Are there Skeletons in your New Closet?

post by Kim Minutella

Have you ever found yourself up late at night — maybe you’re hunched over your laptop with a strict deadline to meet, or laying on your bed with your eyes wide open and glued to the ceiling fan because you can’t sleep — and then suddenly you hear a noise in the dark that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? The sound could be the creak of a floorboard, or the screech of rusted hinges as a door shifts, or maybe the thump of a fallen object. Either way, it is distinct, and you’re home alone.

Or so you think.

For homebuyers in Pennsylvania, it is a real possibility you might be purchasing a home with an extra resident you weren’t aware of, as there is currently no law that requires a realtor or seller to disclose whether or not the house is haunted. On the contrary, by definition hauntings and disturbing events that have occurred previously in any house up for sale are not considered a material defect (i.e. a problem with a home or apartment that may pose a health risk or negatively affect the value of the property). Ruled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2014 during the Milliken v. Jacono lawsuit, in which a homeowner discovered the house they purchased was the site of a crime, it was decided that figurative skeletons in the closet – such as a murder that had occurred on the property – can stay in the proverbial closet.

As a buyer, if something like a past crime in the home would deter you from making a home purchase (and also spook you out of a good night’s sleep), doing your own research about the area your potential new home is located in, as well as about the property itself, is always a good idea before making a purchase. As for sellers, if you are having trouble navigating and worry that a haunting might have an effect on the value of the home, consider seeking advice from a lawyer that specializes in real estate. It can also save you some extra money when it comes to legal cost. During one such case in New York, Stambovsky v. Ackley, buyers Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky unknowingly purchased a haunted home, and ultimately chose to sue the seller. While the Stambovskies did not win the first trial against Ackley, they filed for an appeal and the New York Supreme Court did ultimately award them with a refund.

So if you are living in Pennsylvania, a state rich with history, it is very possible the next new home you’re thinking of buying could come with not only a balcony or even a pool — but also your very own ghost story. A new home brings in new opportunities, and if you factor in the possibility of the supernatural, it may also bring in new inspiration. Who knows, your latest house purchase could inspire you to become the next Steven King or Dean Koontz.

October is the perfect time of year to fantasize about your future demented domicile. Halloween is just around the corner, and who knows if some ‘boo’ might happen for you too.

Sources:

Leighton, Kelly. “Boo! Must a Realtor® disclose if a house is haunted?” Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, 31 October 2014. https://www.parealtor.org/justlisted/boo-must-a-realtor-disclose-if-a-house-is-haunted/. Accessed 29 October 2019.

Are Pennsylvania home sellers required to disclose stigmas? Avallone Law Associates, 20 December 2013. https://www.lawrenceavallone.com/blog/2013/12/are-pennsylvania-home-sellers-required-to-disclose-stigmas.shtml. Accessed 29 October 2019.

Do you have questions about buying or selling your home? Reach out to Christina Briglia, Realtor, anytime at 267.231.5484 or phc.christina@gmail.com.