Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October is about more than just Halloween!

Everyone loves a good ghost story.  Especially this time of the year.  But if you're an investor wanting to increase your portfolio, you might want to take advantage of some great deals that come with "tainted" properties............or do you??

Do you think you can save a lot of money on the front end and make a lot on the back end?  Or do you think you'll forever be stuck with a property that you'll never sale?

Let's look at a couple of extremely tainted properties and see how they did.

First, there's the infamous JonBenet Ramsay house.  The Ramsay's bought the house in 1991 for $500,000. After JonBenet was murdered in 1996, they never spent another night in the house.  In 1998 the house was sold to an investment company for $650,000.  The company immediately put it on the market.  But after a year of no offers, they eventually rented it out for about 3 years and then put it back on the market when the tenant moved out - because he lost his job NOT because the house was haunted.

In 2004 it was sold to the daughter and son in law of the televangelist Robert Schuller.  The Schuller-Milner's bought the property for $1.05 Million but placed it back on the market in under 2 years.  Their initial list price was $2.68M, then $2.29M, then $2.3M and finally in 2014 it dropped to $1.98M.  I can no longer find the listing as of the date of this article, so it has either been sold or just taken off the market....that's 10 years on the market folks....that's a really long time to sit on a house.

But, did this house sit on the market because of it's past or maybe because of the price?  I don't know what the houses in that area are going for, but it appears to me that the price of this particular house jumped by leaps and bounds during all of this.  It must truly be in an incredible neighborhood to jump from $500,000 to $2.68M from 1991 to 2006 when the Milner's first listed the property at that price.  Also, it should be noted that in 2006 until very recently our housing market was deep in the toilet and has only recently appeared to be bouncing back.  So this is a wash in my opinion.  Could be the history of the house....could be it was overpriced in a very soft market.  Could be a combination of the two.

The Amityville Horror house is one property that was tainted if ever a house was tainted.  The owners after the Lutz's did a lot of exterior renovations which dramatically altered the appearance of the house and even successfully lobbied the city to get the name of the street changed.  By all accounts, they lived there for many happy years and when they got ready to sell, it sold quickly and for a nice price.  I heard recently that it's back on the market and they are having a difficult time selling it but I also heard the owners are overpricing it a bit for the area.  Here are shots of what the house looked like before and after.  I think you'll agree it's hard to tell it's the same house.

The Blairsden Mansion in Peapack, New Jersey, was recently sold for $4.5M.  Not bad when you consider their asking price was only $4.9M.
The Blairsden Mansion is a stunning 62,000 square foot 38 room estate that was built between 1898 and 1903.  It was built by stock exchange tycoon Clinton Ledyard Blair.  After Mr. Blair's death in 1949, the mansion and its acreage was sold to the Sisters of St. John the Baptist to be used as a religious retreat and orphanage.  Some say the sales price was $60,000 but I'm skeptical of that price.  

Rumor has it, that the mother superior decided to switch sides and began to worship the devil and to demand that all her nuns follow.  Some say she went crazy while others believe she was possessed.  One cold winter's night, the mother superior quietly murdered all the children, the nuns and the few visitors in the mansion.  There were a few survivors who managed to escape the mansion in their sleeping clothes and ran through the snow covered woods to a neighboring house to summon for help.  When the police arrived at the mansion, Mother Superior was no where to be found.  Since that time, there have been numerous reports of ghostly occurrences both inside the mansion and on the grounds.

So what do you think?  Are tainted properties worth the stigma and hassle that comes along with owning them?  Are they gold mines waiting to be mined?  I'll leave it up to you to decide.

Happy Halloween!!

Haunted Houses for Rent...or just to visit

What would you do if you rented a house (or apartment) only to discover AFTER you've moved in, that something horrible happened there?  What if you heard things that go bump in the night?  What if you see shapes out of the corners of your eyes while you are watching your favorite TV show but when you look....there's no one there?

Well, you could move.  However, if you choose to go that route, don't expect your deposit or a good rental reference out of your landlord.  There are a few states that require the disclosure of things such as a murder that occurred on the property or if there have been rumors that the house was haunted.  But only in the event you are trying to BUY it.  I am not aware of any states that require this disclosure to someone who merely wants to rent the property.  I searched for a considerable period of time and could find cases of tenants who sued their landlord over supposed hauntings but I've not found any that were successful.  A tenant might talk the landlord into allowing them to break their lease, but it's strictly up to the landlord.

