Americans love Halloween. As our third-favorite holiday, it even ranks above New Year’s and birthdays, only losing out to Christmas and Thanksgiving. The holiday is rooted in celebrations of the dead and, in American culture, revolves around spooky goblins, ghosts, and horror flicks.
Although many are enamored with the fantasy and playfulness of Halloween, others fear the supernatural. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 30% of Amercans report getting in touch with someone who was dead, and 18% say they’ve seen a ghost.
That widespread belief in the supernatural has impacted homes’ ability to sell at market value. The Amityville Horror House in New York, for instance, sold to the most-recent buyers for $200,000 less than asking price.
The negative impact a haunting reputation has on home values isn’t just limited to infamous homes, though. Some research suggests that an unnatural death in a home could lead to a 20% drop in value that continues for years. The stigma surrounding death and potential hauntings is so salient that some states, such as New York and California, have explicitly included hauntings as necessary disclosures during a sale.
People’s unease surrounding hauntings led us to question what about a home makes it feel haunted, how those characteristics impact the value of a home, and who is most likely to avoid haunted houses.
To learn more, we surveyed 1,500 Americans about their supernatural beliefs, experience with the paranormal, concerns about living in a spooky house, and their plans to participate in Halloween activities this year.
We learned that 70% of Americans believe in the supernatural, and 24% claim to have lived in a haunted home.
General Insights: Get the fast facts about Americans’ supernatural beliefs and whether they’d buy a haunted house.
Generational Differences: Learn how millennials and baby boomers think differently about supernatural homes.
Supernatural Disclosure Findings: Find out if buyers believe paranormal activities should be required and whether sellers are inclined to disclose this information.
Trick-or-Treating During COVID-19: Learn more about CDC recommendations and whether Americans intend to follow these guidelines.
Table of Contents
Living in a Haunted House Is Surprisingly Common but Undesirable: Find out why people think their homes are haunted, ghostly happenings that would force people out of their homes, and how millennials and boomers view paranormal activity in their homes differently.
- 24% of Americans believe they’ve lived in a haunted house
- Millennials experience supernatural events more often than baby boomers
- What spooky experiences would make people move
- Millennials would “cleanse” or move out of their haunted houses
- 1 in 3 would buy a haunted house, conditionally
- Boomers are less likely to buy a haunted house than millennials
Home Repairs Are Scarier Than Ghosts: Learn more about deal breakers for home buyers and the biggest fears homeowners have.
- 93% find home-repair issues more worrisome than possible ghosts
- Home buyers and owners are scared of costs and damage
- 99% of millennials have worries when it comes to buying a home (compared to only 81% of boomers)
Supernatural State Disclosure Laws: More detail on states’ disclosure laws, what buyers expect, sellers’ intentions about disclosing spooky happenings in their homes, and whether millennials or boomers are more likely to give you the disturbing details.
- People want states to require disclosures
- Millennials hold spooky secrets close when selling their homes
- What do the state laws say? Most don’t care about your home’s ghosts
Trick-or-Treating Amid a Pandemic: Social distancing and masks add an interesting twist to this spooky holiday. Learn more about what people plan to do on Halloween and whether it matches up with CDC recommendations.
- 1 in 4 families plan to trick-or-treat as normal, without any additional precautions
- Fewer are handing out candy, but those who plan to won’t always use precautions
- 70% of Americans surveyed believe in the supernatural.
- 93% of people believe home repair issues such as mold, foundation issues, and lead paint are scarier than a house being haunted when purchasing a home.
- 40% of respondents wouldn’t buy a haunted house under any circumstances, while 1 in 3 would consider it with some concessions.
- Nearly 1 in 4 people report having lived in a haunted house; only 31% knew it was haunted before moving in.
- 17% of respondents said they have experienced supernatural events more often than before the pandemic because they’ve been spending a lot more time at home alone (or not so alone).
- 48% of those who have lived in a haunted house reported ghost sightings in their home.
