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Feds Bring Charges Against Amazon for Kids’ App Purchases

Feds Bring Charges Against Amazon for Kids’ App Purchases

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Amazon is being accused by the feds of billing parents for millions of dollars in their children’s unauthorized in-app purchases.The accusations brought by the Federal Trade Commission Thursday in federal district court are similar to those against T-Mobile last week for unauthorized “cramming” fees and charges against Apple that were settled earlier this year for children’s purchases in Apple’s App Store. Apple and FTC announced an agreement on Jan. 15 that it would pay a minimum of $32.5 million in refunds to consumers.The FTC’s complaint against Amazon is seeking an unspecified amount of money in refunds for Amazon customers for their kids’ unauthorized charges for apps, of which Amazon keeps 30 percent as profit, the FTC said in a statement. The commission alleges that when Amazon introduced in-app charges to the Amazon Appstore in November 2011, the company did not require passwords for in-app charges, such as the use of virtual currency in children’s games.The children’s app “Ice Age Village,” for example, allows children to use “coins” and “acorns” to buy items in the game without a real-money charge and additional “coins” and “acorns” with real money, the FTC said. Meanwhile, the app’s largest quantity purchase available is $99.99.However, they can also purchase additional “coins” and “acorns” using real money on a screen that is visually similar to the one that has no real-money charge, the FTC noted.The FTC invites parents who have experienced unauthorized in-app purchases to contact the commission at ftc.gov/complaint.On July 1, Amazon wrote a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, calling the charges a “disappointment.””The Commission’s unwillingness to depart from the precedent it set with Apple despite our very different facts leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court,” wrote Andrew C. DeVore, Amazon’s general counsel.A spokeswoman for Amazon said it had nothing further to add outside of the July 1 letter.DeVore wrote that Amazon officials believed they had “constructive” meetings with Ramirez over several weeks and already refunded customers for unauthorized in-app purchases.”And as we have made clear from the outset of your inquiry, our experience at launch was responsible, customer-focused, and lawful, including prominent notice of in-app purchasing, effective parental controls, real-time notice of every in-app purchase, and world-class customer service,” DeVore wrote.The FTC said it has received “thousands” of complaints against Amazon related to this issue.
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Best Days to Shop to Save on Electronics, Clothing and More

Best Days to Shop to Save on Electronics, Clothing and More

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The hunt for the best summer savings is all about knowing when to hit the stores.The best deals may be had during the week, consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch said. And depending on what you’re buying, you could get a better deal based on what day you shop, she added.Woroch says the following days are the best for shopping for these specific items:Monday: Electronics, such as cellphones and tablets. Woroch said electronics manufacturers release rebates and discounts on Mondays, and retailers pass them on to customers.Tuesday: Airfare and movie tickets. According to Cheapoair.com, purchasers can save up to $236 on average on airline tickets. Fare Compare says the lowest prices are typically found at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. And Woroch says adults can get movie tickets for as little as $5 each, plus discounts on concessions.Wednesday: Groceries. Grocers release their weekly circulars on Wednesday and some offer double coupons.Thursday: Clothes. The best discounts on clothing can often be found on Thursday because retailers will start to mark down merchandise before the weekend crowd hits. Woroch added that retailers are now clearing out their summer inventory so shoppers can find huge savings on maxi dresses and tank tops.Friday: Experts say Friday is the best time to get deals on accessories such as jewelry, belts and scarves.Saturday and Sunday: These are the best days to buy major appliances, such as washers, dryers, microwaves or stoves. And, according to Gas Buddy, most states typically have lower gas prices.Woroch also says July is a good month to purchase new furniture because retailers are clearing out old inventory. Shoppers can save as much as 60 percent off purchases, she said.Woroch suggests waiting a little more to purchase school supplies. Sure, retailers begin marking down inventory in July but shoppers who wait until August will see even bigger savings, she said.
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Back-To-School Supply Lists Getting Longer and Longer

