What comes to your mind when you think of a historical home? The antique finishes and features, the charming interior and decor, or all of the scary things that may have happened in that property long ago?
Dicky Mopper, a Savannah, Georgia, real estate broker who has been selling historical homes for 40 years, says its normal for buyers to question a home’s history, but that it’s up to the agent to calm any fears.
Every piece of real estate, whether it be land or a house, has a past.
“If a home is over 20 years old, it’s going to have some sort of history and things could have happened there,” Mopper said. “I think what you try to do is try to encourage people to see that the history of a home adds to the charm, it adds to the mystique and it doesn’t add any fear.”
Mopper says Halloween is the perfect time to market historical homes since people are more open to learning about and embracing a home’s spooky past.
“Halloween has become one of the most popular holidays ever, and it’s not just for children anymore, it’s for adults, and we enjoy Halloween immensely in Savannah,” he adds.
Most of Mopper’s listings are in the Landmark District, which was founded in 1733. The District is mostly known for its cameo in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and is home to stately mansions and estates that have been around since Savannah’s founding.
Savannahians have a love for Halloween, says Mopper, and he takes full advantage of that with yearly haunted open houses. He chooses three or four of his best listings and invites brokers and potential buyers to check out the homes. While there, storytellers share the history of the home, invitees munch on Halloween-themed treats and children participate in apple bobbing contests and pumpkin carving.
Beyond hosting haunted openings, Mopper likes to infuse the Halloween spirit into his marketing materials by using turns of phrase such as: “Homebuying shouldn’t be a haunting experience — it should be a treat!”
Elizabeth Finkelstein, the founder of CIRCA Old Houses, says she usually doesn’t hear of agents who specialize in selling historic homes embracing Halloween since buyers often think historic homes are haunted.
“I’ve never seen anything come my way like that, and I think it’s awesome that [Dicky] does that, but if anything, I find it to be the opposite,” said Finkelstein. “I think that people have this fear that their historical home is haunted. Everyone loves to comment on the CIRCA listings like ‘Oh, this house looks haunted!’ I think a lot of [agents] want to remove that perception of some of the historical homes.”
Anthony Posey, a New-Orleans based broker-owner, is embracing the haunted history of The St. Francisville Inn, a listing he just put on the market last week.
The 10-bedroom, 10-bathroom Inn has many of its original features that include a gabled roof, full porch, ceiling medallions and hardwood floors, and according to the current owners, the home may have some “original” guests lingering around as well.
The owners bought the Inn in 1990, and have run it as a successful bed-and-breakfast for the last 27 years. During their time there, they’ve heard stories from guests about ghosts and have even had an encounter of their own.
“When we first moved to The Inn, we all lived downstairs and the attic was not finished, just flooring. Sometimes we would hear a ball bouncing and just shrug it off as the wind,” said the Walshes in an email. “When our third child was born, we finished off part of the attic to create three bedrooms and a bathroom with a little landing area. The kids used to talk about a little girl upstairs with pigtails who they called Darlene.
One time one of our friends came over to visit and [our son] was probably three, he went upstairs to look for my youngest daughter and his older sister to play with. We heard Nick talking to someone and thought maybe one of the kids was upstairs; when he came down by himself we asked him who he was talking to and he said the little girl Darlene who lived upstairs, you know the girl with the pigtails (No Darlene here). The most recent is one of our repeats guests who says there is a ghost in Room 2 that messes with the water when you shower.”
Posey says he isn’t doing any special marketing around Halloween like Mopper, but he’s definitely not shying away from his listing’s haunted past. “If these walls could talk!” Posey wrote in the home’s listing description. “May even have its very own ghost. Some say it may be haunted!”
He plans to market the home as usual, and “let the internet do its job.”