- People would buy a haunted house if it was for a much lower price (73%), they were convinced the ghosts were friendly (58%), or the house was in a safer neighborhood (49%) .
- Levitating objects (41%) and feelings of being touched (41%) ranked No. 1 in experiences that would cause people to move from their current homes.
- 1 in 4 people said they’d move immediately if they learned their home was haunted, while 1 in 3 would attempt to cleanse the home.
Generational Differences Insights
- 99% of millennials have worries about purchasing a home, compared to only 81% of boomers.
- Millennials are 30% more likely to consider buying a haunted house than baby boomers if it meant the haunted house had a better characteristic than one that wasn’t haunted.
- Millennials are 16% more likely to believe in the supernatural than boomers.
- Millennial homeowners are over 50% more likely than boomers to report being scared of HOA fees, missing mortgage payments, flooding, and their home burning down.
- Millennials would consider buying a home if it was formerly a meth lab (46%), the scene of a violent crime (54%), located within a mile of a waste management facility (54%), or near a prison (53%).
- Millennials don’t mind living next to a house where a murder occurred (74%) or a cemetery (64%).
- Millennials are all about family: They’re 204% more likely than boomers to buy a haunted house if it was in a good school district.
- When it comes to buying a home, baby boomers are concerned about financial risks, while millennials are more scared of natural disasters.
- Millennials are 2.1x more likely to report having lived in a haunted home than baby boomers.
- However, Millennials are more afraid of the supernatural: They reported being more likely to move from their home after any supernatural experience than boomers.
- Baby boomers are more afraid of home-repair issues than millennials, likely due to experience.
- Boomers are 31% more likely to disclose a haunting when selling their home, regardless of the law in their area, while millennials would only do so if they had to by law.
Disclosing Spooky Real Estate Insights
- 63% of people think the government should require home sellers to disclose if their house is haunted or had experienced paranormal activity.
- Only 9 states, however, have some law requiring sellers to disclose whether their home is haunted — but most laws are vague about when those disclosures are necessary.
- 5 additional states have laws in place that require supernatural disclosures only if the seller is directly asked.
- If not required by law, only 1 in 4 people would disclose their home is haunted. Instead, nearly half (45%) of respondents said they’d only disclose if required by law.
- Nearly 1 in 10 wouldn’t disclose paranormal activity when selling their home, regardless of the law.
Trick-or-Treating During COVID-19 Insights
- Despite the CDC’s categorization of trick-or-treating as a moderate- to high-risk activity, 60% of those with children said they’re still trick-or-treating this year the same as normal (27%) or with additional safety precautions (33%).
- The majority of those who will be taking extra precautions will require their child to practice social distancing (71%), wear a mask (68%), and sanitize their hands frequently (55%). However, nearly 70% plan to trick-or-treat with people outside of their immediate family.
- 28% of people who normally pass out candy on Halloween won’t be doing so this year, mainly because they’re not comfortable interacting with people due to COVID-19 (81%).
- 60% of people planning to hand out candy this year aren’t making any changes to be safer during the pandemic.
- People are unclear about what is safe: 40% of those planning to hand out candy said they’ll take precautions, but 44% said they’ll hand out candy directly to each child, and 42% will leave a bowl out for children to grab on their own.
Living in a Haunted House: Common but Undesirable
24% of Americans Believe They’ve Lived in a Haunted House
Living among ghosts is a nightmare for some, and many Americans have lived that reality: 1 in 4 respondents said they’ve lived in at least one house that was haunted.
Even scarier, nearly 7 in 10 of those who have lived in a haunted house didn’t know it was haunted when they moved in! They instead had to learn it was haunted by creepy happenings while living in the home, such as:
- Strange noises (59%)
- Ghost sightings (48%)
- Certain rooms having an eerie or haunted feel (47%)
- Feeling of being touched (45%)
- Items moving on their own (43%)
- Strange shadows around the home (41%)
- Cold or hot spots in the home (38%)
- Levitating objects (18%)
- Something else (3%)
Millennials Experience Supernatural Events More Often Than Boomers
Although age itself doesn’t reliably predict whether someone believes in the supernatural, certain personality characteristics do. Higher levels of conscientiousness, for instance, are related to a decreased likelihood of paranormal beliefs. Baby boomers tend to be more conscientious and are 14% less likely to hold supernatural beliefs than millennials.
