Cindi Hagley, a Prudential real estate broker who sells homes in San Francisco, says she grew up in series of haunted houses.
The most frightening was a former funeral home in the small river town of Chesapeake, Ohio.
An amorphous, dusty form would appear on the stairs, she said. She would see faucets turn on by themselves, as if by invisible hands. Her older brother claimed to have watched a wrench float across the basement as if wielded by some unseen handyman. And then there were the loud, pounding noises. One day, they shook the walls.
"We ran out of the home because we thought someone was in the basement wrecking the place," Ms. Hagley recalled. "We didn't go out the screen door. We went through the screen door."
Few of Ms. Hagley's colleagues at Prudential know that she is "sensitive," or even notice her website, pastlifehomes.com. But she has organized a team of ministers, priests, psychics and mediums to help sellers get the most value from their spook-infested homes.
"I don't find these homes," she said. "They find me."
In a survey of 1,910 people by Realtor.com, 32% of people said they would consider purchasing a home perceived to be haunted. Another 33% said maybe. Another 35% said no.
Many of those surveyed by the Campbell, Calif.-based website said they wouldn't be deterred by the following manifestations: warm or cold spots, 62%; strange noises, 48%; objects moving from where they were placed, 44%; flickering lights and appliances, 45%; strange sensations, 43%; ghost sightings, 41%; levitating objects, 36%; and strange voices, 35%.
What people want most from a haunted house is a fat discount. Only 15% said they would pay full market value, and a nutty 2% said they'd pay more. The rest wanted the price dropped as much as 51%. That's where Ms. Hagley comes in.
"It's not normal to have a Realtor have your home blessed, or call in a psychic or a medium, but if that's what's going to make the buyer feel better, or increase the value of the home, by all means we'll do that," she said.
Ms. Hagley said she was recently involved in filming a reality TV pilot about some of her strange experiences. The show, she said, is being shopped around. But it has plenty of cable TV competition from Biography's "Celebrity Ghost Stories" to SyFy's "Ghost Hunters."
She has collected plenty of material. Early in her career, she was alone at an open house. She could swear saw something in the corner of her eyes, coming down the stairs. She mentioned this experience to the owner.
"She said, 'Oh, yeah, it's haunted. My boyfriend sees apparitions all the time.'"
A neighbor told her the home's ghostly lore was known throughout the neighborhood. And when a home is openly haunted like this, the sellers probably should disclose it, Ms. Hagley said.
The last thing she wants is a deal falling apart at closing because the buyer suddenly learned about the spooks secondhand from the neighbors.
Ms. Hagley also deals with homes stigmatized by suicides and murders. She researches what portions of the house may have ended up in photos or videos in new reports and remodels them to completely change their look. This takes off some of the edge.
She offers serious buyers a "test drive." They can stay in the house for days, get a feel for the place, and see if they will be comfortable there, despite the sometimes gruesome past.
In California and many other states, sellers are required to disclose recent deaths in a home. When these circumstances aren't well-known, this disclosure can come later in the marketing process.
Ms. Hagley organizes a limited event to show the home to many people at once. She then waits for buyers to bid against each other. Only then do they learn things like, "Oh, and by the way, five people were shot in the home."
"Some people are absolutely dumbstruck," she said. "I've seen people actually run out of the home. That doesn't happen a lot. And some people don't care. They don't believe in any of that."
Ms. Hagley says at least a part of her doesn't believe in the supernatural, either. It's always a struggle between her rational and intuitive sides.
"Just for the record - I always think I'm crazy when I'm talking about this," she said. "I am a skeptic. I'm always trying to debunk whatever I see."
One thing she knows for certain is that some buyers and sellers see dead people: "When something like this happens, folks don't even know where to turn."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)