Unexplained bumps in the night, cold spots in the house and even a ghostly apparition are all telltale signs of a haunting you may see in a horror movie. Or they could be from a friend recounting an experience in their childhood home.
They could even be what you’re experiencing in your own home now.
Whether you consider yourself a skeptic, are a reluctant believer or feel spirits and energies are drawn to you to communicate, there’s no denying that plenty of people fall under each of these three categories.
Trying to determine whether a house is haunted is often subjective. “What’s haunted to me may not be haunted to you,” says Danetha Doe, an economist and spokesperson for real estate education platform Clever.
Either way, once a person has determined a house is haunted, what’s the next step? Some choose to steer clear of buying a home with paranormal tenants, some are drawn to the space and others simply don’t care.
Wherever you are in the process, we’re breaking down the possible signs your house is haunted, whether you should buy a haunted house, how to sell one and how to live with the extra spirits in your home.
— Signs that may make you believe your house is haunted.
— Should you buy a haunted house?
— Can you sell a haunted house?
— How to live in a haunted house.
Signs That May Make You Believe Your House Is Haunted
There are plenty of little events that can make you wonder if there’s a spirit or energy with you at home. It may feel sinister, but a haunting can be friendly, explains Sterling Moon, a psychic medium and tarot reader, whose book “Talking to Spirits” publishes in February 2023.
In a cozy haunting, as Moon calls it, “it’s like I have good roommates who pay their rent on time and do the dishes, but we never see each other.”
Positive, negative or relatively benign, here are some signs that Moon says could mean your house is haunted:
— Recurring electrical and power problems. Flickering lights are a classic horror movie trope, but they can often be logically explained as an electrical issue. However, Moon points to consistent and ongoing electrical, appliance and power-draining issues as a potential sign that there are energies in the house playing around. Electrical problems, even after having an electrician address issues, phone batteries that won’t stay charged at home but are fine elsewhere and appliances randomly turning on and off are all things to look for.
— Unexplained noises at the same time of day or night. A creaky house is common, especially if the place is old — the foundation settles, loose plaster falls between walls or a shift in bed can make a floorboard creak. But if you’re hearing consistent noises that you can’t quite explain at similar times of day or night, Moon says this could be something else. “Sometimes the noises will happen at very specific times. They will feel like they’re almost in response to something else,” she says.
— Strange smells. Smells that don’t appear tied to anyone or anything around could be from other energies in the home. Think the smell of cigar smoke even though you’re a lifelong nonsmoker, or the smell of coffee even though no one’s drinking or making any.
— Feeling of being watched. That eerie feeling you’re being watched could be because you’re not quite alone in the room. However, not all hauntings are a deceased person or energy tied to the house — Moon says there are times when a deceased friend or relative is checking in during moments of particular happiness, sadness or stress. “There are just those moments when you feel that they are close,” she says.
— Dreams. It’s hard to distinguish whether a dream is tied to what’s happening in your home, and can easily be dismissed as “just a dream,” but if you’re dreaming about a person you’ve never met, it may be tied to other goings on in your house. “Dream visitations are very common,” Moon says.
— Shadows, visions and apparitions. Plenty of people will swear they witnessed a haunting when they saw an apparition of a person before them when they were wide awake, and others will recollect shadows that can’t be attributed to people or objects. These are hard to both prove and disprove, so it’s up to the individuals believing what they saw and the individuals being told about it to believe what they hear. “A lot of times it’s out of the corner of your eye,” Moon says.
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Should You Buy a Haunted House?
If you’re in the market for a home, should you steer clear of anything deemed haunted?
Ultimately, it’s up to your individual preference to decide if you should buy a haunted house. In a survey of 1,000 people across the U.S. about homebuying preferences conducted by Real Estate Witch, a partner of Clever, 57% said they’d be willing to buy a haunted house, while the remainder said nothing could convince them to do so.
Meanwhile, 43% of respondents said they cared more about the condition of the house than any potential haunts. “That’s more important to the buyer,” Doe says.
Even if you’re a complete skeptic, there’s reasonable concern that someone reporting a house as haunted may indicate that there are consistent issues with the house — bug infestations, electrical issues and more.
In the Clever survey, 59% of respondents willing to live in a haunted house said they would be willing to make an offer, but below market value, which is an option to consider especially if you’re willing to take on some supernatural roommates in exchange for a move-in ready house.
Can You Sell a Haunted House?
A house with a reputation for ghostly apparitions or violent spirits may be harder to sell, but it’s still possible to sell your home. Especially if you’ve kept the property up to date, you’re likely to find a fair share of buyers who won’t care about a few spooky experiences.
“More than one-third of Americans that we surveyed said that they would be willing to purchase a haunted home if it had modern renovations and appliances,” Doe says.
If you’ve kept your house’s haunted status to yourself, in most cases you may prefer not to say anything about it in seller disclosures or to your real estate agent. However, there are at least four states that specifically mention paranormal activity in their laws about required seller disclosures — Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. However, many more states require reporting a known murder, death or violent crime if it occurred on the property.
Disclosing a death on the property could turn some buyers off, but others won’t be bothered by it. Work with your real estate agent to frame any stigmatizing disclosures in the best light possible, and whether it may lead to your home being valued lower than other similar properties.
If your house is haunted to the point that it’s kind of famous, you may find that leaning into the spooky aspect gets you more buyer interest. In a January 2022 HomeAdvisor survey of recent homebuyers, 6% said they’d even be willing to pay above market value to live in a haunted house.
How to Live in a Haunted House
Just because you’ve determined your house is haunted, you don’t have to clear out right away.
“You always have the right to feel safe in your own home — full stop. That said, a haunted house does not necessarily mean you won’t feel comfortable,” Moon says.
Other than learning to live with some of the quirks of paranormal roommates, here are some ways to make living with spirits are little less spooky:
— Lay down ground rules. It may feel silly, but tell the haunts in your home what’s appropriate and not appropriate, just like you would with a disruptive human houseguest. In areas of the home where events may occur most, talk to the space and lay down some rules, Moon says, for example, that the spirit can’t scare the children while they’re sleeping, or that they can’t mess with electronics anymore because the battery keeps dying on your phone.
— Give a verbal warning about renovations. In the same manner you told your ghost to stop showing up in the kids’ room at night, give them a verbal heads up when you’re doing work on the house. Moon says it can be helpful to explain that you’re here to take care of the house, and in order to do that you’ll be making some updates. “That can be a way to gloss things over,” she says.
— Skip “magical” tools. Moon advises against using white sage in your home unless it’s part of your cultural heritage. Smudging, or the act of burning sage and other plants in an effort to clear negative energy, is a sacred medicinal practice in some Native American cultures, and isn’t best used at random. “A lot of people think you can run around with some crystals and sage (and clear the house of spirits), but that’s not a thing,” Moon says.
— Contact a professional. If you’re unsure what to do next, you may want to bring in a medium, ghost hunter or some other form of clairvoyant, but you may not get the outcome you want. “It can really dial things up, and I’ve seen that done with clients in both good and bad ways,” Moon says.
— Clean the house regularly. Explaining that you’re there to take good care of the house can help keep a spirit at ease, but then you need to keep up your end of the bargain. Keep the house clean and make repairs when needed.
— Look up the history of your house. Not all energies and spirits are former residents, but knowing a bit more about the house could help you understand the space better. “If you do care about hauntings, you do need to care about history. Look up the history of your home, look up records,” Mood says. “If we know the history (of the property), we want to take better care of it.”
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