Millennials’ inclination toward supernatural beliefs might explain why millennials are 2.1x more likely than baby boomers to report having lived in a haunted house and at least 32% more likely to have experienced a spooky event in their possibly haunted home.
When asked how they knew their home was haunted, millennials were:
- 150% more likely than boomers to experience strange shadows
- 91% more likely to see levitating objects
- 57% more likely to be spooked by items moving on their own
- 50% more likely to have an “eerie” feeling in certain rooms of the house
- 32% more likely to feel hot or cold spots throughout the home
- 13% more likely to feel like they’ve been touched when no one was around
Paranormal Experiences That Would Make People Move
Nearly 70% of people who claimed to live in a haunted house said they didn’t know it was haunted before they moved in, which means they learned it was haunted from creepy events. Considering 40% of people wouldn’t purposefully buy a haunted house, it’s likely that many people also wouldn’t want to stay in a house if creepy events began.
Over 1 in 4 people would move out of their homes immediately if they learned their home was haunted, but the majority wouldn’t pack up right away. Instead, the rest would stay and:
- Cleanse the home via smudging (33%)
- Exorcise the home (23%)
- Try to make contact with the ghosts (19%)
- Make the home more comfortable for the ghosts (17%)
- Salt entryways (16%)
- Remodel (12%)
We asked people what would cause them to move from their current house; many would pack up and run if they experienced supernatural events such as:
- Levitating objects (41%)
- Feeling of being touched (41%)
- Items moving (38%)
- Ghost sighting (35%)
- A serious crime committed near their home (30%)
- Strange noises (28%)
- Learning about a crime in their home that occured prior to moving in (25%)
- Pet suddenly behaving strangely in a certain area of the home (22%)
- Hot/cold spots (17%)
- Learning their house was haunted without experiencing any supernatural events (17%)
- Unexplained tech glitches (15%)
Upon Learning Their Home Is Haunted, Millennials Would "Cleanse" or Move Out
Even though baby boomers are less likely to even consider buying a haunted house, they aren’t as eager as millennials to pack up and move if they found out their current home was haunted. In fact, millennials are 40% more likely than baby boomers to say they’d move immediately if they learned their home was haunted.
Millennials are also more likely to move after experiencing almost any creepy event in their home compared to boomers.
Millennials are less likely than boomers to stay put in a haunted home, but they are more likely to try to "cleanse" the home. Millennials are more likely than boomers to try the following if they realized their house was haunted:
- 2.9x more likely to remodel
- 2.1x more likely to salt entryways
- 2x more likely to smudge the home
- 1.7x more likely to attempt to make the home more comfortable for the ghosts
- 1.2x more likely to exorcise the home
Sellers Beware: Ghosts Aren’t the Only Deal Breakers
1 in 3 Would Buy a Haunted House (With a Few Contingencies)
Home buyers often have a list of deal breakers that would land a house in the “no” pile instantly. Those deal breakers tend to revolve around expensive fixes such as outdated appliances, water damage, and shoddy upgrades — but some just elevate the creepiness factor of the home.
Some deal breakers aren’t negotiable: Buyers wouldn’t take a house with certain characteristics no matter what, while some can be ignored given the right circumstances. Spooky factors could land in either camp, depending on the buyer.
In fact, 40% of respondents consider the presence of ghosts a non-negotiable deal breaker when buying a home!
The remaining 60% of people are more open to buying a home that was haunted, but some would want concessions to make up for the fact that they’d have to deal with ghostly roommates.
