The Essential Real Estate Lessons I Learned From Stephen King

You can probably tell by now that we have a lot -- I mean, a lot -- of advice to give you about buying, selling, and owning a home. We have lots of hands-on experience, a broad base of knowledge, and an army of experts who can find answers to just about anything we (or you) can throw at them.

And then, sometimes, we find real estate wisdom in the unlikeliest of places. Perhaps on the couch, on an unseasonably brisk autumn night, with the lights dimmed and a movie on TV. A scary movie, actually.

Yep, that's right. Stephen King is our real estate spirit guide.

Don't believe us? Here are six ways that classic fright flicks based on King's novels helped teach us the do's and don'ts of homeownership.

'Pet Sematary' (1989)

Film recap: Shortly after Dr. Louis Creed moves his family to a small town in Maine (of course), his son is killed in a tragic accident. Grief-stricken, the good doctor decides to bury his son in the "pet sematary" just beyond their property -- an abandoned Native American burial ground that he's learned can bring the dead back to life. Not pausing to ponder why it was abandoned, he soon discovers the problem with his plan: The dead may come back to life, but they don't come back quite the same.

Real estate lesson: Know the rules of disclosure

We learned more from this flick than how not to spell "cemetery." There were two morals to digest. The first? Don't bring people back from the dead, idiot. And the second? Always read the disclosure forms.

Look, if the doctor had actually done his homework, then he might have been better informed about the unearthly goings-on in his backyard.

Now, if the seller didn't disclose, that's another story. Understandably, sellers may not want to reveal certain facts about the property -- if it was a crime scene, if a death occurred there, or if pets and people come back to life and wreak havoc until everybody's dead. But in some states, they're required to.

Plus, if buyers find out the truth later, they can sue if they think the property's history will hurt its resale value.

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'The Mist' (2007)

Film recap: After a violent storm damages their home, David Drayton and his son head into town to get food and supplies. While they're in the store, a thick fog engulfs the town, leaving the townspeople trapped inside the store. It's not long before seriously scary stuff starts to happen outside -- and in.

Real estate lesson: Prepare your home for disaster

Just going to throw this one out there: If our pal David had planned ahead and packed a home emergency survival kit to have at the ready, would he really be in this situation? With a proper disaster plan, David and family would have had enough food, water, batteries, and other supplies to last them at least a few days at home. Thus, no reason to go to the store, aka the death trap of human sacrifices, aka the portal to another dimension. (No spoilers here, but this thing makes "Requiem for a Dream" seem like a laugh riot.)

Look at us, saving lives.

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'The Shining' (1980)

Film recap: Writer Jack Torrance takes a gig as winter caretaker at the remote Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block. He settles in with his wife and son, but the isolation soon begins to take its toll. Jack discovers the hotel's dark secrets and begins to morph into a homicidal, classic movie line -- spewing maniac.

Real estate lesson: Maintaining a vacation home can be murder

Man, Stephen King put together a real gold mine of real estate wisdom here. I firmly believe this is not a film about ghosts or murder. It's not about the Holocaust or Native Americans or the moon landing. And the hotel isn't a metaphor for hell.

This piece of sheer brilliance is actually about how dang hard it is to maintain a vacation home! Who wouldn't go a little nutso if you had to vacuum and dust that whole place all winter long, and your kid won't quit demanding rum? Red rum, no less!

While a second home can be a fantastic retreat or investment, King uses "The Shining" to show us the perils of hacking off more house than you can handle.

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'Secret Window' (2004)

Film recap: Amid a messy divorce, writer Mort Rainey relocates to a remote cabin in upstate New York. But he's soon approached by a farmer who claims Rainey plagiarized his work -- and the farmer has no intention of just letting it go, man. Cue some next-level psycho stalker stuff.

Real estate lesson: Don't buy rural property

(Just kidding! You totally should. But you should think about it. A lot.)

After all, as Mort's wife tells him, "You're out there all alone. Anything could happen and nobody would know."

If the mere idea of being stalked, tormented, murdered, and left to die alone doesn't scare you away from a remote lifestyle, consider the really scary stuff: You might not have trash removal (the horror!). You might have to deal with well water and septic tanks (gross!). And if the power goes out or you need assistance at home, there's no guarantee you're going to get help any time soon.

Living rural can be quite serene -- if you're eager to embrace nature, be flexible and take on a DIY attitude. If not, you might want to reconsider staying in the big city -- or at least the 'burbs.

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'Cujo' (1983)

Film recap: Cujo, a gentle Saint Bernard, is bitten by a bat and eventually becomes vicious and weirdly invincible (can rabies even do that?!). As he turns into a killer canine, he goes on a rampage through town.

Real estate lesson: Make sure your home inspector checks for pests

It's easy to blame Cujo here, but was it really the poor guy's fault? Let's instead turn our attention to the bat attack that resulted in rabies and turned Cujo psycho. (OK, I know Cujo's trouble started when he strayed from his owner's property and stuck his head in a cave -- in hindsight, fencing would have been a good idea).

But in general, you should ask your home inspector to check for pests before you submit an offer, especially if the home has been vacant for a while. On the other hand, if you've been there a few years, call in a pest professional to give the property a good sweep. For the health and safety of you and your pets, you'll want to deal with rodents, insects, snakes, and, yes, bats -- pronto.

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'Salem's Lot' (1979)

Film recap: Ben Mears returns to his hometown to write a book about a long-empty and supposedly haunted estate. When he discovers someone has bought the home, his project is put on hold. But then people around the house start dying and, of course, Ben uncovers the truth: Kurt Barlow, the owner of the estate, is a vampire who's turning his victims into an army of undead slaves.

Real estate lesson: Know your neighbors

Let's be honest: We don't quite know how Sir Vampire scored his sprawling abode. Maybe he had some pretty solid home financing. Maybe it was an all-cash deal. Maybe he waived all the contingencies (do the undead really care whether the HVAC system is in good condition?). Regardless, when it came time to choose the best offer on the house, the seller's agent probably didn't check to see whether Barlow was a vampire.

So if you're moving into a new neighborhood, or someone just moved in, it's always a good idea to do a little recon. If you have the time -- and the money -- you can actually dig up quite a bit of dirt.

A caveat: Be careful not to alienate anyone -- a good neighbor can be the magic ingredient for making a neighborhood feel like home. Even if they happen to be undead.