hoarder house

Hoarder Houses: How To Buy, Clean, & Flip Homes For Profit

flipping houses real estate investing strategies real estate terms Sep 08, 2023

In the real estate industry, the concept of a hoarder house resonates with intrigue and opportunity. Not just confined to TV shows or sensational videos, hoarder homes have woven their way into many Realtors' experiences, often opening up doors to potential investments. Yet, many still find themselves pondering, "What is a hoarder house?" or mistaking a hoarding house for just another cluttered space.

Beyond the superficial clutter and chaotic rooms, hoarding houses stem from a deep-rooted psychological disorder, making them unique and complex challenges for investors and cleaners alike.

Whether you're an investor eyeing an opportunity, someone with personal ties to a hoarding situation, or just plain curious, this article promises a comprehensive exploration of the hoarder home phenomenon – from its psychological underpinnings to the potential it holds in real estate:

Thinking about investing in real estate? Join Alex Martinez at his FREE training to learn how to get started with house flipping and wholesaling!


What Is A Hoarder?

According to Mayo Clinic, a hoarder is someone who struggles with letting go of items, regardless of their actual worth. It's not just about collecting things. Deep down, it's an anxiety disorder that every item has significant value or meaning, making it hard to part with anything.

Their homes often become a maze of stuff, with only tiny pathways to move around. Places meant for specific tasks, like cooking in the kitchen or sitting in the living room, are buried under piles. Sometimes, the indoors isn't enough, and the clutter expands to garages, yards, or cars.

It's not just a quirky habit; it's a recognized mental health challenge. Some hoarders might also deal with conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While TV shows highlight the clutter, it's important to remember that hoarding affects a good chunk of the population – up to 6%. It's not just about cleaning up; it often requires understanding and professional help.


What Is A Hoarder House?

A hoarder house is more than just a cluttered home; it's a space overwhelmed by excessive belongings, often stretching from corner to corner, creating a labyrinth of items.

These homes can be hazardous, with mobility severely restricted and the potential for risks like fire hazards, mold, and other health concerns growing higher as the clutter accumulates.

In some extreme cases, the sheer volume of items makes it hard to see even the fundamental structures of the house, like floors and walls.

what is a hoarder house

Statistics from the American Psychiatric Association suggest that hoarding affects 2 to 6 percent of the population. And while it's tempting to ask, "How can someone live like this?", understanding a hoarder house requires delving into the underlying cause. These homes don't just happen due to negligence or laziness. They are the result of a person's deep-seated need to hold onto items, regardless of their actual value.

While weather or structural failures don't lead to a hoarder house, the impact of human behavior does. These homes don't simply evolve into such a state by themselves; there's always a person behind it. Without timely intervention from loved ones or professionals, the situation tends to deteriorate further.


What Does Hoarder Mean In Real Estate?

For those in the real estate industry, understanding hoarder houses is not just about property valuation but recognizing the human element behind it. At the core, real estate is a people-centric business, and that means understanding the individuals involved, especially in cases of hoarder houses. 

At Real Estate Skills, we believe 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.

For agents and house flippers, understanding what a hoarder house will entail is essential for a successful investment.

Now, let’s go over the common problems associated with hoarder homes.


Unlivable Conditions

Hoarder houses are notorious for their hazardous environments, posing significant risks to the occupants. A prime concern in such homes is the increased risk of fires. Given the accumulation of flammable materials, even a minor spark can lead to a catastrophic blaze. Firefighters frequently emphasize the need to keep combustible materials at bay, but in hoarder homes, it's not uncommon to find even highly flammable items like gasoline stored carelessly.

Navigating through this overwhelming clutter during emergencies is a severe challenge. The massive amounts of items often block entrances and exits, or at the very least, make them difficult to access. As a result, occupants can find themselves trapped, or at risk of injuries from tripping over the debris while trying to flee.

Beyond fire threats, hoarder homes often suffer from pest infestations. rodents, flies, and cockroaches are invariably drawn to such environments, especially if the clutter comprises rotting food and waste. Not only do these pests damage the property, but they can also lead to various health concerns for those living in or around the home.


Health Hazards In Hoarder Homes

Hoarder homes aren't just visually overwhelming; they present genuine health and safety risks for their inhabitants. These conditions are exacerbated by the challenges of maintaining cleanliness in such an environment. Key health concerns include:

  1. Degraded Air Quality: The accumulation of dust, pet residue, and various airborne particles compromises indoor air. Continuous exposure can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues.

