One of the things that stopped me in my tracks the first time I strolled the streets of New Orleans was the “Not Haunted” signs that hung below many (not all) of the For Sale signs up and down the blocks. I mean, is a haunted building was something to be desired – or definitely not?
I suppose it probably depends on a person’s view on such things.
I had never seen signs like those in any other town, not even notably historical places like Charleston or Boston, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not the disclosure of a supposed haunting is required or merely a courtesy in a town like New Orleans, where ghosts from the past seem alive enough to walk alongside the living.
It turns out, there’s an actual answer to that question, so here we go.
First off, a house that is haunted, or perhaps had some tragedy take place inside, would fall under the “stigmatized” classification. That means that while there may be nothing wrong with the physical structure, there is something in the house’s history that could potentially turn off buyers.
The laws about disclosing “stigmas” vary from state to state. For example, in Massachusetts, realtors only have to disclose sordid history if asked, but in California, any deaths that happened on the property in the past three years are required talking points.
In a New York court ruling back in 1991, a judge decided that in New York you’re only required to warn sellers about a potential haunting if you’ve already shared your story with “the public at large.” Which I would think in the age of social media is relatively common.
If you think this topic is a bit silly and definitely superfluous to buying a home, well, you fall into the 50% of people who don’t care whether a house may be haunted – but according to a survey, the other half would strike a potentially haunted home off the list for that reason alone.
There are websites like DiedInHouse.com (and others) where you can search a property to find out whether deaths have taken place in your potential new home, but no way (that we know of) to discern whether or not it’s purported to be haunted.
So what are the rules in Louisiana, though? Well, some quick research says that real estate agents in the state are not required to disclose anything immaterial – homicides, suicides, other deaths or hauntings, etc – so I’m left to believe that in New Orleans, at least, people simply enjoy parading their city’s haunted history along the blocks.
After all, it’s not exactly the sort of place that likes to hide its kitsch.