instead of a two car garage... we have ghosts!
emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer
Caveat Emptor was the property law doctrine
that controlled the sale of real property
after the date of 'closing'
Story by Guy Driskall
property is a term used in the real estate
business which describes possible detrimental
features of a property or home, all the
result of unfortunate occurrences. These
can include murder, suicide or even AIDS,
in addition to a belief that a house may
be haunted by real ghosts.
from some cultures won't consider the
purchase of a home where a actual death
has occurred, believing negative energy
lives within its walls, real estate professionals
say. Other buyers are intrigued by a property's
dark past. Often now a days people go
to realtors asking directly if they have
a haunted house for sale. And often amature
ghost hunters will contact an agent to
basically have a haunted walk through
of such properties.
homes, such as those used in television
or movies, can also be stigmatized due
to increased traffic from fans wanting
to see the house in person. One such home
is the house that was made famous in the
film "The Amityville Horror".
The house which was located at 112 Ocean
Avenue in Amityville, New York was the
site where Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered
his family, and a little over a year later
the Lutz family claimed that evil spirits
drove them from their home. Since the
films release, the house has been renovated
and the address changed in an attempt
to prevent sightseers from disturbing
a particular buyer may not care about
any stigma attached to the property, the
stigma may make it very difficult to resell
in the future. Therefore, while a buyer
may or may not believe in supernatural
phenomena, he/she may want to know about
a property's bloody past. However, depending
on the jurisdiction of the house, the
seller may not be required to disclose
the full facts.
the course of her ownership of the property
at issue, which was located in Nyack,
New York, Helen Ackley and members of
her family had reported the existence
of numerous poltergeists (sic) in the
house. Ackley had reported the existence
of ghosts in the house to both Reader's
Digest and a local newspaper on three
occasions between 1977 and 1989, when
the house was included on a five-home
walking tour of the city. Neither Ackley
nor her realtor, Ellis Realty, revealed
the haunting to Jeffrey Stambovsky before
he entered a contract to purchase the
house in 1989 or 1990. Stambovsky was
from New York City and was not aware of
the folklore of Nyack, including the widely
known haunting story.
When Stambovsky learned
of the haunting story, he filed an action
requesting rescission of the contract
of sale and for damages for fraudulent
misrepresentation by Ackley and Ellis
Realty. A New York Supreme Court (trial
court) dismissed the action, and Stambovsky
Ackley (May 1977). "Our Haunted House
on the Hudson". Reader's Digest:
Ghost of Nyack
did find a buyer for the house and moved
to Florida in 1991.
1993 Ackley was contacted by a paranormal
researcher from Portland, Oregon, Bill
Merrill. She also met the channeler, Glenn
able to contact two ghosts from the Nyack
residence from a location in Southern
Oregon. One ghost called himself Sir George,
the other called herself Margaret. The
ghosts stated that it wasn't as much fun
in the house since the Ackley's moved
out. It is true that the eventual buyers
played down the haunting, and did not
want the ghosts.
went on to explain various parts of history
of the area along the Hudson between Nyack
and Upper Nyack and Hook Mountain. Later
Historians in Rockland County checked
out the recounting and most of it held
up, or could easily be true. The facts
presented were highly obscure, and not
readily available. In one meeting with
the ghosts, they stated that they were
to board and it was time to move on. So
just maybe the Ghost of Nyack is no more...
Bill and Glenn published a book about
these events. It is entitled: Sir George,
The Ghost of Nyack by Bill Merrill &
Glenn Johnson (Deer Publishing, Beaverton,
OR). In 2003, Helen Ackley passed away.
HAUNTED HOUSE OR WAS IT JUST A
a real haunted house, and it was sold
to me as such. I was fully aware that
the house was haunted and really wanted
to own it and interact with the ghost
that lived there. I gues I wanted "Ordinary
Ghosts " the kind that like the living
and interact as if still alive, if their
is such a thing.
in question had tales of ghostly encounters
associated with it long before I was ever
born. The actual standing structure to
property was built somewhere around 1878.
I dreamed of having ghostly friends like
the Kirby's fron the old Topper movie
and TV series. Or a friendly little ghost
like Casper to be my friend and share
a few adventures with. But you know of
course I was wrong. Often I have heard
that a lot of people believe in ghosts
and light a candle at night to guide their
loved ones home.
Do You See Dead People? Disclose It!
