How Paranormal Activity Impacts Home Values

By 

Dr. Francesca Ortegren

Updated 

June 24th, 2020

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October in the United States brings cooler weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and spooky wardrobes. Creepy haunted houses and ghosts seem to be lingering around every corner for the entire month, but that might be as far as the fantasy goes for many who don't believe in the supernatural. But considering 1 in 4 Americans have seen a ghost, supernatural concerns could be a reality for home buyers.

People's willingness to buy a potentially haunted home depends on a number of factors. Fears of spirits appearing inside mirrors on a stormy night is enough to deter some, but others would pay for such an opportunity. According to Trulia, hauntings reduce a home's value more often than not. There is a similar trend with famous murder homes: people just don't want them. Less commonly, these creepy homes are seen as a commodity or folks take advantage of the lower price.

We surveyed 1015 Americans to assess whether people believe in the supernatural and to what extent the creepiness factor of a home deters (or perhaps attracts) buyers compared to negative characteristics, like being located near a waste management facility.

The results suggest that people are much more concerned with the potential for crime than they are being haunted by ghosts: Over 75% of our respondents said they'd be less likely to buy a home if it was located in a crime-heavy area, near a prison, or was previously used as a meth lab. In contrast, only 54% were put off by the idea of purchasing a haunted home.

What characteristics about people influence their willingness to buy creepy houses? We set out to answer that question using chi-squared analyses to assess differences in whether people were more or less likely to purchase a home given a specific characteristic based on their supernatural beliefs, supernatural experiences, previous home ownership, age, and gender.

Key Findings:

  • One in four supernatural believers reported they're more likely to buy a home if it was haunted, someone died there of natural causes or murder, or it was located near a cemetery.

  • People who have had a supernatural experience in a home are 13x more likely to pay more for that house than people who had never had a supernatural experience in their home.

  • Millennials were 13x more likely to buy a haunted home and 17x more likely to pay more for it than baby boomers (but this might be due to financial reasons).

  • Half of those who said they'd pay more were willing to pay up to 50% more for a haunted home.

  • Most people who said they'd pay less for a home would pay up to 25% less (41% of respondents), 34% said they'd pay up to 50% less, and 25% would pay up to 75% less for the home.

  • People who don't believe in the supernatural might still be a little superstitious — half reported they'd be less likely to buy a home if it was haunted.

  • People are more likely to buy a home if a pornography was fiilmed there than if it was reported to be haunted.

Who believes in the supernatural?

Almost half (44%) of our survey respondents said they believed in the supernatural. And half of those believers said they'd experienced a supernatural event in their home (compared to only 8% of people who don't believe in the supernatural).

Supernatural believers are more likely to be millennials, female, or homeowners. All three of these groups were more likely to have experienced a supernatural event than their counterparts, as well.

There are also differences based on location. Over half of the respondents in Oklahoma (67%), Kentucky (63%), Texas (61%), Missouri (59%), New York (57%), and Arkansas (54%) reported believing in the paranormal. Contrarily, the majority of people in our survey from Mississippi (60%), Indiana (59%), Illinois (56%), and Arizona (55%) said they didn't believe.

Interestingly, the states with the highest concentration of paranormal believers weren't always where ghosts like to reveal themselves. Instead, Missouri (50%), Oklahoma (42%), Colorado (40%), New York (38%), and South Carolina (38%) were top-ranking. Arizonans (0%), Minnisotans (8%), Tennesseeans (11%), North Carolinians (11%), and Pennsylvanians (13%) had the fewest encounters with the paranormal.

Would you buy a creepy house?

Supernatural Beliefs

While the creepiness factor of a home is subjective, we considered a home to be “creepy” if it met one of the following criteria:

  • Reported to be haunted

  • Someone was murdered there

  • Located near a cemetery

People who believe in the supernatural were twice as likely to buy a house if it was haunted than those who didn't believe in the supernatural. Believers also reported being more likely to buy a house where someone was murdered or one that was located near a cemetery 4x more often than non-believers.

Having experienced a supernatural event had an even stronger relationship to people's purchasing preferences: those who had an experience were 9x more likely to purchase a haunted house and 14x more likely to buy a home where a murder occurred than those who had never had a supernatural experience.

Not only are believers and those who've experienced an event more likely to buy a house because it's haunted, they're also willing to pay more! Almost half of those who reported they'd pay more for a home that was haunted reported they'd pay up to 50% more. People who reported having experienced a supernatural event in their home were 13x more likely to pay more for a haunted house than people who had never had a supernatural experience.

Those who didn't believe in ghosts weren't exactly willing to risk the possibility, though. In fact, most reported they'd be less likely to buy a home if it was haunted (~50%).

The fact that people who report not believing in the supernatural aren't immune to the high creepiness factor is a bit surprising. Knowing a murder occurred in your home is one thing,but haunted houses are a different story. If you don't believe in ghosts, why not buy the house?

One possibility is that people are concerned about mysterious noises. Those noises could be indicative of something more prejudicial, like a crack in the water heater or a pest infestation. Potential buyers might be more worried about future maintenance costs than the presence of spirits.

Still, there's likely a bit of cognitive dissonance going on for home buyers who supposedly don't believe in the supernatural.

