Ever seen a specter at a showing? Ever shown a haunted house to horrified buyer clients? Ever felt the presence of the paranormal at a potential listing?
The natural cultural bridge between Halloween and real estate is (you guessed it!) ghosts, which makes sense because ghosts haunt houses — if you believe scary movies like The House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Shining (OK, that last one was a hotel, but still). Or if your scare needs to be delivered in lighter fare, even in movies like Casper, Disney’s Haunted Mansion and Beetlejuice, ghosts and homes go hand in hand.
Off the big screen, about 29 percent (up from 24 percent in 2022) of Americans surveyed in a new study from Real Estate Witch, Zillowtastrophes, and Estate Media, believe they’ve lived in a haunted house.
Of that number, 27 percent knew beforehand that the house was haunted and signed on the dotted line anyway. More than 1 in 3 of those buyers (36 percent) are haunted with remorse, and 55 percent say they wouldn’t do it again.
They also feel like their homes will be harder to sell (71 percent) and take longer (64 percent) and that they will ultimately sell for less (69 percent).
Their saving grace might just be that 71 percent of Americans surveyed say they could be swayed to buy a haunted house to save money.
Half said they’re most terrified by unexpected costs, high interest rates (46 percent) and an inability to pay their mortgages (42 percent).
These same factors are scaring buyers off the market in general, which might mean taking a haunted listing or two. So, how do you prepare for the paranormal?
You can’t, but you can read other agents’ stories for fun this Halloween.
From mysteriously locked doors to paranormal parties, we’ve rounded up some spine-tingling tales from agents in the field.
Ghost stories from the field
Teri Herrera, broker, Windermere Bellevue West
I was showing a new client a waterfront property on Lake Sammamish in Bellevue, Washington. It was a two-story home with a daylight basement and a lovely lawn out to the lake. I was showing my client around the main floor of the home, chatting up the cabinets in the kitchen, when all of a sudden we started hearing a piano playing from the basement level.
My client and I glanced at each other thinking that was a bit strange. Soon after the piano started playing, we could hear voices, men and women, laughing and talking, and we could hear the shuffling of feet dancing across the hardwood floors down below.
At that point, I walked over to the window facing the lake fully expecting to see that there must have been some sort of a party going on back there, and everybody had decided to come in. But when I looked outside, there was no evidence of anyone having been in the backyard.
I said to my client, “I definitely had an appointment. I’m surprised they forgot we were coming.” I walked over to the door leading to the lower level; I opened the door and saw a staircase with a second door at the bottom of the staircase also closed.
When I opened the door, the sound of voices and the piano music amplified. We could distinctly hear men’s and women’s voices and could almost make out conversations. I yelled down the stairs “Realtor!” but the party continued. I walked to the halfway point down the staircase, and again yelled out “REALTOR!”
At that moment everything went dead quiet. I looked back up the staircase to my client and quietly mouthed “Whoa! That’s weird!” She nodded affirmatively. I continued down to the end of the staircase and opened the door. Just inside the door was a small table with a vintage clock ticking away.
I stepped into what appeared to be an elderly person’s apartment and there, tucked around the corner, I saw it. A piano, but there was absolutely no one down there. I ran back up the stairs, nearly knocking my client over, and ran for the door. She — not knowing what I had seen — was right at my heels.
We drove off as quickly as we could. Realizing I had not locked the door, I called the listing agent to inform her of the door and our experience. She gasped and said “Oh my gosh, Teri! The owner’s mother-in-law lived down there, and she passed three days ago!”
“Well, she was having one hell of a party there today!” I told her.
Anna Altic, broker, RE/MAX Homes and Estates
I have had quite a few unexplained experiences showing properties, but here is my weirdest one: I was out with some first-time homebuyers who were newer to the process, so I didn’t know them super well yet.
We had looked at three or four properties already and were headed into our last home, which was a 1930s bungalow.
In Nashville, it’s very common to show properties that have framed gold records up on the walls, and I like to try to see if I can figure out who the owner is from the awards they have won.
After I’d gone through the house with my buyers, I went over to look at the gold records in the hallway, so they could take a second look around and discuss. As I was standing in the hallway perusing the records, my throat started to get really scratchy, and then I started to feel wheezy and short of breath.
I casually yelled to the buyers, “Hey guys, do you see a cat in here anywhere? I feel like I’m having an allergy attack.” It got bad enough that I was thinking about stepping outside when the husband rounded the corner, took one look at me, and very curtly said, “We have to go now, and I mean now!”
So we hustled out, and it was awkward because I wasn’t sure if I’d said or done something that upset him.
Later that evening, the wife calls me and is kind of sheepish. I immediately reassured her that I was glad she called and welcomed feedback if there was something I could do differently to make her husband more comfortable.
She hemmed and hawed for a second and then said, “Anna, you are probably going to think we are crazy, but when John rounded the corner today he saw something behind you and it was squeezing your neck!” I still sold them a house — but definitely not that house.
Justin Fox, broker-owner, RE/MAX Professionals
Back in the foreclosure crisis (circa 2008), almost everything I showed was a foreclosure, so vacant homes and odd sights were the norm. I was working with a young couple who fell in love with the online listing of a quirky foreclosed home built in the 1870s. It was on one of Minnesota’s seven historic military wagon roads dating back to the 1850s, with just over an acre overlooking a small lake.
As we walked up, dodging overgrown trees and wading through tall weeds, the home clearly needed some love. Some of the “improvements” led us to believe the former inhabitants were a bit “quirky,” but we weren’t dissuaded!
