spirit of capitalism
That kind of arrangement is typical for haunted homebuyers
who want to earn some money off their ancestor's antics. Their properties
are usually financed like businesses, with Small Business Administration
loans helping out in cases such as the Moss' and commercial loans
providing the money in others. For those who choose to live in haunted
houses out of morbid curiosity alone, regular mortgages should suffice.
Still, many buyers acquire homes
that look as haunted as they are because they enjoy the challenge
of fixing them up and reselling them for a tidy profit. They can
get investment property mortgages at rates that aren't much higher
than residential mortgage rates, or turn to the sellers for help.
That's what James Pennington and his wife did when they purchased
the so-called "Ms. Faye" home in St. Augustine, Fla.
"We got it at a good buy and saw
it as an opportunity to make money," says Pennington, the owner
of a local Internet service provider. "We didn't know at that time
that it had such a colorful history to it."
angry waitress returns
That history dates back to the middle of this century, according
to Connie Daniels, a guide who leads tours of St. Augustine's haunted
hideaways. Faye was a waitress at a local diner who brings to mind
Mama Fratelli from "The Goonies." Surly toward customers and
neighborhood residents alike, she supposedly paid the price when
she broke her neck by falling down a stairway that had recently
been "refurbished" by a local contractor. Now, legend has it that
her ghost is just as grouchy as she was and that she bothers any
owners who try to make her place their home.
Pennington recalls thinking the
whole story was hogwash, considering there weren't any stairs in
the property when he bought it. In the process of repairing termite
damage and ripping up the home's guts, however, his workers found
evidence of a staircase that did, at one point in time, exist.
"We all laughed about the ghost
story that she fell down the stairs and we laughed because we said,
'Well, gosh, that's what they always tell the tourists.' But when
we were redoing that section, we ran across where the original stairs
"We kind of had egg on our faces,"
he adds. "It certainly helped the story."
For consumers who are thinking about, ahem, taking the plunge,
sampling what it's like to live in a haunted house first might make
sense. The International Ghost Hunters Society maintains a list
of bed and breakfasts reputed to be haunted at this Web site.
With the lights down low in October,
though, it's easy to forget a real world reality: Selling a haunted
house can be a chore. Pennington says some of the prospective buyers
he's talked to are thrilled at the prospect of living in fear, but
others aren't. And for those of you buying, remember -- it's not
just the neighbors who may not like you.
"The only advice I can give people
is that this whole phenomenon of the paranormal living in people's
homes can be somewhat of a detriment because it can actually hurt
the value and marketability of the property," says Pennington.
"It's one of the things when people
buy a property with a suspicious past or a suspicious tenant, they
have to be careful. The wind can blow in either direction."
-- Updated: Oct. 5, 2007