  2. Proliferation of Mold and Mildew: Moist areas like bathrooms and kitchens, when cluttered, become breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Such growths can induce allergies and other respiratory challenges.

  3. Hygienic Concerns: The presence of decaying food, waste from pets, and in extreme situations, even human feces, makes for a perilous environment. Such conditions are conducive to pests and harmful bacterial growth, including strains like E. coli and Staphylococcus.

  4. Dangers from Neglected Maintenance: A lack of routine maintenance can lead to problems like blocked toilets, lice in bedding, rat-infested electrical systems, and rampant rodent issues. In some severe cases, deceased pets or even residents might remain undiscovered, intensifying sanitation problems.

  5. Mental Health Impact: While the physical risks are apparent, the psychological toll of living in such a space is significant, often exacerbating the underlying mental health issues of the hoarder and negatively impacting other occupants.

Given the broad spectrum of health concerns associated with hoarder houses, anyone considering acquiring or intervening in such properties must exercise extreme caution and be informed of these potential risks.

It underscores the importance of a thorough evaluation and understanding before engaging with hoarder homes, whether as a homebuyer, real estate investor, or a concerned party.

As we can see, hoarder houses are usually in fairly rough conditions, and the process of finding cleaning, and selling these types of homes can be an exceptional challenge without the right guidance. At Real Estate Skills, we believe that with the right education and training, beginners in real estate can achieve the financial situation of their dreams and ultimately better their lives for years to come.

If you want to jumpstart your career, join us at our FREE training session for house flipping and wholesaling!

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Now, if you want to capitalize on hoarder houses for investment properties, let’s go over how to find, clean, and sell them for profit!


Flipping Hoarder Houses: How To Find, Buy, Clean, & Sell

Witnessing the state of a hoarder home might be disheartening, but it also represents a unique opportunity for real estate enthusiasts.

The transformation potential of these homes is substantial, often leading to impressive before-and-after comparisons.

However, the journey from identifying such properties to turning them into profitable real estate investments involves meticulous planning and execution:

  1. Finding hoarder houses

  2. Purchasing the property

  3. Cleaning & renovating the house

  4. Selling & flipping the hoarder house for profit

Read Also: How To Flip Houses With No Money: 10 Proven Methods


How Do I Find Hoarder Houses For Sale Near Me?

hoarder houses near me

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:

  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS): Browse properties listed on the MLS. Keep an eye out for keywords such as:

    • “Blind offers only”

    • “Sold as-is”

    • “Shown with an accepted offer“

    • “Limited showings”

    • “TLC”

    • “Contractor’s special”

    • “Handyman special”

    • “Needs work”

  • Craigslist: Properties may be listed by individual owners on this site

  • For Sale By Owner (FSBO): Websites such as FSBO.com provide a database for homes to be purchased by real estate investors.

  • Real Estate Wholesalers: Investors who wholesale properties source distressed houses and are ready to sell or assign the contract to you. Often, they will have hoarder houses for sale.

  • Driving for Dollars: Look around your neighborhood for signs of a hoarder house situation. Signs include items blocking windows, unkept lawns and overgrown shrubbery, mailboxes that are overflowing with mail, excess trash around the property, furniture, and hoarded items around the exterior of the home. Go directly to the seller or ask a real estate agent to contact the property owner.

  • Estate Sales: When someone passes away, there is a likelihood that the house they left behind is in disrepair. In many cases, the late owner may have been a hoarder.

Read Also: How To Find Real Estate Deals: The Top 10 Proven Methods


How To Buy A Hoarder House: 5 Best Practices To Consider

Buying a hoarder house presents challenges that most traditional buyers are not familiar with. Hence, many hoarder houses are sold to house flippers and investors.

buy hoarder homes

Here are some best practices for buying a hoarder house:

  1. Always get a property inspection

  2. Ask to deliver the home completely vacant (you never know until you ask)

  3. Investigate your financing options early: hoarder houses may present challenges to obtaining a conventional mortgage due to their condition. Cash might be the only option.

  4. Increase your repair budget for the unknown

  5. Be flexible. You may get a better deal by accommodating the seller’s situation

For a step-by-step guide on buying properties to flip, be sure to read our article on How To Flip A House For The First Time.

Now that you have purchased the property, the next step is cleaning the hoarder house before selling it again.

Read Also:  What Is The 70% Rule In House Flipping?


How To Clean A Hoarder House In 6 Steps

cleaning hoarder houses

Discovering a hoarder's house is like uncovering a unique ecosystem of its own. Every item has a story, and the sheer volume of clutter can be overwhelming.

