To celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, Trulia looked at which U.S. metros have the greatest concentration of old, vacant homes – the homes where we suspect you’re more likely to find ghosts lurking.

For Halloween, we wanted to find out which metros are more likely to keep the Ghostbusters in business. However, it would be way too scary to go door to door since not all ghosts are as friendly as Casper. Instead, we put our skulls together and came up with another way to find them. Which homes do we think might be haunted? Old homes, of course: old homes with creaky bones have a history of previous residents whose spirits might return, or maybe never left. Our other hunch is that ghosts would prefer not to be disturbed, so they haunt vacant homes more than homes occupied by pesky mortals.

Putting on our Ecto-Goggles, we scared up the American Community Survey 2006-2010 Public Use Microdata Sample to identify homes that are both (1) vacant for any reason and (2) built before 1939.

Ghosts Like Capes

From the looks of it, ghosts have a thing for capes. No, silly, not ghosts wearing capes – ghosts on capes: Cape May, NJ and Cape Cod, MA. Those two metro areas have the highest share of housing units that are both old and vacant. Long-established vacation areas, like Cape May and Cape Cod, as well as Portland, ME and Lebanon, NH, are one of the two types of metros with the most old, vacant homes. The other type of metro with old, vacant homes is older cities that have had rough economic times, such as Utica, Buffalo and Albany in upstate New York, as well as nearby Scranton, PA, Detroit and Providence.

We wonder, though, whether those vacation areas actually have a lot of haunted houses. Vacation towns empty out in the off-season but then fill up again each year, which could get annoying for ghosts who want to settle in year-round. Halloween is off-season for Cape May and Cape Cod, so maybe it is where the more nomadic ghosts go to party at this time of year. But ghosts who like to nest might not want to deal with seasonal visitors. Fortunately, the Census breaks out which vacant homes are empty because they’re “for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use,” so we can exclude those homes and identify the top 10 places to find ghosts year-round:

Top 10 Places To Find Haunted Non-Vacation Homes
# U.S. Metro Share of homes both old and vacant (except seasonally vacant homes)
1 Buffalo, NY 6.0%
2 Scranton, PA 5.4%
3 Detroit, MI 5.4%
4 Albany, NY 5.1%
5 Cleveland, OH 4.9%
6 Toledo, OH 4.7%
7 Utica, NY 4.7%
8 Providence, RI 4.5%
9 Pittsburgh, PA 4.5%
10 Rochester, NY 4.2%
Note: among largest 250 metros across U.S.

Dropping the metros that have only fair-weather ghosts, the top-10 list of haunted homes is dominated by the Rust Belt. Without the vacation spots, the list is a hit parade of older cities that have seen better days. (The two of us economists here at Trulia are from Buffalo, NY and Rochester, NY. Is that why our colleagues are scared of us?) A metro is likely to have a high share of old homes if it was founded long ago and hasn’t had a need for building new homes. Boston, for instance, is older than all of the top “haunted” metros, but has had more growth and therefore more new homes built in recent decades, so less of the housing stock is old. But the top three metros for old, vacant homes — Buffalo, Scranton and Detroit — haven’t had a lot of new blood coming in.

In the South and West, the Ghost is Clear

Where are you least likely to find ghosts? Regions of the country that were settled later and have had recent growth have a much lower share of old, vacant homes. That means most of the South and the West. The grim grinning ghosts at the Haunted Mansions in Disneyland and Disney World notwithstanding, the top-10 metros for keeping away from ghosts are mostly in the Sunbelt:

Top 10 Places To Avoid Haunted Homes
# U.S. Metro Share of homes both old and vacant
1 Naples, FL 0.0%
2 Las Vegas, NV 0.0%
3 Yuma, AZ 0.0%
4 Fort Lauderdale, FL 0.1%
5 Anchorage, AK 0.1%
6 Punta Gorda, FL 0.1%
7 Palm BayMelbourneTitusville, FL 0.1%
8 Phoenix, AZ 0.2%
9 Orange County, CA 0.2%
10 Cape CoralFort Myers, FL 0.2%
Note: among largest 250 metros across U.S.

Newer, fast-growing places have almost no old, vacant homes. Five out of the 10 metros most likely to be ghost-free are in Florida; four more are in the sunny West; plus Anchorage AK. And, Cape Coral (say what?!)–apparently you don’t find ghosts on every cape.

But if you insist on searching for haunted homes in the South and the West, here’s where you’ll find them. These are the top-10 metros for old, vacant homes in the South region, which the Census defines as covering everything from Delaware to Texas:

Top 10 Places To Find Haunted Homes in the South
# U.S. Metro Share of homes both old and vacant
1 Hagerstown, MD 3.3%
2 New Orleans, LA 3.1%
3 Baltimore, MD 3.0%
4 Huntington, WV 3.0%
5 Louisville, KY 2.4%
6 Richmond, VA 2.3%
7 Lynchburg, VA 2.2%
8 Savannah, GA 2.1%
9 Roanoke, VA 2.1%
10 Wilmington, DE 2.1%
Note: among largest 250 metros across U.S., located in the Census’s South region.

If our hunch about ghosts preferring old, vacant homes is true, then Southern spirits cluster as close to the North as possible: among these top 10 Southern haunted-house metros, eight are north of the border that separates Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri from North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The top metros for ghost-spotting in the Deep South are New Orleans and Savannah, two beautiful old Southern cities with rich histories and lots of local lore.

Out West, haunted homes are even rarer.

Top 10 Places To Find Haunted Homes in the West
# U.S. Metro Share of homes both old and vacant
1 San Francisco, CA 3.1%
2 Santa Cruz, CA 2.0%
3 Bellingham, WA 1.7%
4 Spokane, WA 1.7%
5 Yakima, WA 1.6%
6 Santa Rosa, CA 1.5%
7 Oakland, CA 1.4%
8 Greeley, CO 1.4%
9 Salinas, CA 1.2%
10 Los Angeles, CA 1.1%
Note: among largest 250 metros across U.S., located in the Census’s West region.

San Francisco has, by far, the highest share of old, vacant homes in the West, and no wonder: after the Gold Rush in 1849, San Francisco became the West’s first big city. The rest of the list is concentrated in northern California (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Oakland and Salinas) and in Washington State (Bellingham in the north, Yakima to the South and Spokane in the East).

That’s all you need to know if you want to avoid – or find – ghosts this Halloween. Haunted-home seekers should take a pilgrimage to Cape May, Cape Cod or upstate New York; New Orleans and San Francisco are the best bet for communing with the spirits if you’re in the South or West and don’t want to travel too far.

On the other hand, if you have a bad case of phasmophobia, you should hightail it to South Florida or the Southwest and hope that the ghosts that like to scare fearful humans don’t read the Trulia Trends blog and follow you there. Boo!

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