A hoarder house is something every real estate professional will encounter at some point in their career.
We know that hoarder houses often present exceptional opportunities for real estate investors.
Hoarder properties have been depicted through TV Shows, YouTube videos, and other real estate media.
However, they are often misunderstood in a greater context.
Whether you’re interested in flipping a hoarder house, cleaning a hoarder house, have family and friends in a hoarder home situation, or are a professional organizer, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of hoarder houses.
In this article, we take a deep dive into what a hoarder house is, why they exist, and just about everything else you’ll need to know about hoarder properties.
Let’s jump right in by defining what a hoarder house is:
A hoarder house is a home that is filled with an excessive quantity of the occupant’s belongings and collectibles, often stuffing the house from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.
Hoarder homes present hazardous conditions for the occupants and guests, since mobility and visibility throughout the house becomes increasingly limited.
Depending on the severity of the situation, hoarder houses may result in flammable materials combusting, mold growth, biohazardous materials, deferred maintenance, and pose health hazards for those who enter.
Clutter in a hoarder house may accumulate to a point that one cannot see the floors, walls...or even the occupants inside of a home!
"Hoarding affects an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population." - American Psychiatric Association
You might be asking, “How can anyone live like that?” The answer is a bit more complicated than one might initially think.
Unlike most other forms of property distress, this type of distress is caused by humans. It is not caused by extreme weather, failure of the structure or mechanicals of the building.
It’s important to note that a hoarder house is a condition created by a person.
A property does not become a hoarder house on its own.
A person living in a hoarder house is likely the cause of the situation.
If there’s no intervention by friends, family members, or a real estate professional, the problem tends to get worse over time.
To help understand the question of what is a hoarder house, here's a 2 minute clip from ABC News on the national hoarding phenomenon:
As real estate professionals—investors, real estate agents, home inspectors, and property managers alike—we know that the real estate business is a people business more than anything.
Thus, we must understand more about the root cause of the hoarder house: a hoarder.
Hope you're enjoying the Ultimate Guide on Hoarder Houses! (Use this menu below to jump to your section of choice!)
A hoarder is a person who acquires, collects and saves an abnormal, excessive quantity of possessions in their living space. Hoarders have an ongoing struggle with disposing these items due to a perceived need to hold on to them.
A hoarder may fill their house with items such as:
Despite the clutter and disorganization that results from the accumulation of all these items, a hoarder may still not agree that there is a problem.
Hoarders tend to accumulate a large number of items in their houses because of mental illness.
A hoarder is subject to a mental illness called compulsive hoarding, or hoarding disorder.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, compulsive hoarding is a disabling psychological disorder characterized by excessive collecting and saving behavior that results in a cluttered living space and significant distress or impairment.
Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder ("OCD") and anxiety disorder may also show symptoms of hoarding behavior.
Symptoms of hoarding disorder include a person collecting items in excess that he or she may not actually have the space for, strong emotional attachment to the items collected, and continued difficulty in discarding these items.
In the context of real estate, hoarder means a person who either owns or occupies a property and has accumulated items to the extent of causing extreme clutter, disorganization, and problematic living conditions.
Real estate professionals are in the business of solving people’s property problems and helping people out of difficult situations.
In exchange, they’re able to purchase these distressed properties at a discount, hire a professional cleaning company, and otherwise fix up the property for resale or rental. Some real estate investors even specialize in flipping hoarder homes.
On the other hand, real estate agents may encounter a hoarder situation when getting a listing and selling a hoarder house. This could be the property owner, friends and family of the owner, or other tenants who occupy the home of the landlord.
Now that we’ve covered what is a hoarder house and what kind of mental illness that a hoarder has, and what does it mean in a real estate context, let’s explore some pictures of hoarder houses.
This photo is hoarder house photo was taken in Pacific Beach in San Diego, California:
This hoarder house picture shows the interior living room with trash and boxes piled to the ceiling:
This hoarder house image is of the controversial "Bondi Hoarder House" in the town of Bondi Beach, Australia. Believe it or not-- this hoarder property was valued around $2,000,000:
We'd sure love to see the above hoarder house before and after photos for the real estate investor who purchased it at auction.
As we can see, hoarder houses can be pretty rough. So, how do you clean a hoarder house?
Hoarder house cleaning is certainly not your average house cleaning job. How to clean a hoarder house involves the proper resources, time, and planning to take care of the problem.
Unfortunately, even the best hoarder house cleaners cannot prevent the problem from returning if the hoarder remains on the property.
If your goal is to clean a hoarder house fast and make sure it stays clean, you will need to have the hoarder removed from the home. Cleaning up a hoarder house will be much easier once people have been removed from the property.
Now with COVID, the coronavirus contagion, it is especially important to wear a mask at all times while decluttering and cleaning in someone else's house.
If you're wondering how to clean a hoarders house, here's our 7 step cleanup process:
As a real estate investor, you may want to document the dramatic cleanup process to showcase your problem solving abilities and real estate skills.
Check out this incredible hoarder house before and after video from Melbourne Property Collective:
You may wonder how to help a hoarder clean their house, especially considering they may not think a problem exists or that cleaning is required.
Hoarders want to hold on to their possessions and prevent any items from being discarded.
That said, they may not accept your offer for help. You may need to attempt to challenge the hoarder’s position on how they maintain their living conditions.
Everyone has a right to collect objects and create hoarding conditions. However, you may need to emphasize the dangers and potential health effects or hoarding.
If that does not work, you may need to compromise with the hoarder and hang on to some of their belongings. In this situation, you may need to add an extra step to the cleaning process.
You may need to rent a storage container nearby to store the person’s items while the house is being cleaned up. Consider using a U-Box from U-Haul, as they are ultra convenient.
Run through the 7 Step Cleanup Process outlined previously and return the items once they are done with all steps.
