It's Not Easy to Sell a House in Hell

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It's not easy selling property in Hell, Mich. But the struggles have little to do with the name of this picturesque town 19 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. "Michigan is 50th in the economy in the nation," says Claudella Jones, a licensed broker for seven years working in Ann Arbor. She owns her own company, claudellajones.com. "Now, that's scary."
The town of about 260 people has changed little since the 1840s, she says,

It's not easy selling property in Hell, Mich. But the struggles have little to do with the name of this picturesque town 19 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. "Michigan is 50th in the economy in the nation," says Claudella Jones, a licensed broker for seven years working in Ann Arbor. She owns her own company, claudellajones.com. "Now, that's scary."

The town of about 260 people has changed little since the 1840s, she says, giving it a quaint, familiar feel. And while this is a place that does indeed freeze over (this is Michigan, for the record), the fact that somebody who buys here would be going straight to Hell doesn't dissuade buyers, she adds. Those who choose to live there and are troubled with the name get a P.O. Box, says Pat Lotz, of Real Estate One. "Either they don't want to live there because they think its bad karma, or they get a kick out of it and love it," says Lotz, a real estate agent in Brighton, Mich.

Generally, that's the story around the nation, where you can find some scarily named towns or neighborhoods. And as Halloween approaches in every one of them, there are people more than willing to live there.

Take Slaughterville, Okla., for example, where people are perfectly happy and alive. There are folks stuck in Purgatory, but being a ski community north of Durango, Co., they probably don't mind. Others choose to live in Transylvania Beach, a neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky, Spook Hill in Maryland, and still more call Skullbone their home in Tennessee.

Tiny communities with variations using the name "Devil" are sprinkled across the country. To name a few, there's Devil's Lake in North Dakota, Devil's Elbow in Missouri and Red Devil, Alaska. Tonya Kinsman sells real estate for RE/MAX in the area of St. Robert, Missouri, where nearby Fort Leonardwood draws a lot of military families. When folks are looking around, they invariably hear of Devil's Elbow, a small community east of St. Robert, which apparently has nothing to do with the Devil or his elbow. "Some people hear that and it might give them some pause," says Kinsman, who has been in the business for five years and describes Devil's Elbow as a small, peaceful town with a beautiful river running through it. "But then they see the town and they forget about the name.

"We've had some negative reactions a few times, especially if it's someone who is highly religious." Judy Chandler, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Norman, Okla., has never had trouble selling property in Slaughterville, despite its frightening name.

Slaughterville, which is near Lexington, is a rural, farming community

named after a well-known local - not after some long-past killing spree, Chandler explains. "I sell a lot of land in that area, but none of it's scary," Chandler says, adding that most land is for people looking to get away from city life in places like Norman or Oklahoma City. The scariest thing to happen there recently was when members of PETA came there to try and change the name of the town, Chandler says as an aside. "It didn't work but they sure tried," she adds with a chuckle.

Chandler has the added experience of selling homes next to haunted buildings. In her area, there is a haunted motel and an abandoned school that has ghosts, she says. "I don't think it matters to most people," Chandler said. If you're a homeowner with a haunted house and you're looking to sell, depending on where you live, it really does matter, says Mary Pope-Handy, a Silicon Valley-based realtor whose expertise is haunted homes.

Many states have laws requiring sellers to disclose that their home is haunted, she says. California and Hawaii are two of the most prominent states to require it. If you believe your house is haunted and you want to sell it, check with your state to make sure you understand the rules of disclosing it.

Pope-Handy explains that if you live in one of those states, you don't have to hire someone to investigate whether you're house is haunted. Usually, you just have to tell prospective buyers what you know. "If there's a ghost who shows up in a white dress the third Thursday of every month, you tell them" Pope-Handy says. "The rule is, does it materially affect the buyer. Something like that sure would." For the record, Pope-Handy doesn't actually sell haunted homes, she just believes in ghosts. But from anecdotes from her colleagues in the business, it's not much harder to sell a haunted home. The reason, she explains, is half of the people don't believe in ghosts, a quarter are immediately uninterested and the other quarter are intrigued.

What is harder than selling a home in a town with a scary name is selling a home where something scary happened. Take the Brentwood, Ca., condominium formerly owned by O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole. Even ghosts know what happened there. In that case, says Pope-Handy, who is with Intero Real Estate Services in Los Gatos, Ca., she would bring in someone to "clear" the house of any negativity. That could mean a priest or other sorts of "practitioners" with such expertise.Of course, in this scary market, holy water and a few prayers might improve the fortunes for any seller in any market.

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