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You may think "American Horror Story" (currently in its sixth season) is a creepy anthology show about ghosts, vampires, serial killers, witches, homicidal clowns, freaks, Nazis, aliens, backwoods cannibals, piggy men, and Lady Gaga. But do you want to hear something really scary? At its core, AHS is actually all about real estate.
Every season is richly connected to a definitive sense of place -- a Los Angeles Tudor, a stately New Orleans manse, an aging Art Deco hotel -- that confines whatever rambling and downright freaky plot twists the show's creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, decide to fling sadistically at viewers each week.
With the show's latest and most insane iteration ("Roanoke") well under way, we couldn't help but think: There must be some take-home real estate lessons in this sweeping melange of camp and gore, We we binge-watched all six seasons to uncover some bloody good housing lessons for you, dear reader. (Warning: past season spoilers ahead.) So yeah, we're never, never sleeping again. You're welcome!
Lesson 1: Carefully vet your Realtor
AMS's resident real estate agent Marci ( Christine Estabrook) frankly gives the profession a frighteningly bad name. In "Murder House," she sells a troubled family, the Harmons, their, er, murder house. And she neglects to tell them that roughly 150 or so previous former owners died there in grotesque ways (It's even a prime stop on L.A.'s "Eternal Darkness bus tour!). When called on this omission later, she initially refuses to help with the resale. Oh, and she's nosy, and a casual racist to boot.
The Harmons could have kept their sanity and their lives (sorry: spoiler!) by doing some due diligence. Check references from former clients and look into your real estate agent's history online before committing your life's savings. And life.
Which leads us to…
Lesson 2: Read those disclosures (and ask the right questions)
As in: Did someone die here recently? A murder-suicide, perhaps? And did a deranged back-room abortionist/mad scientist call this place home in the 1920s? Vivien and Ben Harmon (Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott) didn't seem to even read the seller's disclosures before they handed over their down payment.
Many states have laws on the books that require sellers to disclose facts about whether the property is "psychologically affected" (aka, when someone died). In California, where this nail-biter was set, the period of time you have to disclose deaths in the home is three years -- and you have to go into detail about how they died. We're shaking our heads, Vivien and Ben. Tsk, tsk.
There are websites that can help too, including DiedinHouse.com, a service that purports to help you find out if anyone has died at any valid U.S. address,.
(Random aside: You can actually stay in the real Murder House -- the Alfred Rosenheim Mansion in Los Angeles -- for a cool $1,450 a night. You know, if Tiffany lamps and being absolutely terrified all night are your thing.)
Lesson 3: Size up the competition
Ye gods. "Roanoke's" Matt and Shelby, quite possibly the most unfortunate pair of real estate investors ever known, would have been wise to heed this tip when they used their life savings (also a no-no) to outbid a group of remarkably disagreeable-looking hillbillies on an obviously haunted house deep in the middle of nowhere. (Additional tip: Do not buy houses that clearly look haunted.) We're all about a good bidding war, you guys, but come on. There are lots of circumstances when it's OK to walk away from a home deal -- listen to your intuition, and, if it doesn't feel right, pass up that creepy, suspiciously cheap house and wait for something way less terrifying.
On the other hand …
Lesson 4: Location is king
This one's fairly universal, but boy, does witch-centric Season 3: "Coven" drive this point home. Could Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies -- otherwise known as the Buckner Mansion -- be any more fabulous?! The 20,000-square-foot house, built in 1856 for cotton baron Henry S. Buckner, has it all, including its own real-life history of murder and mayhem. But what about those gorgeous views of New Orleans' Garden District? It's clear why celebs such as Beyonc, Brad Pitt, and Sandra Bullock all have NOLA landing pads in this exclusive enclave, where average property values exceed $1.6 million. Sometimes you just have to forget about those rumors about ghosts -- or, sorceresses, animated corpses, and minotaurs, as the case may be.
Lesson 5: Be wary of nosy neighbors
Poor Vivien Harmon; in addition to dealing with ghosts, demons, and rubber-suited rapists in the Murder House, she also had to contend with one of most insidious threats of all: a supernosy next-door neighbor. Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) just wouldn't stop coming over uninvited, raiding Vivien's jewelry box and constantly warning her she's going to die. Annoy-ing!
I think we can all agree Constance was a little too involved in the Harmons' lives. Real estate tip: Keep overly nosy neighbors at arm's length, lest they pilfer your silverware, attempt to feed you poisonous cupcakes, or plot to steal your unborn baby. Deal with them directly: If they are truly being intrusive, set up some firm parameters. Before things get out of hand.
Lesson 6: Check the basement
Nothing good comes of ignoring this tip -- the not-living-yet-not-dead "child" that Dr. Charles Montgomery pieced together using his deceased son and spare baby parts in "Murder House" being a fine example. However, it's far more likely that you'll discover problems like overloaded drain tiles or compromised sump pumps, which are almost as terrifying. (Seriously -- it could mean thousands of dollars in repairs! Spooky.)
Lesson 7: Bring an exorcist for the final walk-through
You know, just in case. In fact, whenever you're worried that things seem to be going straight to hell, call in a pro, the way the good folks running Season 2: "Asylum" called in an (ill-fated) exorcist to help purify a possessed patient. Also good to bring to the walk-through: a checklist covering your punch list items for the home (so you can ensure the seller has completed any agreed-upon repairs).
Lesson 8: If your home is haunted, leave
If it begins to rain human teeth, leave. If you find yourself locked in your basement and inexplicably forced to watch a Blair Witch-esque video of a pig-head-wearing creature dancing in the woods, leave. (Like, who pressed "Play" on the video, y'all?) If you walk into your foyer and are wordlessly greeted by hundreds of wooden stick dolls strung from the ceiling, leave. These are all red flags. Check your pride at the door and cut your losses.