the ever-present threat of criminal behaviour or the possibility of accident is not to be underestimated.

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Additional Helpful Links:

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

*Selling Points is a proprietary system of evaluating and selling residential property.  Copyright 2014, Paul Hill, All Rights Reserved