Back-To-School Supply Lists Getting Longer and Longer

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Sorry to bring up the subject, kids, but we have to talk about back-to-school shopping.The length of the back-to-school shopping season is getting longer each year, with promotions being announced at the start of summer. Experts say the lists of needed supplies that parents receive from teachers are also getting longer.”The average 2014 required school supply list now contains 18 items,” says Tim Sullivan, the founder of TeacherLists.com.”That’s a 29-percent increase from 2013 with almost the entire increase coming from more and more types of consumable supplies being added to lists.  It’s not so much more glue and notebooks — it’s glue and notebooks plus tissues and resealable bags and hand wipes,” adds Sullivan.Sullivan says longer supply lists means more spending, and retailers are jumping on that by starting promotions earlier than ever before.  Experts say $5 billion is spent on back-to-school shopping.A survey conducted last month by the National Retail Federation found that 24 percent of K-12 parents looked for early back-to-school sales. Additionally, 45 percent of K-12 parents said they are planning to shop sales more often this year.Approximately 52 million parents will be heading to the stores this back-to-school season.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Report Says Many Teens Lack Financial Literacy

Report Says Many Teens Lack Financial Literacy

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — Today’s teenagers may be tech savvy, but a new survey finds many of them to be financially illiterate.According to a new report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, just one in 10 teenagers around the world is able to make some key but complex financial decisions, including understanding invoices and pay slips and deciding the options of various loans.Approximately 29,000 15-year-old students in 18 countries were tested on math, reading, science and problem solving.In the U.S., only 9.4 percent of teens quizzed could answer the most challenging questions on the 2012 international test.The easiest questions required teens to display basic financial literacy skills, such as understanding the purpose of an invoice or comparing prices per unit to decide the better value.The most difficult question asked students to analyze two loan proposals with differing rates and terms and choose the better offer.Teens in Shanghai, China, had the highest average score: 603 points. Colombia was at the bottom of the list with a score of 379. The U.S. had an average score of 492, which ranks our teens right in the middle of the pack, between teens in Latvia and Russia.U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan reacted to the study by telling reporters Wednesday that average isn’t “good enough.”Duncan said our economy is changing and young people need to have a “level of financial literacy that 20 or 30, 40 years ago, maybe wasn’t applied. But today it’s an absolute necessity.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Nutribullet 900 Series Blender Deemed ‘Safety Risk’ by Consumer Reports

Nutribullet 900 Series Blender Deemed ‘Safety Risk’ by Consumer Reports

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Nutribullet 900 series of blenders — an informercial staple — is not safe and consumers should not buy it, Consumer Reports said Thursday.The infomercial for the product claims that “even the toughest ingredients don’t stand a chance,” but in a Consumer Reports test, a  blade cracked or broke twice.
While the magazine says it could not confirm any injuries caused by the model, a broken or cracked blade could cause small fragments to be hidden in a blended beverage.Consumer Reports tested the product by having it crush seven large ice cubes 45 times to simulate “rigorous use.”Nutribullet, however, says that the machine is not meant to function as an ice crusher, and the Consumer Reports test constitutes a misuse of the product.
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Markets Dip Again, Fewer Americans Applying for Unemployment Benefits

Markets Dip Again, Fewer Americans Applying for Unemployment Benefits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After a Wednesday rebound, the markets fell again on Thursday, despite news that the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell near the lowest levels in seven years.The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day at 16915.07, down 70.54.The Nasdaq dropped 22.83 to a Thursday close of 4396.20, while the S&P 500 dipped 8.15 to 1964.68.The Labor Department reported on Thursday that just 304,000 Americans applied for unemployment insurance last week, down 11,000 from the previous week’s figure. During the same week last year, the Labor Department said 353,000 people applied for unemployment benefits.
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Krispy Kreme’s Hot Sign Still Lit After 77 Years