As silly as it
sounds, if your home has a reputation
for ectoplasmic activity, you should disclose
things that go bump in the night, as well
as more tangible stigmas could certainly
cause your home's value to drop, but failing
to disclose them could cost you a much
scarier liability suit.
disclosure laws don't deal with the forms
the deceased take in the afterlife, but
they do address death as a stigma.
for example, the law says you don't have
to disclose a death that occurred more
than three years before the sale.
attorneys interpret that to mean agents
should disclose any deaths that occur
within three years of the sale, and the
California Association of Realtors advises
agents to do so. The association also
advises agents to disclose any death,
no matter how long ago it occurred, if
the seller asks.
exception is death caused by AIDS.
law define's AIDS as a disability and
such a disclosure could be deemed discriminatory.
Bell, founder of Laguna Beach, CA-based
Bell Consulting, which analyzes the impact
of detrimental conditions on property
values, says secrecy about specters and
other conditions only adds to the fear.
disclosure has a cathartic effect that
helps remove any shroud of secrecy, says
Bell, who was called in for consultations
after the 1997 Heaven's Gate murders in
San Diego -- the largest mass suicide
on U.S. soil.
Santa Fe Groves Inc., led by developer
William L. Strong Jr., purchased the property
two years after the event for $668,000,
less than half the $1.6 million list price
before the cultists' deaths. At the time
of the purchase, the 9,000 square foot
home on 3.1 acres was slated for demolition,
but the assessor valued the land at $1.5
he would open any such heavily stigmatized
home to the media to keep a forbidden
property from becoming "haunted".
case law that sets legal precedent, but
it doesn't totally support Bell's assertions.
naive out-of-towners Jeffrey and Patrice
Stambovsky, purchased an 18-room rambling
riverfront Victorian mansion on the Hudson
River in scenic Nyack, N.Y.
to them at the time, the $650,000 home
Ackley, however, had actively promoted
her home as a haunt for apparitions in
the attic, poltergeists in the pantry
and ghosts in the garage.
local and national media reported the
story. The most notable version was a
1997 Reader's Digest story, "Our
Haunted House on the Hudson."
to Ackley's Digest account, there were
at least three ghosts thought to date
back to the Revolutionary War, a red-cloaked
woman often seen demurely descending the
staircase, a wandering sailor with a powdered
wig and an elderly gentleman sitting in
the living room suspended four feet above
ghosts have continued to delight us,"
Ackley told Reader's Digest.
were always "gracious, thoughtful
-- only occasionally frightening -- and
thoroughly entertaining," she said.
worst, the spirits almost knocked her
daughter out of bed and shook her four-poster
bed in the mornings just before the alarm
clock went off.
Stambovsky insisted he didn't believe
in ghosts, but the possibility of living
with them spooked his wife.
demanded that Ackley return their $32,500
binder and ax the deal. Ackley refused
to return the money, claiming that the
Stambovskys had agreed to purchase the
home "as is."
of taking metaphysical law into their
own hands, the Stambovskys took it to
were the victims of ectoplasmic fraud,"
court ruled in favor of Ackley, but later
Justice Israel Rubin of the Appellate
Division of the New York State Supreme
Court reversed the decision with a devilish
very practical problem arises with respect
to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon:
'Who you gonna call?' as a title song
to the movie Ghostbusters asks. Applying
the strict rule of caveat emptor to a
contract involving a house possessed by
poltergeists conjures up visions of a
psychic or medium routinely accompanying
the structural engineers and Terminix
man on an inspection of every home subject
to a contract of sale," Rubin said.
the source of the spectral apparitions
seen by defendant seller are parapsychic
or psychogenic, having reported their
presence in both a national publication
and the local press, defendant is estopped
to deny their existence, and, as a matter
of law, the house is haunted," he
finished with a flourish.
October 23, 2003 Reprinted with Kind Permission
of Copyright © 2003 Realty Times®.
All Rights Reserved http://realtytimes.com/rtnews/rtcpages/20031023_deadpeople.htm
of this article without permission is
a violation of federal copyright laws
Perkins is executive editor of San Jose,
CA-based DeadlineNews.com, an editorial
content and editorial consulting firm.
Perkins, also contributing editor of "Nolo's
Essential Guide To Buying Your First Home"
(Nolo, Berkeley, CA), has been a consumer
and real estate journalist for 29 years.