When comparing a haunted home and one that wasn’t haunted, people would take the haunted house only if:
- It was for a much lower price (73%)
- The ghosts were friendly (58%)
- It was in a safer neighborhood (49%)
- It had a larger yard or more land (41%)
- It had modern renovations (39%)
- There was more square footage in the home (36%)
- The kitchen was larger (32%)
- It was in a better school district (29%)
- It had a pool (28%)
- It was in closer proximity to amenities (26%)
- It had new appliances (25%)
And, although up to half of respondents have hard stops when it comes to other creepy factors, the majority are willing to buy a house even if it’s in a horrible location or horrifying events occurred, assuming everything else met their needs.
Most people were willing to overlook small oddities, such as:
- The residence of a couple who got a divorce while living there (94%)
- Decorated with off-season holiday decorations (93%)
- Decorated with wallpaper (89%)
- Addressed “666” (89%)
Home buyers hungry for homes, however, are also willing to overlook major defects and concerning issues such as:
- Next door to a home that was haunted (84%)
- Someone died of natural causes in the house (84%)
- The previous residence of a convicted criminal (83%)
- Located within a mile of a busy highway (83%)
- The filming location of a pornographic film (79%)
- Located next door to the scene of a murder (74%)
- Dirty or cluttered (73%)
- Located next to a cemetery (67%)
- Located within a mile of a waste management facility (58%)
- Located near a prison (55%)
- A scene of a violent crime (54%)
- A former meth lab (50%)
Baby Boomers Pass on Haunted Houses
Despite the fact that baby boomers are less likely to believe in the supernatural than millennials, they’re also less willing to knowingly buy a haunted house: Boomers are 24% more likely than millennials to pass on a haunted house under any circumstance.
Millennials, on the other hand, are more open to the possibility of ghosts: 64% of millennials said they’d buy a haunted house compared to only 55% of boomers.
Additionally, 37% of millennials would choose a haunted house over one that wasn’t haunted if it meant they got something in return, like a better school district or larger kitchen. Boomers were less interested in the concessions (29%).
Of those who would consider buying a haunted house under certain circumstances, boomers and millennials often differed in what concessions they required. Both generations would take a haunted house if it was listed at a lower price, in safer neighborhoods, had modern renovations, or had a pool.
Millennials would buy a haunted house if it had certain characteristics:
- 204% more likely than boomers to buy haunted house if it was in a better school district
- 48% more likely than boomers if it was in closer proximity to amenities
- 37% more likely than boomers if it has larger kitchen
- 25% more likely than boomers if it has more square footage
- 14% more likely than boomers if it has a larger yard
93% Find Home-Repair Issues More Concerning than Ghosts
Ghosts, creepy neighbors, and wallpaper aren’t the only deal breakers prospective home buyers consider in their home search. Instead, the vast majority of respondents (93%) found home repair issues, such as asbestos or foundation issues, to be much more concerning than the potential presence of ghosts.
Home characteristics more-concerning than ghosts:
- Mold (68%)
- Foundation issues (64%)
- Termites (61%)
- Asbestos (61%)
- Leaky roof (57%)
- Water damage (57%)
- Lead paint (54%)
- Outdated electrical system (52%)
- Leaky basement (51%)
- Radon (46%)
- Broken central air conditioner (42%)
- Broken furnace (41%)
- Old cast iron plumbing (40%)
- None of these is scarier than ghosts (7%)
Issues such as mold, moving foundations, and leaky roofs add thousands to home maintenance expenses. The typical homeowner already spends nearly $3,000 a year on maintenance and repairs; adding a major problem could mean homeownership becomes less affordable.
A leaky roof, for instance, could mean you have mold, water damage, and need to replace the entire roof — which could cost up to $45,000 depending on the size and location of the home.
Prospective Buyers Are Scared of the Cost of Homeownership
The possibility of owning a home tends to leave people excited but perhaps a little stressed. The fears associated with homeownership are exacerbated during a pandemic due to the uncertainty of the future when it comes to people’s finances.
In particular, one study found that new homeowners are significantly more worried about their ability to pay their mortgage since the pandemic began. And homeowners aren’t the only ones concerned about home finances.