Krispy Kreme’s Hot Sign Still Lit After 77 Years

Krispy Kreme(NEW YORK) — Friday marks a momentous occasion for the Krispy Kreme brand — its 77th birthday — and to celebrate, the iconic doughnut chain is implementing one of its new CEO’s strategies for success: going social.In past years, Krispy Kreme has taken advantage of its birthday and occasions like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” to wrangle customers into its stores and get them engaging with the brand online in innovative, fun ways. And the company’s new president and CEO, Tony Thompson, plans to continue that trend.“We’re going to continue to build on that and identify those fun occasions for people to experience Krispy Kreme and to share,” he told ABC News. “Just to really socially activate and get consumers excited about the brand and come in and just celebrate with us.”On Thursday to honor its 77th year, Krispy Kreme stores will be promoting a dozen original glazed doughnuts for 77 cents, after the purchase of any dozen. The chain recognized a good thing after running the promotion for the past two years to much success.“We had been doing some consumer research, and it said fans love donuts — we just have to give them a reason to,” public relations and media manager Lafeea Watson said. “So our gift to them was the 75 cent deal, and it went spectacularly with lines around the corner at the shops.”Thompson, who joined Krispy Kreme from Papa John’s just one month ago, plans to ride that wave.“We have some work that’s begun on what we call a ‘customer engagement platform’ that will include loyalty rewards,” he said. “We should be in some test areas by the end of this calendar year and then hopefully roll out in 2015.”Beyond social engagement, Thompson is taking a look at the menu to identify areas for expansion. So far, he’s pinpointed more savory offerings, plus gluten-free doughnuts and specialty drinks.“10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is an opportunity for us. Can we come up with a savory type of product that still is, in a consumer’s mind, Krispy Kreme?” Thompson said. “We don’t want to stray away from what would be viewed as anything outside the brand.”The company also plans to release a K-cup version of their house blend drip coffee this fall.One thing Thompson would never mess with, though, is the beloved original glazed doughnut, which is a huge reason doughnuts still make up 80 percent of the company’s sales.“The fact that Krispy Kreme has stayed so centered and focused on their original glazed doughnut and who we are, I think that that alone has really helped the brand,” he said. “The product is so unique and special and craveable.”And when the hot sign is lit, indicating doughnuts are fresh out of the fryer, fans still line up around the block.“To have an original glazed is exciting and good. But to get one hot off the line is a whole different level,” Thompson enthused. “First thing people tell me when they find out I work for Krispy Kreme is, ‘Oh my goodness, I love hot donuts off the lines.’ It’s almost 100 percent of people that say that.”
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Apple Wins Patent for All-Glass Phone, TV or Home Devices

Apple Wins Patent for All-Glass Phone, TV or Home Devices

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Apple fans may one day have the option to buy an all-glass exterior television, mobile device or gaming device.A tech company’s patent filings doesn’t always pique the curiosity of Morningstar analyst Brian Colello, but Apple’s latest filing certainly did.The U.S. Patent and Trademark office approved Apple’s patent for all-glass electronic device housings using a “glass fusing process” this week. In Apple’s 29-page patent application, as first reported by Apple Insider, the filing included several drawings, some of which followed the shape of an iPhone, while others take the shape of external hard drives. In its explanation of possible uses, Apple says that the devices that use this encasement “may be a monitor, a monitor with an integrated computer, a television, or other electronic equipment.” Other devices bandied around include a “tablet computer, gaming device, navigation device, etc.”In this latest patent filing, Apple seems to emphasize the smooth lines and light weight typical in its products. The company’s description states that while “glass strength and aesthetics can sometimes be enhanced by using sufficiently glass layers,” the “size and weight of a device should not be excessive.”Apple first introduced the iMac “G3″ in 1998, with plastic transparency and color to computer design. The all-in-one desktop devices allowed users to say goodbye to having a monitor on their desk and computer drive at their feet. “It’s certainly possible that we could see an all-glass iOS or Mac device someday. I wouldn’t rule out anything with Apple. But I wouldn’t expect this type of product any time soon based on a single patent filing,” Colello said.Colello said it’s very difficult to speculate on what a single patent might mean for Apple.”The one issue to keep in mind for Apple is that it’s one thing to develop an innovative product, but building and developing a supply chain that can mass produces millions, or hundreds of millions, of the device takes time,” he said.Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
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Score Free Food at 7-Eleven, Chick-fil-A and Krispy Kreme on Friday