Generations

The majority of the baby boomers in our sample had owned a home previously, while only about two-thirds of millennials were owners. Interestingly, though, we didn't find that boomers were more willing to buy creepy homes. In fact, millennials were more likely to buy every type of home we described than boomers.

More specifically, millennials were 13x more likely to buy a haunted home and 17x more likely to pay more for it than baby boomers. Almost half of those who said they'd pay more reported they'd be willing to pay between 26% and 50% more for the home. In contrast, most (72%) baby boomers said they'd pay less for a home if it was haunted.

Millennials were also more open to other creepy factors: they were 34x more likely to buy a murder house and 8x more likely to buy a home near a cemetery than baby boomers.

Generational differences aren't exactly new. Boomers and millennials have experienced much of adulthood differently, and their home buying preferences could certainly result from similar economic disparities.

Millennials have waited longer to take on large financial burdens, like buying homes and starting a family than their boomer counterparts did, which is likely related to their substantial student debt, low wages, and the lack of affordable housing. When they do purchase homes, millennials' financial constraints seep in to what they're willing to put up with, as well. Many (31%) are interested in spending under $200,000 which can severely limit their options in throughout much of the country. In a previous report, we noted that 67% of millennials are willing to buy a fixer-upper, which jives with our current finding and suggests millennials might be more willing to deal with character flaws, like faint whispers in the dead of night.

Gender

While females were more likely to believe in the supernatural and were more likely to own a home, males seemed to be more willing to put up with creepy characteristics than were females.

Males were 2x more likely to buy near a cemetery, 2.4x more likely to buy a haunted home, and 3x more likely to buy a home where someone was murdered than their female counterparts. The males in our study weren't just open to creepiness, though; they were more likely to buy houses with any character flaw than females.

The tendency for women to disregard creepy homes could be a microcosm of larger gender differences in buying and shopping habits. As consumers, women are more reliant on emotional and psychological characteristics of an item, while men tend to focus more on utility. Women are also more likely to “shop around” and spend more time considering multiple options than men.

While males said they'd pay more for a haunted house more often than females, they were in agreement when it came to how much more they'd be willing to pay. Half of males and 43% of females said they'd pay up to 50% more for a haunted home!

Geography

We assessed states that had more than 10 respondents to examine differences in geography. There were 30 states that fit our criteria.

Of those 30 states, Missouri landed the #1 spot on a number of metrics. Missourians were most likely to purchase a haunted house and reported they'd pay more for that house 30% of the time. Half of Missourians were more likely to buy a home near a cemetery and one-third were also willing to buy a house where someone was murdered or where someone died of natural causes.

New Yorkers and Ohians were also open to creepiness: over 20% of respondents from each state said they'd be more likely to buy a house if it was reported haunted.

People from Michigan fled from the supernatural at a surprising rate. Nearly two-thirds Michiganians were less likely to buy a haunted home and startling 80% said they would be less likely to buy a house where a murder took place.

Californians were put off by creepy characteristics, as well. They were least likely to buy a house if someone was murdered there (80%) and less likely to buy a house if it was near a cemetery.

Buyer Beware

Our data suggests you might want to think twice before buying those haunted homes.

Over half of our respondents said they would be less likely to buy a home if it was haunted, and that number was higher for certain demographics, like baby boomers. Therefore, resale might be difficult — especially if you publicly claim your home is haunted.

Chances are you'll come across at least one haunted home if you're looking to buy: Nearly one-third of our respondents said they have experienced a supernatural event in their home.

While most states require that homeowners or real estate agents disclose facts about their home like whether someone was murdered there, many don't have any provisions on disclosure of hauntings like New York's ghostbusters ruling. Considering a majority (70%) of our respondents said knowing a house was haunted would impact their decision to buy, disclosing that information could make selling a bewitched home more difficult and, therefore, might entice sellers to stay quiet.

We asked respondents whether they'd disclose that their house was haunted if they weren't legally required to do so. Not surprisingly, significantly more people said they wouldn't. Whether people would or would not disclose wasn't different across generations but people's supernatural beliefs, supernatural experiences, and whether they'd owned a home previously seemed to make a difference.

More specifically, 75% of people who didn't believe in the supernatural said they wouldn't disclose hauntings, compared to only 57% of believers and 30% of people who had never experienced a supernatural event. Homeowners were 1.5x more likely to disclose than people who had never owned a home.

Methodology

The data reported here were the results from an online survey funded by Clever Real Estate. The survey was designed using SurveyMonkey and distributed via Mechanical Turk. The respondents were volunteers who participated for $1.00. The survey was available for response between October 11-16, 2019.

We classified people as millennials or baby boomers based on their self-reported birth year. We included only millennials and baby boomers in the analyses that directly compared the two groups, but included all respondents in other analyses. Other generations were not included in generational comparisons because there were too few respondents in other age groups.

All differences were statistically assessed using Chi Square Tests of Independence, which analyze the probability that two categorical variables are independent of one another. In other words, whether responses on one measure are independent of responses on another measure (e.g., supernatural beliefs and whether one would pay more or less for a haunted home). Variables were considered significantly related at the p < .05 level.