‘Intangibles’ still taboo in serious property talks
JUST A few days ago, several stories on TV, online and print talked about haunted sites. Inquirer Property asked experts how the topic of paranormal activities has been treated in real estate industry discussions. The reply was a resounding “no, it would not be taken seriously.”
National Real Estate Association Chair Alejandro S. Mañalac put it in two words: “Hardly discussed.”
Said Julius Guevara, Colliers International’s associate director, advisory services and head of Consultancy and Research: “These discussions are always done in a hushed manner, since not all people believe in the supernatural. Some deals collapse because of these beliefs, despite the inherent physical and economic potential of the property.
“Of course, some developers take advantage of this and purchase the properties at a discount, and then put in place some mitigating strategies, such as consulting with a geomancer or configuring the project with a certain orientation. Potential buyers are sometimes made aware of these actions, and whether they believe in it or not is translated in the sales velocity of the project.”
Taboo in board discussions
Enrique M. Soriano III, Ateneo program director for real estate and senior adviser for Wong+Bernstein Business, said that in his 25 years in the property sector and dealing with developers and housing associations, he has “never come across formal agenda-driven topics related to paranormal activities. The latter is a good story for informal gatherings but taboo in board discussions.”
Claro dG Cordero Jr., Jones Lang LaSalle Leechiu’s head of research, consulting and valuation, said that in the Philippine setting, “paranormal activity is still not a mainstream issue in most real estate forums and discussions. The cases of extreme paranormal disturbance (at least those that have been reported) are still far and few in between.”
Inquirer Property gave a scenario: What are the chances of a refund when a buyer, who paid cash for a property, comes rushing back to the developer, with the reason that there were naughty poltergeists in the house, and it was terrifying the owner and the children? The owner accuses the seller of not informing them beforehand of the possible presence of ghosts.
Guevara said that the developer may choose to ignore these claims, but at the end of the day it would not be prudent for him/her to do so, since the buyer may create bad publicity and affect the sales of other units in the same project. The developer and the buyer would both be better off if they could find a solution that would benefit both parties.
Soriano said: “Can the issue about the existence of a ghost in the property sufficient enough for a court to declare a contract void and have the deposit returned? The answer is doubtful as the legal process heavily relies on the rules of evidence. Additionally, judges and lawyers do not have the competence to prove the existence of paranormal activities related to real estate transactions.”
No legal grounds
Lawyer Robby Consunji said that “the developer/seller does not warrant, expressly or impliedly, that the house is free from ghosts. The developer generally warrants that his/her title is good and that the home is free from defects of material. He/she needs not seriously consider such a claim.”
Consunji added: “The owner can go to court, but can he win? A sale of a house and lot is governed primarily by its Deed of Sale. In order for the buyer’s claim to prosper, the Deed of Sale would have to contain a seller’s warranty that the house is free from ghosts. Only then will the buyer’s case prosper. The seller simply has to refer to the Deed of Sale for his/her defense—that there is no obligation to provide and guaranty that the home is ghost-free.”
He explained that “the owner has the practical problem of presenting adequate and convincing evidence that such a ghost even exists.”
Cordero said that “generally, buyers are advised, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).”
“However, there are available remedies both from the owner’s and seller’s side. In the United States, particularly in California, there is an existing law which does not compel the sellers to reveal the history of the property, primarily any death on a property if it occurred more than three years prior to the sale,” Cordero said.
“In the Philippine setting, we do not have such law, but the owners (or buyers) can compel the seller for moral and exemplary damages, provided that they can prove that they have seriously suffered from sorrow, fright and sleepless nights, brought about by the presence of the paranormal activities,” he added.