Real Estate Horror Stories Pt. 2

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It’s that time of year again: #spookyszn. The time when friends and families enjoy hayrides, hot apple cider, pumpkin patches, and tacky lawn decorations.

It’s also the time for contemplating a question humanity has pondered since the beginning of time:

What makes a real estate investor shiver on a dark night around a warm campfire?

Hold on to your candy corn, because we’re going to tell a few real estate horror stories: spine-chilling tales of haunted property and deals gone wrong scary enough to keep even a veteran investor awake at night.

A hilariously bad deal

Maybe any investor’s worst nightmare is being taken for a ride. But missing the boat on the deal of a lifetime isn’t half as bad as trading away a property that turns out to be a cash cow.

Turns out, that’s exactly what happened in 1667, when the Dutch Republic signed an agreement with the British Empire that gave away Manhattan.

Having held the land since 1626, when a handful of inebriated Dutch settlers bought the island from the Canarsee tribe for $24  it was about $963 dollars) and a few handfuls of beads, the Dutch colonists decided the swampy, underdeveloped island didn’t need to command some lofty international price like Louisiana, Alaska, or Gadsden.

Instead, they traded it away for the island of Run.

[insert double take gif]

What is Run, you ask? It’s a tiny island in Indonesia, and what it lacked in the “city that never sleeps” department, it made up for in abundant nutmeg, the spice that

  1. Was, in 1667, literally worth its weight in gold,
  2. In 2021, is actually the secret to a banger of an eggnog recipe (thank us later).

Nutmeg is delicious, but we’re gonna file “trading $2,000/sq. ft. for nutmeg futures” in the “four-billion-dollar pizza” folder.

The Nyack House

The Nyack House is a Victoria mansion on the Hudson and was the setting for one of the funniest real estate deals we’ve ever heard of.

The story is classic:

Jeff wants to buy a house.

Jeff finds a listing at an attractive price.

Jeff submits a down payment.

Jeff discovers that the owner had aggressively advertised the house as haunted, owing to the presence of a poltergeist that purportedly helped the owners get out of bed on time in the morning (we swear we’re not making this up).

Jeff doesn’t want to live in a haunted house, so he sues, claiming misrepresentation. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court rules for Jeff, holding that, because the owner’s advertising affected the value of the house, “as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”

In the words of Justice Rubin’s opinion in the case, “who you gonna call??”

The Omni William Penn

We’ll close our spooky story sesh by bringing it home to Pittsburgh. While the city plays host to a myriad of haunted locales (including a haunted library and a haunted fire department), the best-known is inarguably the venerable downtown hotel.

Since 1922, when a salesman was found dead in his room after making a string of bad whiskey deals, the hotel has been alleged to be haunted by a variety of spirits. Cold spots, inexplicably drafty corridors, and two closed-off floors reportedly accessible only by an old service elevator have made the spot a favorite for local ghost-hunters and thrill-seekers.

We’ll spend a night on the 23rd floor if you will . . .

That’s all our time for this week. If you’re looking for some cozy entertainment after those horror stories, check out 5 of our favorite real-estate-themed fall films (just, maybe stay away from #4).

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