Owners of distressed properties have a lot on their plate already to deal with, but unloading a hoarder house not only compounds the problem; it can seem insurmountable. From cleaning out belongings to recouping lower value, the process can seem never ending. But there are solutions which are both efficient and quick.
Preparing to Sell a Hoarder House
When Lisa St John purchased her first rental property in Ogden back in 2003, she was informed by the previous owner that one of the tenants was living on a limited budget; and arranged for her daughter to have primary responsibility for monthly rent.
For four years, the arrangement worked fine. There were no complaints of emergency repairs or maintenance check ups, and Lisa simply assumed (like many first time rental owners) that no news was good news. But after her tenant was moved into an assisted living facility, she began to understand why.
“We couldn’t even open the front door the entire way! Every single inch of the floor, of the furniture, of the ceiling was covered in trash,” she explained. “Old newspapers… cardboard boxes… clothes… rags… It was like walking into recyclable waste site! Thank god there were no gas leaks or… woosh! Everything would’ve gone up in flames!”
According to the American Psychiatric Association, anywhere from 2 to 6 percent of the general population—up to 19 million Americans—are believed to suffer from some form of compulsive hoarding disorder. And while the stigma facing compulsive hoarding disorder has abated as the medical community noted its wider prevalence in recent years, it can present a particular dilemma for property owners. It’s no longer merely a question of a diagnosed medical condition; it’s a question of physical safety.
If you’re a property owner that’s faced with the prospect of trying to prepare a hoarder house, there’s a few considerations you might want to keep in mind:
1 – Understand the Mindset of Hoarding
Hoarding is not necessarily an intentional practice. In fact, quite the opposite. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America defines it as “the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value,” and understanding that it’s a psychological condition every bit as tangible as other forms of obsessive compulsive behavior can do wonders for a hoarder’s sense of self esteem; particularly if they’re made aware their behavior can warrant a physical health hazard.
If your tenant is still residing on the premises, let them understand the reality of the dilemma. Despite your understanding and compassion for their condition, you’re still in the position of a property owner; and their behavior is both a liability to themselves and your own hygienic standards. This does require a fair amount of delicacy in initially broaching the subject, so be aware that reactions can range from firm denial to deep embarrassment and shame. Let them know ahead of time that you don’t hold them intentionally responsible, and let them know that you’ll be more than happy to work with them in helping to eliminate unwarranted clutter.
2 – Hire Professional Clean Up Services
No matter how skilled you are with a mop and bucket, the chances of your ability to adequately deep clean a dwelling occupied by a compulsive hoarder compared to a professional cleaner is probably not that great—especially in cases of severe hoarding. This is especially true in cases of mold, bacteria and considerable waste.
Keep in mind, however that not everything may be junk. Many of the possessions and clutter could be cherished mementos. Some could even be valuable artifacts which can be sold at estate sales to help your tenant offset the costs of moving. Make certain you and your tenant have the chance to review potentially sentimental or personal items ahead of time.
3 – Damages Can Be More Than Just Skin Deep
The effects of excessive hoarding aren’t simply cosmetic. Years of unmitigated clutter can result in structural damage, pipe clogs, window treatment cleaning and electrical issues. This isn’t just a question of common sense; it’s a question of the law.
Being cognizant of building code violations is fundamental when faced with compulsive hoarding. While it may seem like an excessive precaution, it can save you thousands of dollars in legal troubles and permit woes after you’ve completed the sale.
4 – For Most Buyers, First Impressions Rarely Lie
While terms like “a real fixer upper” can be handy descriptors in selling a house, it’s not quite accurate when it comes to a house which was occupied by a hoarder. This is especially true if you’re pressed with time constraints and may not have the adequate resources to hire a home inspector, waste removal services or are facing the very real threat of foreclosure or municipal condemnation.
In these sort of extreme instances, it’s important to keep in mind you have various options available to get out from a hoarded property quickly and efficiently; and more importantly with your wits and security in check.
5 – Consider A Home Buyer
Most home buying specialists are willing to pay cash for your property as is, with no need to pay for expensive clean up, renovations or building inspections. If you’re pressed for both time and money, this is an immediate option that may be better suited for your needs than going through expensive contractors and endless building inspections.
The added bonus of a home buyer is the money can help assist your tenant with offsetting the costs of relocation; ensuring a humane, prudent and above all effective solution to what is an extremely messy problem.
There’s no doubt a hoarder can feel quite embarrassed about their condition; and given the delicacy of such a situation, it’s important to offer them reassurance and guidance. Remember, they’re not just a tenant but a human being who may be entirely unaware just how debilitating their condition is.
There’s resources available for the both of you; and we encourage you to support them in seeking professional support as well as encourage you to review available options. It’s not just their peace of mind that’s at stake; it’s yours, as well.
If you have a tenant who’s a hoarder or have purchased or inherited a hoarder house, we can help you both move on with your lives; quickly and without any hassle or judgement. We’ve been buying distressed and neglected houses in “as is condition” in Utah since 2009; why not let us do the same for you?