Score Free Food at 7-Eleven, Chick-fil-A and Krispy Kreme on Friday

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There’s something special about July 11 this year. Completely coincidentally, three major food chains are all running promotions to hand out free and discounted food, all for different reasons.
Read on to see how you can score some gratis grub this Friday:Free Slurpies at 7-ElevenThis Friday is July 11, also known as 7/11. Get it? To honor the momentous occasion, 7-Eleven is handing out free 12-ounce Slurpies from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.Additionally, those who download the store’s app can score free food in the following days as well, including favorites like Twinkies, Pillsbury cookies, M&M’s and more free Slurpies. Free Food at Chick-fil-AIn honor of Cow Appreciation Day, anyone who dresses up as a cow will get a free Chick-fil-A breakfast, lunch or dinner combo meal, which includes an entrée, side item and beverage. The caveat: You must be dressed “head to hoof,” as the chain calls it.For those who don’t want to don an entire cow costume, you can still get a free entrée for simply wearing a cow-spotted accessory, like a hat, scarf, tie or bag.77 Cents for a Dozen Donuts at Krispy KremeJuly 11 marks Krispy Kreme’s 77th birthday, and to celebrate, the chain is offering a dozen original glazed donuts for 77 cents after the purchase of a first full-priced dozen.
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Job Market Will Continue to Improve this Year, Survey Says

Job Market Will Continue to Improve this Year, Survey Says

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. economy may be stronger for the rest of the year — and jobs are one reason.A new survey out Thursday suggests employers are planning to hire more workers. The employment firm asked more than 2,100 HR and hiring managers about their plans.”What we’re seeing in our survey is that employers expect to add more jobs in the back half of the year,” says Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder. “Nearly half of employers — 47 percent — plan to hire full-time permanent employees over the next six months,” Grasz adds.And, as she notes, that’s more than a year ago. “The results of this year’s survey were indicative of a more confident employer population compared to 2013,” she says.
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Spirit Airlines Wants to ‘Hug the Haters’ with Free Miles

Spirit Airlines Wants to ‘Hug the Haters’ with Free Miles

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Don’t be a hater. Or do, and get rewarded. That’s the latest message from Spirit Airlines to its many critics.The low-cost carrier thinks it can embrace all the airline negativity out there and turn it into something positive: free airline miles.As the airline puts it, “We’re going to hug the haters.”The airline will give away miles up to one billion. Travelers need to go to HateThousandMiles.com and vent on Spirit — or any other carrier — in 140 characters or less.The payoff is 8,000 miles. And while that will get you “well on your way” to a free flight, the airline said, the minimum number of miles needed for a free flight is 10,000. The promotional miles can be combined with previously earned miles on Spirit.”Airlines mess up — but at least Spirit is willing to admit it,” the promotional page reads.”We know many customers love us and our approach to air travel,” Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said. “We’re confident once the haters see how we’re different, and how much money they can save, they’ll learn to love us, as well.”
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Jobless Claims Down to 304,000

Jobless Claims Down to 304,000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims fell last week, decreasing by 11,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.For the week ending July 5, the number of people filing for benefits dropped to 304,000. The previous week, claims stood at 315,000.The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting this week’s figures.The four-week moving average also fell, decreasing by 3,500 to 315,000.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Carnival Becomes Latest Line to Ban Smoking on Cabin Balconies