The task of cleaning such a house is monumental and requires a systematic approach. Whether you’re an investor aiming for a profit or a family member trying to help, here’s your roadmap to a cleaner, more habitable space:


1. Preparing The Grounds

  • Remove All Occupants: Before embarking on the cleaning journey, ensure the hoarder, their family, and friends are safely moved out.

  • Safety Assessment: Thoroughly inspect the property for potential hazards. Watch out for flammable items, sharp objects, biohazardous materials, pests, mold, and other threats. In severe cases, consider hiring a professional remediation company.


2. Equipping Yourself

  • Protection is Crucial: When diving into the layers of a hoarder's collection, always wear protective clothing. This includes gloves, N95 masks, protective footwear, and even a hard hat.

  • Gather Cleaning Supplies: Prepare with heavy-duty cleaning tools and materials such as trash bags, bins, shovels, brooms, mops, disinfectants, and more.


3. The Big Clear Out

  • Junk Removal: Hiring a professional hoarder house cleaning service can be a game-changer, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

  • Consult Waste Management: Consider arranging for a dumpster for the major clear-out. Keep a designated area for items worth saving.


4. Deep Cleaning Begins

  • Top-To-Bottom Approach: Start from the ceilings, tackling spider webs and dusty fans, working your way down. Use disinfectants and sanitizers generously. Pay special attention to bathrooms, ensuring toilets, showers, and other fixtures are spotless.

  • Floors: After years under piles of hoarded items, floors need thorough cleaning. Consider steaming carpets or replacing damaged flooring. For tiles and floorboards, multiple rounds of mopping might be needed.


5. Repair & Maintenance

  • Identify Damages: Look for structural issues, moldy surfaces, damaged fixtures, and other areas that need fixing.

  • Renovation Plan: If your goal is to flip the house for profit, this is the time to design a comprehensive rehab plan.


6. Final Touches

  • Deodorize: Years of neglect can leave lingering smells. Use deodorizers to freshen up the space.

  • Document Your Journey: Before and after photos can be a powerful testament to the transformation. They showcase not just a house restored, but also your dedication and effort.


Where Do I Find Hoarder House Cleaners?

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 Thumbtack, Porch, and HomeAdvisor. These websites survey your problem and then match you with the 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 upfront before they start cleaning. Take photos and share them with your potential cleaning company and contractors.


What’s The Average Cost To Clean A Hoarder House?

Cleaning a hoarder house is no small task, and it comes with its set of unique challenges and expenses. The severity of the hoarding situation, the size of the property, and the type of items accumulated can all affect the overall cost.

Below are the main cost components with detailed breakdowns:

  • Dumpster Rental: When dealing with excessive clutter, one of the first steps involves securing a place to dispose of it. Renting a large roll-away dumpster typically costs between $350-$500 for a day.

  • Labor for Junk Removal: Not all items in a hoarder's house are meant to be thrown away. Sorting through belongings can be time-consuming, and you might need help. Hiring additional labor usually costs around $25 per hour for each worker.

  • Cleaning Supplies: Depending on the amount and type of cleaning required, expect to invest anywhere from $60 to $400 in cleaning supplies alone.

  • Professional Cleaning Services: While some may opt for a DIY approach, hiring a professional crew ensures a thorough job. The cost for these services can hover around $100-$150 per person for an 8-hour intensive cleaning session. Do note that specialized cleaning tasks might come with additional fees.

  • Maintenance & Repairs: Beyond mere cleaning, some areas or items in the house might be damaged or deteriorated. For instance, replacing flooring can cost between $3 to $6 per square foot. For those considering a complete renovation, budgeting $25 to $45 per square foot is a general rule of thumb.

  • Pricing Considerations: Hoarder house cleaning can vary widely in terms of cost. On average, such cleanups can exceed $1,000 daily. Service providers often charge between $0.75 and $2.50 per square foot affected by hoarding. Additionally, there's an hourly rate of $25-$60 for every worker. Remember, unexpected findings, like biohazards or toxins, can lead to a rise in costs.

Approach these numbers with an open mind, as the final figures can differ based on your specific situation and the conditions of the house. It's always a good idea to get a detailed quote before starting the cleanup.


How To Sell A Hoarder House

Selling a hoarder house comes with its unique set of challenges. However, with the right strategy and understanding, you can navigate this intricate process efficiently.

