What comes to mind when you hear the term “hoarder house”?
If you’re like most people, chances are it’s the Emmy-nominated and Critics Choice award-winning television series Hoarders.
The show explores the world of extreme hoarding and provides an in-depth look at people’s lives affected by compulsive hoarding.
But let’s take a step back.
What exactly is a hoarder house?
Why do people hoard?
And what on Earth do you do with a house if hoarding has occurred inside?
Can you get it under control?
Can you sell it?
In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about hoarder homes, especially if you’re trying to put one on the market.
Let’s get started.
1. What is a hoarder house?
A hoarder house is a dwelling that has been overfilled by the homeowner or tenant with excessive personal belongings.
Often, this means that the house and/or property has fallen into disarray because there is an overabundance of unorganized personal items.
Many of these personal items are of no tangible worth and will litter the rooms leaving little to no footpath.
2. What is a hoarder?
A hoarder is a person who acquires an excessive quantity of possessions and collects them in their living space.
Hoarding is an ongoing struggle, and hoarders struggle to dispose of their items.
They feel the need to hold onto them for a variety of reasons.
Here are examples of what a hoarder may fill their home with:
Books, magazines, catalogs, old newspapers
Arts and crafts
Antiques, collectibles, and ornaments
Trash, garbage, and used diapers
Unopened and rotten food
Hoarder houses do not get the way they are on their own.
The root cause of a hoarder house is a hoarder, and the root cause of hoarding is mental illness.
We’ll explore the mental illness behind hoarding in the next section.
3. What kind of mental illness does a hoarder have?
A hoarder has a mental illness called compulsive hoarding or hoarding disorder.
Compulsive hoarding is a disabling psychological disorder that prompts a behavioral pattern characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home.
This can cause significant distress or impairment.
Individuals with hoarding disorder may also show symptoms of anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
4. Why do some people hoard?
As noted above, the root cause of hoarding is mental illness.
However, it’s unclear what in particular triggers hoarding.
That said, several risk factors have been identified.
Family history: Many hoarders also have a family member who is a hoarder
Trauma: Certain life events can trigger hoarding behavior (death in the family or a house fire where all belongings were destroyed)
Temperament: A common attribute of hoarders is indecisiveness and inability to act
Mental illness: While a disorder in itself, hoarding is also associated with OCD, depression, and ADHD
Those who hoard also tend to hold onto possessions because they believe that all items they own will be useful or valuable someday.
Other items hold sentimental value and thus the hoarder has a hard time parting with them.
5. What does being a hoarder mean in real estate?
In the context of real estate, being a hoarder means being a person who owns or occupies a house or property that has been filled with items to the extent of causing extreme clutter.
Often, a hoarder house has created a problematic living condition by the time a real estate professional gets involved.
A real estate professional may interact with a hoarder home in a variety of capacities.
In one instance, they may be an investor who decides that it is a worthwhile investment to try to clean and fix up the property.
In another, they may be a real estate agent who encounters a hoarding situation when trying to list or sell a house on someone else’s behalf.
Both of these situations have unique challenges.
In the next several sections, we’ll review just some of the challenging situations you may face while dealing with hoarding in real estate settings.
6. How can you address hoarding and find professional help?
Hoarding is a serious mental health condition that impacts a person socially, emotionally, financially, and physically.
Here are some signs that a person is experiencing compulsive hoarding behavior:
They avoid throwing away possessions that have no value to themselves or anyone else
They experience mild to severe anxiety about getting rid of anything
They repeatedly add to the hoard without recognizing there is a problem
The rooms in the house can no longer be used for their intended purpose due to clutter
There’s an abundance of possessions that negatively impact one’s safety, health, or hygiene
After you’ve identified the problem, reach out for help.
You’ll want to connect your loved one with a mental health professional who can begin to treat them for the mental illness they are experiencing.
Once you’ve begun that process, you can move on to helping them declutter and clean.
Note: It is not wise to simply throw everything away when your loved one is not present — you must work through it with them!
Evaluate your loved one’s personal progress with their mental health professional, and then consider hiring a professional organizer or another individual who can help you with the process of cleaning out the house.
Not sure whether you need help or not?
The Institute for Challenging Disorganization actually has a Clutter-Hoarding Scale that can help you gauge whether you need assistance.
The general rule is that if the hoarder house has been categorized as a level three or higher on the scale, then you should work with an organizational professional and a mental health professional to improve the living conditions.
7. What are some steps you can take to clean and organize a hoarder house?
As the owners of the stuff, the “hoarders” are always in charge of the process.
