Steve James, NBC News contributor
The house for sale in Dunmore, Pa.
, that owner Greg Leeson say is “slightly haunted.”
A staircase with spooks, a bathroom that goes Boo!, and sparkling finished hardwood floors – this Pennsylvania house has it all, almost.
In the listing for his 1901 Victorian house at 1217 Marion St., Dunmore, Pa., Greg Leeson is asking for $144,000, but he adds that the house is “slightly haunted, nothing serious, though.”
Here is what the prospective buyer will get for his money besides the four walls and roof: The sounds of phantom footsteps, a strange knocking, a “hardly noticeable” scream at 3:13 a.m. (once a week), and “the occasional ghastly visage lurking behind you in the bathroom mirror.” That little extra occurs rarely and only in an upstairs bathroom, according to the listing.
If that’s “slightly haunted,” it’s hard to figure out what “very haunted” might be. For sale: split-level ranch packed with poltergeists?
Leeson’s for-sale-by-owner listing on real estate website Zillow has prompted offers and interest from buyers and would-be ghost hunters.
“When I was writing it, I had been thinking about it, and I went back and forth,” Leeson told Zillow. “The way I worded it — I was trying to keep it light. I have been reading online, and people saying you are supposed to disclose it. I don’t know the laws here, but thought better safe than sorry.”
Leeson was not immediately available to comment to NBCNews.com.
But he clearly believes the haunting might be a selling point — and he might be right.
A recent survey by realtor.com found that more than half of home buyers are open to buying a haunted house and 35 percent of the nearly 1,400 people who took the survey say they have lived in a haunted home.
“When purchasing a home, buyers want to know what they are getting into and that includes anything potentially spooky,” said Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications for Move Inc., which operates realtor.com.
“Our data reveals that while the majority of consumers are open to purchasing a haunted home, many buyers conduct research on a home’s history to be aware of any weird incidences.”
But while some respondents “are willing to purchase a haunted home at a discounted price, many say levitating objects, ghost sightings and objects moving from one place to another would deter them from purchasing a home,” she said.
According to Frank L. DeFazio, a real estate agent and former lawyer with the Center City Team in Philadelphia, state law only requires sellers to disclose material defects, such as dry rot or ant infestations.
“There is a distinction between physical defects and psychological flaws, or stigma like murder. Haunting is difficult to prove,” he told NBCNews.com.
DeFazio recommends full disclosure to avoid potential lawsuits. And sometimes, if the person who died in a home was famous, such disclosure can even help.
“Especially in a historic district like Philadelphia, where President James Madison died, that can increase the value,” DeFazio said.
Some disagree. Randall Bell, a specialist in so-called stigmatized real estate, says the recent involuntary manslaughter conviction against Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, could make it difficult to sell the mansion where the King of Pop died.
The house was designated a crime scene. “That is usually not a good thing in terms of home values,” Bell said in a recent interview with a real estate industry web site http://www.appraisalbuzz.com.
Roy Condrey, who runs diedinhouse.com, a service that researches whether there has been a violent death in a home, noted that singer Amy Winehouse’s home in London did not sell for its list price after the British singer died.
The house in a fashionable part of the city sold last year for 1.98 million pounds ($3.2 million) at auction, after it failed to attract serious buyers on the real estate market. The house had been put up for sale in May 2012 for 2.7 million pounds.
Condrey said his service culls information about previous tenants of homes from public records.
“I can basically break down my customers into five groups — people interested in the paranormal, people who want to know their home’s genealogy, people who fear ghosts, people who don’t care, but don’t want the stigma (of a death in the home) and people who want to use a death for leverage to get a better price.”
He said only three states — California, Alaska and South Dakota — require an owner to reveal if there has been a death, especially a violent death, in a house.
“But if I invested in a house and moved in and later discovered that a mother had drowned her five kids in the bath, I’d be upset,” he said.