After cleaning, triple-check the property for necessary repairs. It's vital to weigh the repair costs against the potential return on investment. Some houses severely affected by hoarding might need extensive repairs which could be costly.

Here's a checklist to help you sell a hoarder house:

  1. Evaluate Selling As-Is: Selling a house that's been subject to hoarding is undoubtedly a daunting task. The issues faced in such homes surpass those of regular fixer-uppers. One fast and straightforward solution is to sell the house as-is to a cash buyer, usually a real estate investor. These buyers offer the advantage of a quick transaction, often closing deals within 24 to 48 hours, without expecting you to make any improvements.

  2. Price Competitively: Given the stigmas attached to hoarder houses, pricing the property rightly becomes essential. Setting a reasonable price can attract more buyers. However, remember that such properties often fetch lower market prices.

  3. Donate Usable Items: All hoarder houses aren't the same. Some might contain items in good condition that can be donated. This not only helps in clearing the property but also benefits the community. Some charitable organizations might even pick up donations, and significant donations can lead to tax deductions.

  4. Sell Valuable Contents: Before getting rid of everything, consider sorting items of value. These can be sold online or through estate sales, helping you recover some costs. For efficient sorting, you might consider hiring professional junk removal services, which can help determine what's worth selling.

In essence, while selling a hoarder house is no easy feat, with a structured approach and the right resources, you can make the process smoother and more profitable.

Read Also: How To Find Cash Buyers For Real Estate & Build Your List


Who Buys Hoarder Houses?

Oftentimes, dealing with a hoarder house can be overwhelming, and for various reasons, the homeowners or inheritors may decide that cleaning or rehabilitating isn't feasible. Selling such properties "as-is" becomes the viable option, though it's important to note that doing so can considerably narrow down potential buyers. So, who exactly is interested in buying these houses?

  • Real Estate Investors & Contractors: The bulk of interest in hoarder houses typically comes from real estate investors and contractors. These professionals see past the immediate clutter and disarray, focusing instead on the potential the property holds. Their objective is usually to purchase these homes at a reduced price, invest in substantial renovations, and later sell for a profit.
  • Cash Buying Companies: You might have come across names like "We Buy Ugly Houses" or similar businesses in this niche. Such companies are particularly attracted to distressed properties, including hoarder homes. The key advantage they offer is a fast and hassle-free transaction. They make cash offers, bypassing the lengthy traditional selling process, and often close deals swiftly. Their business model is based on buying low, renovating, and flipping the house for a significant markup.


Important Considerations For Selling A Hoarder House

Hoarder house buyers and property inspectors may not have complete visibility, even during an inspection walkthrough, due to the hoarding situation.

Consider the following questions when flipping a hoarder house:

  • What is not visible during the walkthrough?

  • What could possibly be revealed when the clutter is removed from the house?

  • Which systems of the house are unable to be observed?

  • Are there any signs of leaks coming from the ceilings or near plumbing fixtures?

  • Has any part of the structure been compromised as a result of hoarding?

  • If there is mold present, is it surface mold or is it down to the studs?

  • Are there services for hoarder house cleaning near me?

  • Do I have enough contingency in my rehab budget for unseen problems?

  • Do I need to disclose the hoarding house conditions when selling the property?

  • What does it cost to clean a hoarder’s house?

  • Can I salvage anything in the house or is it a full-gut rehab?


Hoarder House TV Shows

There are several hoarder house TV 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 peek into real-life hoarder houses.  

If you’re interested, here’s a quick list of hoarder house shows:

  • Hoarders (A&E)
  • Clean House (The Style Network)
  • Hoarding: Buried Alive (TLC)
  • Hammer to the Manor (HGTV)


Hoarders (A&E)

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. We'll leave it up to you to decide--view one of their episodes below:


Clean House (The Style Network)

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.


Hoarding: Buried Alive (TLC)

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.


Hammer to the Manor (HGTV)

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 from the perspective of property renovators.

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Final Thoughts On Hoarder House

Navigating the intricacies of hoarder houses might seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach, it's entirely manageable.

Whether you decide to sell as-is or put in the effort to renovate and rehabilitate, understanding the unique challenges of such properties will serve you well. The real estate market offers opportunities for those willing to tackle difficult properties, and a hoarder house is no exception.

If you're inspired to learn more about the potential of transforming distressed properties or diving deep into the world of real estate investments, don't miss out on our FREE training course on flipping houses and wholesaling real estate and equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to maximize profitability and success in this dynamic industry.

Embrace the journey and let's turn challenges into rewarding experiences together!

*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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