So your last tenant left gibbering about shadows and voices, before they carted him to the asylum. And at least three prospective buyers have turned religious while trying to view your house. You have a haunted property to deal with friend, and we’re going to show you how to do it:
What is Haunted Property?
It refers to property that’s frequented by malicious paranormal entities (ghosts, demons, MLM marketers, etc.) In Singapore, hauntings are often associated with:
- Unexplainable drops in temperature
- Strange lights, or blurry reflections in windows and mirrors
- Electrical fluctuations
- Furniture that moves on its own, or falls apart unexpectedly
- Moaning or creaking sounds from the walls
The source of the haunting is usually a traumatic past event, which occurred within those soul-scarred walls.
What’s that? Oh, you think this is some kind of a joke. Okay, well check this out:
Why It Matters Even if You Don’t Believe in Ghosts
If tenants or buyers are convinced the property’s haunted, it affects profits and rental yield. Real estate agent Mark (not his real name) rolls his eyes at ghost stories, but tells me:
“If someone is convinced the place is ‘dirty’, that it is bad for them, or their children, or whatever, they will move out or they will not buy. They may also spread rumours; you know how Singaporeans like to tell these kinds of stories.”
But hold on. You don’t need to tell them it’s haunted, or its morbid history, right?
“A good agent will not lie if something bad has happened in the house. It is not professionally advisable to obscure things. Later on, it can result in legal entanglement.
So I have had situations where I needed to explain that, yes, the previous owner passed away in the house. But I will try to point out that it is not something relevant to the state of the home.”
Mark mentions that “stigmatization” is not uncommon in Asian property markets:
“Bad Feng Shui, or some sort of violence that occurred in the house, can be a turn-off to some buyers. Especially Chinese buyers; they will not buy things associated with death or sorrow. Whether the property is residential or commercial, the same problem can exist.
These places are ‘stigmatized’ properties. Because the problem exists only in the buyer or tenant’s perception, you cannot disprove it or fix it. It is not like a crack in the wall that you can patch up.”
He has some tips for dealing with this though:
- Make the House Unrecognizable
- Don’t Get Drawn into a Conversation About It
- Hire Ghost Busters
- Lie Low
1. Make the House Unrecognizable
Let’s assume a spectacular act of violence happened in the house. Someone got stabbed, dismembered, laminated across the ceiling, etc.
Well the first thing you want to do is renovate the hell out of it. For landed properties, this may involve altering the external facade. According to Mark:
“Appearance wise, landed property is memorable compared to flats or condos. If the budget and means exist, the best bet is extensive renovations to make the house unrecognizable.
A contemporary look is best. Because there is a lot of glass and light, it tends to make the place look less claustrophobic and brooding. It’s very simple: if you don’t want your property to be called a haunted house, then make sure it doesn’t look like one!”
Mark adds that sometimes, a house has no dark history at all, but “…it’s because the house looks old and run down that the rumours of haunting got started.”
2. Don’t Get Drawn into a Conversation About It
Okay, so what’s a polite way to explain that, should anyone move in, their daughter’s head might spin 360 degrees and she’ll spew green vomit?
“You cannot prove that your house is not haunted, because like I said, it’s in their perception,” Mark says, “so there is no point carrying on a conversation about that.
If someone passed away in the room, if there was a suicide, then admit it. But you can quickly change topic. You can tell people that ‘Yes, it was a very sad thing.’ But then you instantly move on to real issues, like the amenities, the finishings, the good value.”
Mark believes there’s a “mirroring response“. The less agitated your answers, the less nervous the buyer or tenant will be.
3. Hire Ghost Busters
There are actual ghost busters in Singapore. And before you start cracking Stay Puft Marshmallow Man jokes, these professionals are respected for their services.
“Maybe you believe, maybe you don’t believe,” Mark says, “But if your spirituality permits, you can hire them to cleanse the house.
Your agent can tell future tenants or buyers that the ritual has been conducted. This is reassuring to some of them, whatever your own opinions are.”
As an alternative, you can get Feng Shui consultants to arrange the interior. Whatever the case, remember point 2: do not overplay it.
“Don’t talk about it like it was a big deal, and don’t dramatise it. If you had the cleansing done, mention it and immediately move on. The best strategy is still not to prolong conversation about these issues.”
4. Lie Low
“If all else fails,” Mark says, “You can rely on the power of time to make people forget.”
Mark says the odds of property remaining stigmatized for more than “four to five years” are quite low. Exceptions may exist, but that’s with high profile places (e.g. the notorious Red House at Pasir Ris).
“If it is a flat or condo, most people will not remember,” Mark says, “They may remember something happened at a certain block or condo, but probably not the specific unit number. And even if they remember, after so many years, the psychological factor would have died down.”
What if You’re the One Renting or Buying?
Despite it being the premise of almost every horror movie ever written, you may want to buy a haunted house. Or move into a four walled portal to hell, because we take rental costs seriously in this country.
Mark has some key parting advice for you too:
“If you know the house has some history, and you are not disturbed by it…act like you are anyway. Always tell the landlord or seller that you are bothered by it. It’s just one more piece of leverage to get the price down.
If you are bothered by it, I suggest you find somewhere else. However great the value, in the end a home must be about psychological and physical comfort. If a year or two later, you find you cannot take it, then you will probably forfeit your deposit, sell at a loss, or do something equally painful.”
Have you had any experience renting or buying a spooky place? Let us know your own Singapore True Horror Story here!