Because of this, it’s important to meet them where they’re at and collaborate as much as possible.
If your loved one has a hard time even talking about organization, here are some tips that can help.
Ease into the conversation about decluttering and cleaning
Make a plan to manage the hoarder house
- Determine the criteria for getting rid of items
- Make a schedule
- Set goals
Start decluttering and organizing room-by-room
Develop a strategy for waste removal
Have patience – decluttering is a journey!
8. Should you try to sell a hoarder house?
Hoarder houses come with a lot of baggage.
When you take on a project like this, you’re not going to be able to hire painters and stagers and call it a day.
More likely than not, you’re going to need a trusted clean-up crew and contractor to take care of interior demolition and repair before it’s up on the market.
Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do it.
If you’re familiar with hoarding situations or you’re up for the challenge, then go for it!
Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Here are some common scenarios you may run into when selling a hoarder house.
Rotten walls and floorboards
Biological waste (both animal and human!)
Major problems everywhere
Extreme cleaning crew and heavy-duty cleaning equipment needed
HAZMAT protective clothing for dangerous chemicals or infectious disease
Heavy odors that completely permeate surfaces (this may necessitate walls, ceilings, floors, counters, etc. being removed and replaced)
9. What does it cost to clean up a hoarder house?
The cost of cleaning up a hoarder house depends on where you live and the extent of the damage to the home.
The higher the cost of living in the area, the more it will cost to fix the hoarder house.
That said, a good baseline is the national average.
According to FIXr.com, the national cleanup average for mild hoarding conditions is between $3,000 to $5,000 for a 2,000 square foot home.
This can come out to roughly $1,000 per day for larger projects.
It’s important to note that human waste, hazardous materials, and other extreme cleanups can increase the cost significantly.
For the square footage, the cost can be upwards of $25,000.
Here are some cost breakdowns for a more specific understanding:
Animal feces removal: $25/bag
Crime scene cleanup: $600/hour
Unattended death from natural causes: Varies
Sewage backup: $10,000
10. Are there real estate agents who specialize in selling hoarder homes?
Generally no because real estate agents are not typically equipped to handle this.
In some cases, you can sell a hoarder house as-is but you will likely only get offers from real estate investors, which is a different buying experience than a family who wants to fix up the house and live in it.
11. Should you buy a hoarder house?
Truthfully, a hoarder house isn’t for everyone.
They’re similar to foreclosures in that hoarder house buyers tend to be small real estate investors or builders.
If this is you, then it could be a good fit.
Just remember that hoarder houses are typically packed floor-to-ceiling and often come as-is.
It can be difficult to see underlying problems, and you’re purchasing yourself a problem that you’re going to have to see through to the end before there’s a chance at making a profit.
12. Can you secure a mortgage for a hoarder house?
Believe it or not, even after it’s cleaned and fixed, it can be difficult to secure a mortgage.
An institutional lender (such as a bank) may be hesitant to give out financing if they find it difficult to calculate the future fair market value or the property value after everything is fixed up.
13. How can you know if a house was once a hoarder house?
While a house listing is unlikely to characterize itself as a “hoarder house,” you may be able to figure this out using a few key terms.
Some words to look out for include “contractor special,” needs TLC,” “as-is,” “as-shown,” or “seller has never lived in the property.”
There may also be a reference regarding showings.
There may be limited showings, or the property may only be shown after an offer is submitted (beware!).
14. What should you specify when purchasing a hoarder house?
Sometimes hoarder houses will be listed with “all personal effects included as shown.”
However, that means that the buyer is responsible for cleaning debris after the purchase is final.
If you don’t want this tremendous chore, then you’ll want to make sure your “Purchase and Sale” contract explicitly specifies that the property is delivered vacant.
15. What should you consider when flipping a hoarder house?
Real estate investors and house-flippers are the most likely to purchase a hoarder house.
They will try to clean and fix the house for resale.
Before you take on this project to flip, make sure you consider the following:
What is not visible in the house during the walkthrough?
What could possibly be revealed when the clutter is removed from the house?
Will there be structural damage?
What 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 hoarder house conditions when selling the property?
What does it cost to clean a hoarder house?
Can I salvage anything in this house, or will it be a full-gut rehab?
16. How can I find hoarder houses for sale near me?
If you’re looking to purchase a hoarder house, you may try one of the following websites:
Craigslist: Individual owners can list their properties on this site
For Sale By Owner (FSBO): This is another site that allows homeowners to list their properties
Multiple Listing Service: You’ll likely find hoarder homes with keywords like 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 then sell or assign the contract to you