There are alleged haunted houses whose owners make a mint in advertising them as haunted and renting them out for the night or a month.  Let's look at a  couple of those just in case you're in the mood to plop down a little cash for a good scare.

First, we'll look at a small cottage in Savannah, Georgia called Laura's Cottage.  It's just around 1,000 square feet.  One bedroom with bunk beds in a sitting room.  It sits in a small urban woodland in the heart of the historic district in Savannah and at the time of this writing, rents out for $180.00 per night.

Supposedly, this cottage is haunted by an old black lady named (you guess it) Laura.  She apparently lived in this cottage for over 50 years.  She appears to be a ghost who likes to take care of her visitors.  She's been known to open locked windows, start up the heat and sit with the occupants while they eat their dinner.

Savannah, Georgia is one city that not only takes their haunted houses seriously, but makes a considerable amount of money advertising and renting them.  It's widely believed to be one of the most haunted cities in the country....so it's only natural that I would include more than one Savannah home in my list.

Let's take a peek at the Haywood House.
This house was built and occupied by Alfred Haywood who made his fortune in the ice business and was later the Mayor of Savannah.  While it was built as a single family dwelling, it is not divided into privately owned condo's.  Many say Mr. Haywood himself haunts this beautiful property but since it's actually built on top of the Colonial Park Cemetery....who knows who haunts it?  According to FlipKey, this property can be rented for $125 per night.

What if you don't want to actually spend the night in a haunted house?  Then there are these....

The Doctor John R. Drish house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is scary to look at in the daylight....imagine after nightfall?   Below is what it looked like back in 1911 when it was occupied.

Dr. Drish built this house in 1837 and lived there until his untimely death from a fall down the staircase in 1867.  His widow, Sarah, continued to live in the house until her death in 1884.  After the death of Mrs. Drish, this house changed hands many times.  It was a school, a parts warehouse and eventually a church.  However, it's most notorious function has been that of a haunted house.  There have been reports since shortly after Dr. Drish's death of strange lights glowing in the windows when no one was home.  The towers have reportedly and repeatedly appeared to be on fire over the years.  However, when the fire department gets there....there's no evidence of a fire.  Who haunts this house?  Could it be Dr. Drish?  Or maybe it's one of the many slave artisans who hand crafted this mansion?  No one knows for sure.

In the small town of Demopolis, Alabama sits the grandest plantation house ever built in Marengo County, Alabama and is considered to be the most significant surviving examples of Greek Revival architecture in the State of Alabama.  It's known as Gaineswood.

Gaineswood was built over the span of 20 years and was finished (literally) on the eve of the Civil War. It was designed and built by General Nathan Bryan Whitfield as an open hall log dwelling and sat on a 480 acre plot.  Eventually the log dwelling was enclosed and this mansion now stands in its place.

General Whitfield bought the property from George Strother Gaines who served as the US Indian Agent and actually negotiated the treaty which would allow the removal of the Choctaw Nation beneath an old oak tree on the grounds.

It is said that a former housekeeper who was brought from Virginia to run the house after Mrs. Whitfield died haunts the house.  She apparently likes to play the piano and turns the lights off.

And then there are the haunted hotels.

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas has been called "America's Most Haunted Hotel".  It is said to be haunted by at least eight spirits.  These include a young woman who attended college there in the  1920's or 30's and who died by jumping from the roof.  A nurse who worked in the building when it was a hospital.  A man in a hat and tails believed to be the ghost of Dr. John Freemont Ellis who was a frequent visitor to the resort during its heyday in the late 1800's.  Then there is Michael who was an Irish stonemason and lost his footing while building the hotel.  He slipped off the roof to his death.  Theadora was a cancer victim who came to Norman Baker's resort for treatment and while she died, it is said she never left the hotel.  There is the ghost of a gentleman who wears Victorian clothing and a top hat and lastly Norman G. Baker himself is said to haunt this hotel.  In 2005, the hotel was the subject of an episode of the television show, Ghost Hunters.

The history of this hotel is so convoluted and so full of death, deceit, alleged murders, suicides and the like that it would take 10 blogs to list it all.  I have included a link to their page and an independant page, so you can browse at your leisure.  Suffice it to say, this hotel is a favorite spot for ghost hunters and is a must see for anyone interested in haunted history.

My favorite haunted houses are the vacant abandoned homes that no one really knows the history or who lived there.....or died there.  Just empty forgotten houses that look haunted - whether they are or not.  Halloween is my favorite time to drive through the older neighborhoods in search of these houses.