“I went back and forth,” Gregory Leeson says when asked about listing his Dunmore, PA home as “slightly haunted” on real estate website Zillow Z -0.01%. “I thought I might as well. I didn’t think it would generate this much interest.”
But since uploading his for sale by owner listing on Sunday, Leeson has received multiple offers and interest from buyers as well as ghost hunters across the country. The home has also ignited a growing discussion on Twitter, with many sharing their own haunted home stories:
Leeson’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek description of his home, which is listed for $144,000, begins by pointing out typical features — 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms — before delving into the property’s more unusual characteristics:
“Slightly haunted. Nothing serious though,” he writes in the listing. “The sounds of phantom footsteps. A strange knocking sound followed by a very quiet (hardly noticeable, even) scream.”
Local LOCM -0.9% real estate agent and former lawyer Frank L. DeFazio of the CenterCityTeam says it’s not uncommon to disclose “defects” when selling a home. While some states require disclosing psychological stigmas such as deaths or hauntings, Pennsylvania law only requires disclosing material defects that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of the property or an unreasonable risk to the people living in the home.
“The courts in Pennsylvania have limited the defects that must be disclosed to impairments that are structural, legal or hazardous in nature,” he said. “Knowledge of psychological impairments such as deaths, murders and haunted houses are not required … however some legal experts recommend sellers disclose them anyway just to be safe.”
DeFazio recommends full disclosure, as leaving out potentially alarming information about a home can result in a drawn-out lawsuit, as seen in the case of Janet Milliken, a Pennsylvania resident who sued the seller and listing agent of her home for not disclosing a murder-suicide that took place there a year before she bought it. And in some cases, such as a home where a famous person died, DeFazio says full disclosure can have a positive effect on resale value.
But with haunted houses, DeFazio says it’s a gray area.
“Even if the court says yes [a haunting] is a material defect, you have to prove it actually exists,” he said.
“And how are you going to prove it? Call Ghostbusters?”
DeFazio suspects Leeson disclosed the home as haunted out of an abundance of caution to get ahead of a lawsuit that would likely never happen — or just to be funny.
Leeson says it was more the latter and that he had no knowledge of the state’s disclosure laws when he posted the listing.
“The way I worded it – I was trying to keep it light,” he said. “I don’t know the laws here, but I thought ‘better safe than sorry.’”
In Leeson’s view, any publicity is good publicity, and so far disclosing the home’s supernatural phenomenon has served him well. He plans to have an open house after Christmas to close the deal.
Leeson, however, readily admits that he doesn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings.
“I figure there has to be a scientific explanation for everything no matter how bizarre it seems,” he said.
Since buying the home in 2005, Leeson says he has heard voices, footsteps or doors slamming from time to time.
“It happened more with our first baby girl – she’s 2 now,” he explained. “It sounded like a person was in the room with her talking. We’d go in, and she was just sitting there. But she normally cried constantly.”
Another time, he says he came home and his wife had barricaded the basement door, claiming there was someone down there. But Leeson still doesn’t believe the home is haunted. With the neighbors’ house only 6 feet away, he says it’s probably their voices his family hears. And when doors slam, he says it could just be because the house was built in 1901.
He and his wife are selling the property for a number of reasons, but the “hauntings” aren’t one of them.
“My wife and I just had our second child, and we’re moving back to [Maryland] so our parents can help with the kids,” he said. “I also want to pay off some debt because I have a little equity in the home now.”
See more photos of the home on Zillow Blog.