Vecna, take note: The Byers’ family home will soon have new occupants.
A home in Fayetteville, Georgia, that was used in the filming of the hit sci-fi horror series Stranger Things was recently listed for sale for $300,000. It was then taken off the market just one week later after an offer was reportedly accepted for nearly double the asking price. According to reports, the winner of the bidding war is an investor who plans to renovate the house into a replica of the fictional Byers’ home and then offer it up as an Airbnb — Demogorgon encounters (hopefully) not included.
“There are so many fans who would love to be part of the show in some way, shape or form,” said Anella Niewenhous, Associate Vice President, Regional Practice Group Leader, Personal Insurance, Burns & Wilcox, Morehead City, North Carolina. “It does not surprise me whatsoever that this home went for way more than asking and there was a bidding war on it.”
Whether it is solicited or not, you could have diehard fans trying to access the ‘Upside Down,’ or seeking out some experience there because it is where the story took place. It could lead to a higher risk.
An opening date for the eventual Airbnb has not been revealed, and it is unclear whether the buyer’s plans to host a Halloween-week haunted forest or house tour will come to fruition. With fans already flocking to the iconic property, though, the new owner may inherit a variety of risks from the outset. Depending on how the home is ultimately used, key insurance policies could include Homeowners Insurance, Builder’s Risk Insurance, Short-Term Rental Insurance, and Excess Liability Insurance.
“A famous home can be a lot more challenging to insure because of the higher level of risk they can present,” said Kate Wright, Associate Vice President, Regional Practice Group Leader, Personal Insurance, Burns & Wilcox, Gulf Region. “Whether it is solicited or not, you could have diehard fans trying to access the ‘Upside Down,’ or seeking out some experience there because it is where the story took place. It could lead to a higher risk.”
Protecting guests and property — without Sheriff Hopper around
While the Byers’ home may be the ultimate Stranger Things destination, other fans have turned their love of the series into neighborhood attractions of their own as Halloween approaches. Homeowners in Plainfield, Illinois, recently went viral — and almost got shut down due to neighbor complaints — for their elaborate Halloween display featuring Stranger Things character Max Mayfield “floating” above their yard, NBC Chicago reported. Other homeowners have set up similarly spooky displays themed around the 1980s-set show, according to The Tab.
It is in the best interest for property owners in these types of scenarios to work with their independent retail broker to secure higher liability limits, because their exposure is far, far higher than a traditional homeowner.
Like the future Airbnb, these homes could “automatically become a tourist attraction,” increasing the risk of trespassing, vandalism, theft, or injuries on the property. “The owner could be held liable for those injuries,” explained Wright, who is a fan of the series. This could be covered by Homeowners Insurance or Short-Term Rental Insurance, but owners should always review their insurance policies before debuting such attractions.
“It is in the best interest for property owners in these types of scenarios to work with their independent retail broker to secure higher liability limits, because their exposure is far, far higher than a traditional homeowner,” Wright said. “The insurance carrier may require them to have higher liability limits, but, in turn, they may also require them to take additional measures to ensure the property is safe for guests.”
If you are getting a bunch of fans together and they want to stay in Will Byers’ house because they love the show, a party could be a potential risk, especially in a secluded area.
For a home like the Stranger Things property, this could include barricades on the driveway, “no trespassing” signage, or even fencing around the entire property, said Niewenhous, another professed fan of the show. Parties are another concern at Airbnbs, she added. Short-Term Rental Insurance can cover damage to vacation rental homes caused by guest activity, and a Personal Articles Floater may also be needed if the home contains high-value collections or memorabilia.
“If you are getting a bunch of fans together and they want to stay in Will Byers’ house because they love the show, a party could be a potential risk, especially in a secluded area,” Niewenhous said, pointing to potential injuries or property damage. “I have read articles where vacation rental houses have been completely trashed on the inside. You run that risk.”
For this particular location, she added, “Excess Liability Insurance is not a bad idea because you are going to get so much traffic and you really do not know what could happen. It is better to be prepared for the unexpected.”
Building an alternate dimension
According to the Gizmodo report, the investor who purchased the Stranger Things property planned to start renovations “immediately” and aimed to design the house to look as it appeared in earlier seasons of the series — presumably without a portal to the horrifying parallel dimension known as “the Upside Down.” Whether or not that includes Christmas lights and alphabet letters on the living room wall, as seen in Season 1, a significant expense will likely be involved in turning the “as-is” property into a Byers’ home replica.
During the renovation process, homeowners typically need to obtain Builder’s Risk Insurance to cover potential damage or loss on the construction site due to fire, severe weather and more.
“Based on some of the photos and the house being built in 1900, it is going to take some elbow grease to get it up to today’s standards — especially if they are going to be replacing things and then charging a premium for it to be an Airbnb,” Niewenhous said. “They will probably need a Builder’s Risk policy.”
Builder’s Risk Insurance can also cover theft of building materials and, in some cases, building materials in transit. “It is just going to give a little bit more coverage than your standard policy,” she said.
Based on some of the photos and the house being built in 1900, it is going to take some elbow grease to get it up to today’s standards — especially if they are going to be replacing things and then charging a premium for it to be an Airbnb. They will probably need a Builder’s Risk policy.
An owner’s need for this type of coverage will depend on the scope of the home repairs being made. “Make sure your insurance broker fully understands the details of what you are doing,” Niewenhous said. “There is a big difference between replacing some cabinets and gutting the entire kitchen. Those are two different types of exposures.”
Given the thematic elements of the planned Airbnb, purchasing the appropriate insurance policies — including coverage for the home’s true replacement cost — is even more critical, Wright added. “You have a home that will be designed to showcase the unique, iconic features of a hit Netflix series and designed to be a replica of the Byers’ home. The property owner is going to put in repairs and it needs to be brought up to code and updated accordingly, but they are also going to put in a significant amount of money to re-create that set,” she said. “The value of some of those features needs to be taken into account.”
‘Friends don’t lie’ about special events
In Dayton, Ohio, another Stranger Things enthusiast is capturing fans’ attention with her handmade Halloween decorations re-creating two memorable scenes from the series, including the levitating Max Mayfield. The homeowner plans to add music and fog machines on Halloween night and will keep the display out through the week after Halloween, WLWT in Cincinnati reported. In Ontario, Canada, several homeowners in Windsor-Essex are offering haunted displays for area residents to enjoy and accepting donations for various charities, CTV News reported.
Homeowners in these situations should inform their insurance broker about their plans and find out whether they may need Special Events Insurance for their attraction.
“They could be treading very lightly in terms of a borderline commercial exposure versus a traditional personal lines Homeowners Insurance exposure,” Wright said. “It is one thing for neighbors to stroll by the sidewalk, but it is another to invite crowds of individuals to your house and provide attractions like a haunted trail or haunted tours, and perhaps provide beverages. That poses a whole additional exposure that needs to be accounted for that may require a Special Events policy.”
Avoiding trip hazards and providing emergency lighting are important precautions for these attractions, Wright said. Even events that do not call for special insurance coverage — like a smaller Halloween party or bonfire — should be taken on with caution. “The most important thing is safety for anyone on your property,” she said.
These precautions should be considered anytime a homeowner has an additional risk exposure “outside of the norm,” like a haunted house or yard, Niewenhous said. “That is not what a typical Homeowners Insurance policy is looking to cover,” she said. “If you are having visitors come on your property, even if you are not necessarily inviting them individually, that is something you should speak to your broker about. Being open and transparent with them will only benefit you in the long run.”