Renters planning to purchase a home within the next year are most fearful of:
- Unexpected costs (55%)
- Bad neighbors (42%)
- High upkeep (42%)
- Home burning down (37%)
- Qualifying for a mortgage (36%)
- Rise in crime in neighborhood (34%)
- Home value depreciating (32%)
- Tornado or hurricane (31%)
- Ending up disliking the house (31%)
- Missing mortgage payments (30%)
- House flooding (28%)
- HOA fees (28%)
Those fears resonate with those who already own a home. In fact, homeowners in our survey reported worrying about unexpected costs, bad neighbors, and some weather events nearly as often as buyers. They are less concerned about missing mortgage payments and HOA fees than renters, though.
Top homeowner fears about their home:
- Unexpected costs (57%)
- Home burning down (49%)
- Bad neighbors (43%)
- Rise in crime in neighborhood (36%)
- Home value depreciating (35%)
- High upkeep (34%)
- Tornado / hurricane (32%)
- House flooding (32%)
- Missing mortgage payments (20%)
- HOA fees (16%)
Millennial Home Buyers Are More Worried Than Boomers
Due to the Great Recession hitting its hardest when many millennials were entering adulthood or the workforce, suffocating student loan debt, skyrocketing home values, and stagnant wages, they’ve been more hesitant than previous generations when it comes to buying a home. Earlier this year, millennials owned just 4% of the real estate value in the U.S. compared to the 32% or boomers who owned at the same age, according to the Washington Post.
Their lack of experience in homeownership leaves millennials more concerned about purchasing a home in the next 12 months than boomers. More specifically, millennials are:
- 2.6x more scared of tornadoes or hurricanes
- 2x more worried about disliking the house
- 1.7x more concerned about flooding
- 1.7x more concerned about bad neighbors
- 1.6x more scared of HOA fees
- 1.2 x more scared of a rise in crime in their neighborhood
Boomers, on the other hand, dealt with the financial crisis during their careers and have had a hard time recovering. As a result, boomers are hitting retirement age financially worse off than the previous generation for the first time since the 1940s, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Baby boomers had less money saved than they needed for retirement, and those who are still working are likely burning through their cash during the pandemic.
Baby boomers considering purchasing a home in the next year are unsurprisingly more concerned than millennials about the financial aspects of homeownership:
- 1.2x more scared of high upkeep
- 1.3x more concerned about qualifying for a mortgage
- 1.8x more concerned about missing mortgage payments
Buyers Want to Know if a House is Haunted, but Most States Don’t Require Disclosure
6 in 10 Want Spooky Happening Disclosures Required by Law
Nearly 80% of respondents said a haunting in a house they were considering purchasing would impact their decision one way or the other. Therefore, it seems important to prospective buyers that they know about the spooky happenings in homes they’re considering buying.
Whether a seller decides to tell a buyer about certain properties of the home (including ghosts) isn’t always guaranteed, as disclosure rules vary by state and vary even more so by the specific characteristics that must be disclosed.
When it comes to hauntings, 45% of respondents said they’d only disclose that their home was haunted if they were required to do so by law, which would leave many buyers in the dark about moving into a haunted house.
Nearly 1 in 10 said they wouldn’t disclose regardless of the law.
Buyers want to know if they’re about to sign an agreement to live with a ghost, but they seem to be aware that sellers aren’t likely to disclose unless coerced: 63% of people said they think the government should require home sellers to disclose if their house is haunted or had experienced paranormal activities.
Millennials Less Likely to Disclose Hauntings Than Boomers
Millennial sellers often get more for their homes and sell them faster than other age groups, according to the National Association of Realtors. Faster sales and better deals for millennial sellers could be due to their tendency to offer incentives — such as covering closing costs or crediting the cost of repairs — to attract buyers, and omitting details that might scare buyers, such as the presence of ghosts or a death in the home.
Millennials are 25% more likely than boomers to say they’d only disclose a haunting if they were required to do so by law, while boomers are 31% more likely to let buyers know, regardless of the law.
