The Reel Story: A few million of you already got good and scared this past weekend with former vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar in "The Grudge." This English-language retelling of the Japanese film "Ju-on" — similar in pacing and tone to 2002's breakout remake "The Ring" — has Gellar's student nurse caring for a family's elderly mother in a poltergeist-infested house.
As the creep factor intensifies, the audience learns that the realtor who sold the house to Gellar's employers had a hair-raising encounter of his own the day he showed the property. While the prospective buyers wandered the home, the realtor noticed that the bathtub was full of sludgy, black and obviously evil water. As he reached in to unstop the drain, a gray hand came out and tried to pull him under. He struggled and fell to the floor, clutching a fistful of long black hair snatched from the haunted tub. When the family decided to buy the home, the agent said nothing about his frightening encounter. Which of course raises the question: Is a real-estate agent required to alert prospective buyers that their dream house might be haunted?
The Real Story: Morally, yes. Legally, no. While disclosure laws vary, "disclose, disclose, disclose," said Rehanna Gallagher, real-estate broker and owner of Castle Point Realty in Hoboken, New Jersey (where cursed homes haunted by creepy little children are surprisingly rare). "Even if you don't think it needs to be disclosed, that is the rule for 99 percent of the agents out there. Of course there is always that 1 percent," Gallagher laughed, "but hopefully they don't work here."
While revealing a leaky roof or plumbing problems would obviously be the norm, must a realtor even disclose possible poltergeists in the attic, bumps in the night and spirits of the undead? It seems a little far-fetched, but "absolutely," Gallagher stated emphatically. "It's taught in the real-estate classes: If the house is haunted, they must disclose." Apparently, the no-good agent in "The Grudge" missed the session related to haunted-house disclosure.
However, the letter of the law reads a little differently. While minor changes apply from state-to-state, the law reads: "Information about social conditions or psychological impairments of a property is not considered information which affects the physical condition of a property. Licensees are not required to disclose such information."
Frighteningly, the law also states that "... the term 'psychological impairments' includes, but is not limited to, a murder or suicide which occurred on a property, or a property purportedly being haunted."
Prospective buyers who are concerned about finding ghosts in the attic would be well advised to ask if their dream house is haunted — among other things, of course. Write up a list of questions: Inquire about plumbing, leaks and heat efficiency, and don't forget to find out if a double homicide/suicide has spawned a pair of rage-filled ghosts bent on terrorizing and murdering your family.
Check out everything we've got on "The Grudge."
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