Carnival Becomes Latest Line to Ban Smoking on Cabin Balconies

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cruisers who are also smokers should check their preferred line’s smoking policy before they book their next voyage. More and more lines are banning smoking on cabin balconies, once considered a must-have feature for s…

California Start-Up Wants You to Commute to Work on Electric Roller Skates

California Start-Up Wants You to Commute to Work on Electric Roller Skates

File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Electric cars are a big-ticket item, but a California start-up company has a less pricey option for folks who want to get from point A to point B in a greener way: electric roller skates.ACTON Global announced a Kickstarter campaign for its RocketSkates at the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.The dual-wheeled RocketSkates attach to your shoes and can reach a top speed of 12 miles per hour.The RocketSkates can run for up to 90 minutes on one charge, and recharge in about the same amount of time.Users lean forward to go faster and lean back to slow down. Brakes are positioned on the back of each skate.  Users track battery life by using an iOS app.The company reached its Kickstarter goal of $50,000 in 24 hours.RocketSkates will be available in three versions with different size batteries. The $499 “Rocket Red” can cover six miles on a 45-minute battery.  The “Terminator Chrome” costs $599 and gives the rider eight miles of skating and 70 minutes of battery life. The “Deep Space Black” offers a ten-mile limit and a 90-minute battery at $699.But wait, there’s more.  Paging Doc Brown! Jennifer Choy, a transportation engineer at ACTON Global, says the company is also developing a hoverboard.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Federal Reserve Announces Plan to End Bond Buying Program in October

Federal Reserve Announces Plan to End Bond Buying Program in October

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Reserve plans to end its bond buying program in October, after seeing signs of a healing economy.The program was put into effect in late 2008 to help support the mortgage market, and promote spending, lending and hiring. The program had been expected to end, as recent months have seen economic figures — including unemployment and available jobs — slowly improving, but on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said that the plan is to end the program in October, provided the economic trajectory remains the same.The Fed had already cut bond purchases in $10 billion increments, from a high of $85 billion to about $35 billion per month, the Wall Street Journal reported. Since the program was enacted, the jobless rate has fallen from 7.8 percent to June’s 6.1 percent.
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Nissan Creates ‘World’s Cleanest Car’

Nissan Creates ‘World’s Cleanest Car’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Nissan announced the “world’s cleanest car” on Tuesday — a vehicle with paint technology that will repel mud, rain and everyday dirt.Nissan announced in a press release that the “self-cleaning paint” is expected to be an aftermarket option for future vehicles. The company does not anticipate making the technology standard.In Wednesday’s demonstration, a white Nissan LEAF was painted with the Ultra-Ever Dry paint. The technology, “creates a protective layer of air between the paint and the environment, effectively stopping standing water and road spray from creating dirty marks on the [vehicle's] surface,” the statement said.By exhibiting the new technology on the LEAF, Nissan’s “best-selling zero emission vehicle,” the company say it has created the world’s “cleanest car,” that doesn’t harm the environment and does not require a car wash.
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Markets Rebound After Consecutive Days of Losses

Markets Rebound After Consecutive Days of Losses

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street rebounded from a pair of down days on Wednesday, with all three major indices posting gains, while the federal government says it made approximately $100 billion in payments to people who may not have been entitled to them.The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 16985.61, up 78.99 from Tuesday’s close.The Nasdaq climbed 27.57 to a close of 4419.03, while the S&P 500 ended the day up 9.12 to 1972.83.A House Oversight subcommittee was scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday afternoon after it was determined that about $100 billion in tax credits were given to families that did not qualify. Among the payments made by the federal government were unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that may not have been necessary.
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Honda’s Air Bag Recall Gets Bigger

Honda’s Air Bag Recall Gets Bigger

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Honda is expanding its recall over defective air bags.The Japanese automaker has already recalled two million vehicles in several states and now, it’s recalling another million in California for problems with the mechanism that inflates the air bag.The propellant inside the inflator is too powerful and could cause the part to explode, sending metal shards that can cause injuries to drivers and passengers.
The part, made by Takata Corporation, is used by other automakers, which have also been forced to recall vehicles.Besides California, Honda is recalling vehicles in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
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Selling Homes with Notorious Histories: Price Takes a Beating

