Some people collect coins, cars, or baseball cards.
Scott FladHamer collects houses. And if the property is proved to be haunted, he considers it a bonus.
FladHamer, a Special Property Agent who divides his time between Fort Wayne and Florida, flew to Los Angeles on Friday to begin filming a reality television series for NBC's SyFy network. Tentatively titled “Buyer Beware,” the show plumbs the paranormal as FladHamer and his team of investigators document and certify a house's history, authenticity and unusual activities.
“I have a trusted Real Estate Investment (REI) 'dream team' of professionals I can count on,” FladHamer says in an email interview. “One of the important steps in creating value in certain houses is to professionally document the paranormal findings. The more historic and current documentation I can provide, the (better) pedigree the house has.”
FladHamer was born on the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Minnesota, grew up surrounded by “hot rods and Harleys,” and has a background in music and finance — an unlikely foundation for his current vocation. It was an experience with his first home that provided the catalyst for a career in real estate.
“My first house was an earth home I bought on contract,” he explains. “The deal went totally bad, and I lost my butt. So I became a landlord to cut my house payment in half. I bought a duplex to live in one side and rent out the other.”
He realized there was great potential in real estate investing, so he joined REI, a local organization of landlords and investors. He began rehabbing and re-selling houses in 1995, often riding his custom Harley to meet with buyers and sellers and to assess new properties.
He soon discovered an untapped market.
Houses with “issues”
Most homes have problems of some kind — an aging roof, overgrown and neglected landscaping, a leaking basement, a heartburn-inducing color scheme — issues that can be corrected with extra cash and sweat equity.
Some properties, however, are stigmatized because of criminal activity, murder, suicide, or reputed hauntings or ghost sightings. FladHamer began receiving calls from sellers who owned these types of properties.
“They were upset because their (real estate) agents told them to hide all those old photographs and antiques and whitewash the walls, ... and don't talk about the history!,” he recalls. “Basically, strip the house's history along with the owner's personality.
“Instead of downplaying the facts, I amped everything up,” he continues. “I'd dig up (all) the history, newspaper clippings and family stories I could. That adds up to a more valuable piece of property, like documenting a historical site as to who was there, or what was written or signed at the location.”
He employs researchers to verify or debunk claims of paranormal activity.
“If they came back positive, I would market the house as haunted.”
A seller's market
“I found that buyers who wanted a house with paranormal 'charm' or a certain history of events had a hard time finding them,” he says. “No realtor would ever promote such a thing, so buyers went underground to locate such property.”
Not only was FladHamer carving an unusual niche market, he was making a tidy profit.
“By finding those unique houses, I could actually sell them for more than market value,” says FladHamer, who sells properties nationwide. “They're way more fun ... than a typical flip.”
He says he has sold one home in Fort Wayne with “high levels of paranormal activity,” but he didn't provide any other details.
And no level of paranormal activity is considered too unsafe for building sale.
“I say, 'Yes,' to everything that comes across my desk,” he says. “I stay detached from any involvement with the paranormal element; that would keep me from my job as a transactional engineer.”
FladHamer maintains a list of more than 3,200 potential buyers who get an email when he uncovers a special property. He plans to set up a central clearinghouse for stigmatized properties, and he's also writing a training course.
“Agents and investors can learn how to talk to buyers and sellers about paranormal factors, the paperwork involved, and how to document and market a paranormal property,” he explains. Completion of the course earns the graduate Special Property Agent credentials.
The reality show
A series of interviews with HGTV, Reuters, USA Today and others brought FladHamer to the attention of television production company Zodiak USA last year.
“Zodiak USA read about some of the paranormal transactions,” he says. “Over several months, I walked them through all the paces and several deals.”
According to a news release sent for FladHamer, the reality show on SyFy “hopes to shine a light into the recesses of homes considered to be haunted, while providing viewers with an inside look at an eclectic mix of beautiful and historic homes.” He's not sure yet of the premiere date.
“Some people still don't believe there is really an underground market like this,” says FladHamer. “I assure you — there is a business in believers.”