It can be almost impossible to sell a property in Asia after it was home to an ‘unnatural death’, but, thankfully, a group of intrepid freelancers in China will make sure the place is not haunted — for a price.
In China, a small industry of “haunted house testers” are hired by property agents, owners or potential buyers. They are typically paid one yuan per minute, and could make upwards of 1,440 yuan (S$306) for a 24-hour stay, according to Dahe Daily, a news website based in the central province Henan.
The report quoted one haunted house tester, a retired soldier surnamed Zhang, who said he knew of over a dozen other people who were taking on the job.
“This is a niche occupation. It’s not suitable to be a full-time job, but it can be a part-time gig. Workers need to fly across the country and they do not know where they will go next,” he said.
Zhang also said that the demand is not high and said he has received about one order annually over the past few years.
His clients are normally property agents trying to sell haunted properties or people who just bought a property they fear is haunted.
“The new buyers do not dare to sleep in the place, so they pay people to give it a try and see if it is safe,” he said, adding that he would use video calls to show the client how he checked every corner of the house.
“Some of my friends say it is an easy job; sleep for one night and get the money. They asked me for help to get into the gig, but most of them were afraid. My friends quit after their first time,” Zhang said.
In Asia, it is common for people to actively avoid houses that were the location of an “unnatural death” because of concerns that the incident will bring bad fortunes to the subsequent residents. “Haunted” flats tend to sell for a significantly lower price than similar places in the surrounding area.
For this reason, property agents in Hong Kong are legally required to disclose an “unnatural death” at a property.
While the job of proving a place is not haunted has existed for a while, a 24-hour live stream from a haunted house tester in Suzhou, in eastern China, attracted public attention to the job.
The stream was an attempt to auction a property that was once owned by a man who committed suicide in the house.
While the stream attracted 56,000 views, nobody took part in the auction of a flat that, had it not been surrounded by dark circumstances, would have been valued at around 2.2 million yuan (US$345,000), according to price estimates of that area.
The starting bid of 1.2 million yuan (US$188,150) never got off the ground.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.