Exploring the labyrinth of a house, we climbed down a makeshift ladder into the dank limestone basement, and as we climbed back out, we heard a loud thump from the front of the home in an area we hadn’t yet been to. We headed across the uneven floors toward the source of the noise and found a bird had flown into the living room picture window and lay twitching on the ground outside it. Par for the course given the location in nature, we told ourselves. Although, at this point, we all had an odd feeling creeping over us.
We proceeded up the steep narrow stairs to the home’s second story to check out the bedrooms. The primary bedroom had a small private balcony overlooking the lake, which we all agreed was our next destination. I opened the old, wooden screen door for the buyers and noted that the only lock was an old fish-eye hook latch (I’ve been locked out before, so I always check this).
Holding the door for the buyers, I stepped out last and softly shut the door behind us. We stood on the balcony for a few minutes taking in the view, and as I turned to open the door, it was locked! The hook was IN THE EYEHOLE, and we were locked out on this 3-foot-by-5-foot, second-story balcony. I rattled the door a few times to see if it would pop out, but ultimately had to cut the screen to free us.
Once inside, the buyers headed back down to leave. I stayed at the door for a few minutes trying to slap the door shut so that the hook would lock and could NOT do it. The buyers ultimately decided there were unseen forces telling them this wasn’t their home and didn’t buy it. To this day, every time I drive by the house, I always wonder if the current owners have any odd experiences.
Kristy Kyle, broker/Realtor, RE/MAX Executive Fort Mill
My client and friend loves old homes, so we spent a lot of time in the Myers Park area of Charlotte seeing every home from the 1900s that became available. Of course, the architecture and history are a draw when looking at these homes. One of the last homes we saw before making her decision was built in 1920 on Selwyn Avenue — a small brick ranch with a basement with just enough room and in the right area.
We walked in, and the normally talkative client was silent as we walked through. I was pointing out all of the features she would have and, of course, the great location.
As I opened the door to the basement, she all of a sudden grabbed me and said, “I have to get out of this house!”
I was confused of course and said, “Why?!”
She made it out the front door, and took my hand to show me her heart was beating out of her chest. Still confused I said, “What?”
“I felt someone in there, and he didn’t want me there,” she said.
“Really?! I didn’t feel anything!” I said.
She went on to tell me she had never had that feeling before, but she got a bad feeling once she walked in and felt someone else was there. It made her whole body shiver and her heart race. It took a bit to calm her down, but we did not go back in!
Mauricio Umansky, founder and CEO, The Agency
As Inman’s Lillian Dickerson reported when Mauricio Umansky’s book The Dealmaker came out, he once encountered Michael Jackson’s ghost.
Below is the account published on Inman earlier this year:
At the time of his death in 2009, Michael Jackson was leasing a house in Holmby Hills and Umansky was hired by the property’s owner to sell it, he details in The Dealmaker.
According to Umansky, Jackson actually died in the secondary bedroom suite of the property.
Following a hard-learned lesson years ago, Umansky had been extremely careful ever since about not leaving anything on in the house and remembering to lock everything. So, after a long day of showing the property to serious buyers and curious Jackson fans alike, when Umansky returned the next morning to find the secondary suite bedroom window open and the stereo blaring, he was alarmed and surprised.
“That evening when I left the house, I checked the stereo, the window, and all the lights what felt like fifty times!” Umansky says in The Dealmaker. “The next day, I came back and the lights were on, music was playing, and the window was open again. Immediately, I called the owner to double-check that no one had been there. He confirmed that not one person had set foot in the home since I’d locked up.”
Umansky also claims the bedroom was known as Jackson’s favorite place in the house, and that he used to listen to music in there while looking out the windows at the back garden. The only possible explanation, therefore, that he could come up with for the blaring music was Jackson’s spirit was still in the house.
Later on, Umansky says what convinced him of the fact is that when it came time to close the house with a buyer who wanted to pull out because a motor that was supposed to move the home’s chandelier up and down wasn’t working, Umansky threw out a “Hail Mary” to Jackson that was returned.
“As the buyer meandered into another room, I literally looked up toward the sky — as a last-ditch effort — and said, ‘Michael, please help me out here,'” Umansky says in The Dealmaker. “Then I walked back over to the switch and, by some miracle, the chandelier started going up and down.”
The deal was saved.
“I definitely felt [Jackson’s] presence,” Umansky told Inman. “Just to be clear, I never believed in spirits and ghosts up until my mother-in-law died, and then I had an experience that was super real, super physical, and then I started to become more open to it. And as I became more open to it, we started to encounter ghosts or spirits.”
Umansky also added that he believes he and his family are currently living with a friendly “Casper-like” ghost in their home.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateC
Author, coach, and long-time Inman contributor Bernice Ross has had a few spooky interactions with the paranormal. We dug deep into the archives (2013!) to bring you this little ditty:
After spending one Saturday afternoon preparing [with a friend] for our upcoming qualifying exams, we decided to take a dinner break. When we returned, several pieces of furniture were moved and the lights were flickering much more so than usual.
We decided to watch a movie — “The Ghost of Flight 401.” Probably not the best choice in a house that was a bit spooky, but with only seven channels and no cable, we didn’t have many options.
After the movie, I grabbed my study materials and walked with her to the front door. The stairwell adjacent to the door had a heavy oak banister on top of the intricate wrought ironwork. As I was about to leave, the entire banister started to vibrate. Everything else in the house was completely still.
I looked at her and asked, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” She did. We were both mesmerized and too frightened to move. After several minutes, the vibration stopped. Needless to say, that was the last time I was in the house.
Have your own ghost story? Send us an email, and we’ll add it to this post.