SCARY LIVING: Are buyers willing to buy and move into haunted properties? NST RED talks to several real estate agents to find out
In Hong Kong, properties where the previous owner died unnatural deaths (for example suicide or murder) can be legally declared haunted. Due to local belief that such deaths lead to ghosts troubling new occupants, such properties usually see price discounts of up to 40 per cent.
And investors are snapping them up. “There’s a group of investors who bid for these properties specifically and then rent it to people who don‘t mind its bad history,“ says Eric Wong of Hong Kong-based property website squarefoot.com.hk.
Demand is such that squarefoot.com.hk even has a dedicated listing of haunted properties, with details of the gruesome deaths that took place in each property. The channel was created for real estate agents who wanted easier access to such information.
The cheaper price attracts foreigners who are more concerned with price than superstition as well as local buyers looking to rent out the properties to foreigners while hoping for the property’s value to rise again after the stories die down with time.
Is there a small market for haunted properties in Malaysia too?
A matter of price: “Not really,” says Yoong Kim Wah from the Property Champ agency, laughing off the idea.
“But a ‘reputation’ does affect a property’s price, definitely. Sometimes the price can drop by up to 30 per cent,” adds Yoong, who has shifted his focus from residential properties to industrial in recent times.
Cheryl Chan from Juste Land agency agrees, saying that there is a market demand based only on price.
“As long as the price is right, people will buy it. If they get their price, they don’t mind if it has a ‘reputation’,” explains Cheryl, further commenting that “there was a report in the newspapers of a bungalow where an entire family had died — someone then bought the property at a cheap price, demolished the bungalow and sold the land for a higher price.”
“If a buyer is really concerned about ghosts, the buyer will never cut the deal no matter how cheap the price is,” says Cheryl, who deals in various types of properties ranging from residential to commercial.
Common occurrence: It’s quite normal to hear about properties with such reputations in the Malaysian property market, especially second hand homes. Death occurring in a property does not necessarily mean it would be haunted.
“Every house is bound to have someone passing away in it,” says Yoong, sharing how he sold his house without problems after his father passed away in the house.
Cheryl concurs, saying that these properties are common in the sub-sale market and that usual reasons like migration or moving to a bigger house aside, there must be a strong reason if someone is selling a perfectly good house.
“Of course, the owner probably won’t tell you what happened until the deal is concluded,” says Cheryl, commenting that this is perhaps due to worries that they won’t be able to sell the property.
Buyers not concerned: Despite being common, the question of whether a property is haunted is not foremost on buyers’ minds. Instead, buyers are more concerned with more practical factors when shopping for properties.
“In my experience, I have only been asked if a house has ‘anything’ once,” reminisced Cheryl, clarifying that that particular deal was eventually not concluded due to location issues and that the house in question was not actually haunted. The first thing people ask about is the price.
“Buyers are more interested about the price, location and general neighbourhood surrounding the property,” says Cheryl.
Likewise, real estate agents are not overly concerned about finding out whether a particular property has any supernatural issues. Yoong explains that part of the reason is that it would be time-consuming to do so.
“Time is valuable,” says Yoong, saying that there are other more important things to do instead. However, if he is aware of any issues relating to a property, then he would tell prospective buyers upfront.
“We have to be honest with buyers,” says Yoong.
Cheryl offers that most people don’t believe in such reputations surrounding properties anyway, especially foreigners and Muslims. “Some traditional Chinese may not feel comfortable about it, but it’s not an issue as long as they’re not staying there,” says Cheryl.
A question of preference: It comes down to whether the buyer is comfortable with the house. A reputation of being “haunted” is just a minor factor that mostly affects the property’s price, notes Cheryl, who adds that some cultures believe that empty houses are haunted even if there are no previous incidents.
“Many Chinese and Indians, when moving to a new house, will perform a ceremony to ‘chase out’ previous occupants,” explains Cheryl.
Yoong remarks that there are no issues in Malaysia, seeing as there are condominiums built right next to cemeteries these days.
“Ultimately, if the buyer feels uneasy with the house, they probably won’t buy it. So it’s up to the buyer,” Yoong concludes.
It’s worth noting that a survey conducted two years ago by a property portal in Singapore, iProperty.com.sg revealed that 36 per cent of Singaporeans are open to purchasing a home that is known to be haunted. That’s hardly surprising considering that land-scarce Singapore has some of the most expensive property prices in Asia. Obviously for some, sharing a house with a ghost is better than being homeless.