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Hoarder House – The Ultimate Guide For Real Estate Investors

hoarder house Nov 05, 2019

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 about 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:

 

What Is A Hoarder House? 

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 Organization

 

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 friend and family, 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!)

 

What Is A Hoarder?

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:

  • Clothes
  • Mail that might be important “one day”
  • Books, magazines, catalogues, and old newspapers
  • Arts and crafts items
  • Antiques, collectibles, and ornaments 
  • Old furniture
  • Animals
  • Trash, garbage and used diapers
  • Containers
  • Free items
  • Unopened food and rotten food

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.

 

What Kind Of Mental Illness Does A Hoarder Have?

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 a continued difficulty in discarding of these items.  

 

What Does Hoarder Mean In Real Estate? 

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.

 

Hoarder House Pictures

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:

Hoarder House in San Diego

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This hoarder house picture shows the interior living room with trash and boxes piled to the ceiling:

Hoarder House

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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:

Hoarder House Cleaning

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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 101

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.

 

How To Clean A Hoarders House (7-Step Cleanup Process)

If you're wondering how to clean a hoarders house, here's our 7 step cleanup process:

    1. The hoarder, family and friends, and other occupants must be removed from the property.
    2. Assess the property for any immediate dangers before you start cleaning. If you encounter any urgent circumstances, you should consider calling a professional remediation company for the issue. Unsafe conditions to look out for include:
      • Flammable materials
      • Hazardous materials
      • Mold
      • Water Leaks
      • Rotten Waste
      • Sharp objects
      • Biohazardous materials
    3. Wear protective clothing, including disposable gloves, dust mask, hard hat, and protective shoes or boots.
    4. Have all junk removed from the home. You may want to hire a professional hoarder house cleaning service if you feel overwhelmed. Many investors will call a junk removal company and a dumpster to “trash out” the hoarder house. Create a staging area to place items aside that you intend on saving. 
    5. Start cleaning with heavy duty cleaning supplies. You may need trash bags, bins, boxes, shovels, brooms, dust pans, mops and buckets, all-purpose disinfectant cleaners, cleaning cloths and towels. It’s best to take a “top to bottom” approach. If you need help, Google search "Hoarder House cleaning near me" to hire a professional to ease the cleanup process.
    6. Examine the interior for any repairs or maintenance items. This may include damaged flooring, countertops, moldy surfaces around plumbing fixtures, and missing smoke detectors. This is the step that you create a scope of work for your rehab if you’re planning on flipping a hoarder house or selling a hoarder house.
    7. Complete any maintenance items and restore the property back to a presentable, live-able condition. 

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:

 

How To Help A Hoarder Clean Their House?

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.

 

What Should I Consider When Flipping A Hoarder House?

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.

 Consider the following 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?

 

How To Find Hoarder Houses For Sale 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:

  • Craigslist: Properties may be listed by individual owners on this site
  • For Sale By Owner (“FSBO”): websites such as FSBO.com
  • 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 accepted offer, limited showings, TLC, contractor’s special, handyman special, and needs work.
  • Wholesalers: people 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, theres a likelihood that the house they left behind is in disrepair. In many cases, the late owner may have been a hoarder.

 

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:

  1. Thumbtack,
  2. Porch, and
  3. HomeAdvisor

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.

 

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

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:

Dumpster

Large roll-away dumpster rentals cost around $350-$500 for the day.

Junk Removal Labor

If you decide to hire labor to help remove junk, you may pay around $25/hour.

Cleaning Supplies

These can cost from $60 to $400 depending on the square footage of the house extent of the cleaning needed at the hoarder house.

Cleaning Crew

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.

Deferred Maintenance

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.

 

Buying A Hoarder House Best Practices:

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:

  • Always get a property inspection
  • Ask to deliver the home completely vacant (you never know until you ask)
  • Investigate your financing options early: hoarder houses may present challenges to obtain a conventional mortgage due to their condition. Cash might be the only option.
  • Increase your repairs budget for the unknown
  • Be flexible. You may get a better deal by accommodating the seller’s situation 

 

Tips For Selling 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.

 

Hoarder House TV Show List

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:

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. Who really knows?

hoarders tv show

Photo Credit

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.

hoarding buried alive

Photo Credit

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 in the perspective of property renovators.  

 

Final Thoughts On Hoarder House

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 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.  

Ryan Zomorodi real estate investor

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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