It’s during this time that you may be able to donate some of the items that are in decent shape. More importantly, throw away hazardous materials and clear the home of any dangers.
Understand that without a change in the person’s behavior, the hoarding situations will come back in a matter of time.
Real estate investors and house flippers are the most likely buyer of a hoarder house. They are some of the only buyers willing and able to handle a hoarder house situation.
With the time, money, and energy it takes to turn a hoarder house into a marketable, desirable property, a hoarder house seller is often not willing to take on the challenge.
For this reason, real estate investors are able to acquire the distressed property at a discount, usually paying all cash and buying the house in “as-is” condition – junk and all!
Hoarder house buyers and property inspectors may not have complete visibility, even during an inspection walkthrough, due to the hoarding situation.
Real estate investors looking for a deal on distressed property want to know how to find a hoarder house for sale.
There are several methods of identifying hoarder houses for sale in your area, whether or not the house is listed on the market with a real estate agent.
Here’s where to find hoarder houses for sale:
Depending on the extent of the hoarding situation, you may want to hire a professional hoarder house cleaning service to help get the property back in decent shape.
To find hoarder house cleaners, you may Google search, “Hoarder House Cleaning” or “Hoarder House Cleaners Near Me” to find local vendors.
You can post the details of your job on websites like:
These websites survey your problem, then match you with appropriate vendors.
You’ll have a chance to interview the cleaning company prior to hiring them. Let them know it’s a hoarder house and get an idea of pricing.
Since the job is not your typical house cleaning, most traditional cleaning and junk removal services are not equipped for the task of cleaning a hoarder house.
It’s important to first understand the amount of clutter and types of objects that remain on the property.
Then, communicate as much detail to the cleaning company as you can in order to set the right expectations up front before they start cleaning.
Take photos and share with your potential cleaning company and contractors.
The average cost to clean a hoarder house ranges from $600 to $4,000+; though cleaning costs may vary widely depending on the condition and if major repairs are needed.
Here's a break down of the primary cost drivers of your hoarding cleanup services:
Large roll-away dumpster rentals cost around $350-$500 for the day.
If you decide to hire labor to help remove junk, you may pay around $25/hour.
These can cost from $60 to $400 depending on the square footage of the house extent of the cleaning needed at the hoarder house.
A professional cleaning crew will charge around $100-$150 per person for 8 hours of deep cleaning. Deep cleaning of specific surfaces will be additional charges.
This is hands-down the biggest variable expense in your hoarder house cleaning budget. Surfaces and fixtures may be damaged beyond cleaning and require repair or replacement. Flooring costs around $3 to $6 per square foot installed. A rule of thumb for many house flippers is $25 to $45 per square foot for a full house rehab.
After reading this article you might be asking, “Should I buy a hoarder house?”
Buying a hoarder house presents challenges that most traditional buyers are not familiar with. Hence, why many hoarder houses are sold to house flippers and investors.
Here are some best practices for buyer a hoarder house:
When selling a hoarder house, there are certain things you want to consider.
As a real estate agent, you may ask the seller if they’re willing get the house in marketable condition. This requires time, money, planning and effort, which may prohibit sellers for doing the work on their own.
If the seller is willing to clean up the house, follow the seven-step cleanup process as outlined previously in this article.
If the seller wants to sell the house in “as-is” condition (which is usually the case), consider marketing the property to investor buyers. These are the buyers who are willing to take on a project and are flexible enough to accommodate hoarding situations.
Selling a hoarder house on the market entails a few marketing specifications. Include in the listing remarks works such as: TLC, needs work, sold “as-is,” investor special, investors wanted, bring your contractor, and handyman’s special.
Once the property is properly fixed up, your prospective buyers will not be able to that the house was a once hoarder house.
There are several hoarder television shows all about hoarder houses you can watch to learn more & see for yourself. These shows don’t show everything about what’s going on at a hoarder house, but they’ll give viewers a sneak peak into real life hoarder houses.
Here’s a quick list of hoarder house shows that aired on A&E, TLC, The Style Network and HGTV:
Without a doubt, A&E's Hoarders is the most iconic and popular hoarder TV Show of them all. Many raving fans admittedly have been addicted to this show. Perhaps for shock value, perhaps for the real estate insights. Who really knows?
A tamer version of A&E’s Hoarders, Clean House aired on The Style Network and was the longest running of the list. Host Niecy Nash helps declutter houses and helps families sell and dispose of belongings. The show is less focused on compulsive hoarding disorder-- the mental illness that drives hoarding behavior. Clean House has reportedly been discontinued.
TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive show follows the real life of hoarders in a documentary style series. This show does have more focus on the personal lives and illnesses of the hoarders featured on the TV show. The featured hoarders in Hoarding: Buried Alive are provided help from a therapist and professional organizer to clear their messy houses.
HGTV’s Hammer to the Manor isn’t a classic “Hoarder House” show per se, but the first episode is titled “The Old Hoarder House” and certainly goes behind the scenes of a real-life hoarder house in the perspective of property renovators.
A hoarder house is something every real estate investor will come across in their pursuit of discounted properties. Understanding the context behind the clutter will give you an edge over the competition.
Knowing what hoarder means, why people have hoarding situations, and what to do about hoarder houses, hoarders and their family members involved will not only improve your business savvy, but will allow you to provide the most value for the seller.
Whether you're thinking about buying, selling, or flipping a hoarder house, we hope you feel ready to tackle any hoarder house you come across on your real estate investing journey.
This article was written by Ryan Zomorodi, V.P. of Education at RealEstateSkills.com and President of RZ Holdings, Inc. Ryan specializes in the acquisition of distressed single and multifamily residential properties nationwide for wholesale, flipping, and rental. Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn and Instagram.
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