Paranormal Disclosure Laws by State
Disclosure laws vary widely from state to state, and it’s important for buyers to be aware of their state's laws before jumping into a contract.
The majority (36) of U.S. states (plus D.C.) don’t require sellers to disclose hauntings specifically and, more generally, don’t require disclosure of anything that could psychologically stigmatize a property; 5 states only require disclosure if the seller or agent is asked directly about the spooky happenings in the home, and 9 states have some requirements around haunted disclosures.
New York state has the most infamous law about reported hauntings known as the Ghostbusters Ruling. The New York Supreme Court ruled that if a home was haunted, information about the paranormal activities must be included in all future deals. The case set legal precedent in the state, requiring disclosure of hauntings if the home was declared haunted publicly.
Other states’ rules are less directly related to paranormal activity but nonetheless apply.
States that require disclosure of deaths on the property in some or all cases:
- Alaska (also requires disclosure of burial sites on property)
- New York
- South Dakota
States that require disclosure of paranormal activity (or any stigmatizing characteristic) only if it impacts the physical condition or value of the property:
- New Jersey
- Wisconsin (also requires disclosure of burial sites on property)
In all other states, buyers have to ask or hope they can see evidence of ghosts before agreeing to purchase the property.
Trick-or-Treating Amid a Pandemic
Halloween’s popularity has increased exponentially in the last 15 years: Spending on Americans’ third-favorite holiday leapt 167% from $3.3 billion in 2005 to $8.8 billion in 2019. Americans also reported spending more on costumes, candy, and decorations than in the early 2000s.
Nearly 70% of people celebrated Halloween last year, and it has grown in popularity among young adults who were more likely to report dressing in costume and dressing up their pets in 2019 than they were in 2009.
According to the National Retail Federation, 15% fewer people have reported they’ll celebrate Halloween this year compared to last year, in light of COVID-19. But those who are planning to celebrate are doing so in traditional fashion and plan to spend more.
1 in 4 Plan to Trick-or-Treat as Normal
In light of the pandemic, the CDC has established guidelines around holiday celebrations, including Halloween. The organization has stated that typical Halloween activities, such as door-to-door trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treat activities are high risk and not recommended.
Despite those guidelines, 60% of people with kids said they’re still trick-or-treating this year either without any changes (27%) or with some additional safety precautions (33%).
Those who said they’re going to take additional precautions do seem to be considering some of the CDC guidelines such as:
- Practicing social distancing (71%)
- Requiring mask-wearing (68%)
- Sanitizing their hands frequently (55%)
- Sticking with their household members only (31%)
Some Americans Plan to Hand Out Candy Without Precautions
The precautions trick-or-treaters take might not matter if those passing out candy aren’t following recommendations.
The large majority (66%) of respondents said they normally pass out candy, but 28% won’t be doing it this year because they’re not comfortable with interacting with that many people due to COVID-19 (81%).
Nearly 44% of those who plan to hand out candy this year are doing so without taking any additional precautions, which could put trick-or-treaters at risk. Unfortunately, the remaining 56% who do plan to take precautions may not be mitigating risk, regardless of their intentions.
For handing out candy, the CDC recommends putting candy into “grab bags” that are available to trick-or-treaters in a bowl or container where they can grab and go while still socially distancing (such as a driveway or yard, not porch).
Respondents were unsure about what would be considered safe, though, and they were split on letting kids grab candy from a bowl and handing it out directly. More specifically, 44% said they’d hand out candy instead of letting children grab it from a bucket this year as a safety precaution, while 42% said they’ll be leaving a bowl of candy out for kids instead of handing it out.
Considering well-intentioned people could potentially put people at risk during Halloween by not following CDC guidelines, parents should be extra cautious during their trick-or-treating activities this year.
We surveyed 1,500 Americans using an online survey platform on September 25, 2020. All respondents answered up to 20 multiple-choice questions about their supernatural beliefs, home search preferences, and halloween plans.