Selling Homes with Notorious Histories: Price Takes a Beating

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Nothing ruins a property’s value like murder.That was made clear when Catrina McGhaw of Missouri recently broke her lease when she discovered while watching television that her house was once owned by a serial killer who tortured as many as 20 women in the basement.It’s a problem felt by other owners of buildings with notorious pasts.”With that kind of history, I would plan on the home being at least 20 percent below market value,” Zillow real estate expert Brendon DeSimone said. “It also shrinks the pool of buyers. Many customers simply won’t make an offer. For obvious reasons, most buyers will just move onto something else.”But even those willing to live with a lurid history will expect a deal, DeSimone said.”Basically the value is so much lower because you are losing a huge amount of market share,” DeSimone said.Despite the challenges of marketing a home with a bloody history, the best practice for a property owner is to disclose these details, DeSimone advised.”A smart buyer will do their homework. Nowadays with so much real estate information available online, if a murder took place in recent years, there would be records and knowledgeable neighbors,” he said.One website, DiedInHouse, will reveal if someone has died in a house for a fee.Carmen Jones, a Redfin real estate agent in Dallas, helped her client buy a home where a stripper had been murdered. The homicide was only revealed after her client had put in an offer on the house. The revelation didn’t bother her client enough not to buy the home, however.”Other clients of mine might have reconsidered if it were a natural death, but murder is different,” Jones said. “Most people are disturbed by the thought of a spirit or ghost of a person that met a terrible traumatic fate. Most are truly mortified at the thought of ghosts, but especially one living in their home.”While it might not be a deal breaker, it would certainly narrow down the number of buyers interested, Jones said.
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Buyers Are Dying to Live in Haunted Houses

Buyers Are Dying to Live in Haunted Houses

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — If you think haunted houses are impossible to sell, then you’re in for the fright of your life.”There are buyers out there that think it’s cool to own a home that may have ghosts,” real estate agent Cindi Hagley told ABC News’ 20/20.Based in California, Hagley runs Past Life Homes, specializing in the selling of so-called “stigmatized properties,” and that includes haunted houses.“Right now we are in a seller’s market in almost all of northern California,” Hagley said. “You can have a dead body swinging from the chandelier, and I’m still going to have ten offers on the phone.”Hagley said plenty of houses for sale come with supposed tenants of the supernatural type, who have allegedly lived there for hundreds of years. In some states including California, realtors are required by law to tell buyers if a home purportedly has ghostly inhabitants.Even after telling potential buyers that the house is haunted, Hagley said many are still interested.“Some don’t care. Some expect a huge discount,” said Hagley.A Realtor.com survey found that 62 percent of Americans would consider buying a haunted house, while 35 percent think they’ve lived in a haunted house.John Gochá told 20/20 that his home is haunted.“I know it’s haunted,” Gochá said. “I see ghosts here on a pretty much weekly basis.”His Los Angeles house, which was featured in the Emmy-winning TV show, American Horror Story, is currently for sale.“Every time I go by the laundry room with the washing machine on I hear conversations, people having conversations clear as day,” said Gochá.While Gochá finds the ghosts in his home friendly, Hagley said she has a team of paranormal investigators for when a house she is selling is haunted.“It’s not like on TV where you see, you know, these alleged Ghostbusters calling these ghosts out,” Hagley said. “We’re gentle in our approach.”When the home buyers want the spirits to leave, Hagley has her medium, Mark Christopher Nelson, ask the paranormal presence to go elsewhere.“We’re not evicting them. We’re helping them,” said Hagley.While most people shy away from buying haunted homes, Hagley said there are those who are excited about the prospect.“I usually call a security guard to protect me because they’re usually nuts,” said Hagley.
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