How to handle a hoarder house
There are a few conditions that could lead you to own a hoarder house. Commonly, hoarder homes are inherited; a parent or relative of yours may have been a hoarder, and left you the home as part of their estate. It’s also possible that you sought after purchasing a hoarder home because you were able to get a great deal on it.
So what do you do now that you have it?
Initial Sale vs. Cleanup and Resale
Your biggest choice is going to be whether to sell the home as-is, or whether to initiate a cleanup and resell the home when you’re finished. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If you sell the home as-is, you’re almost certainly going to take a financial loss, but you’ll be able to recoup your costs and spare yourself a massive cleanup effort. Trying to clean and prepare the home is stressful and time consuming, but could be the better option if you want to maximize your financial return.
As you start to review the home, try to compartmentalize. Chances are, your first trip through the home (if you can make it through the home) is going to be overwhelming. There might be bad smells throughout the home, there may be limited pathways you can travel, and there may be identifiable and non-identifiable objects strewn about in every room.
Instead of seeing the home as a singular mass, break things down into manageable steps. For starters, you can focus on one room at a time. Plan to spend a day or two on the living room, then move to the dining room, and so on. You can also break down the tasks that lie ahead of you. For example, you might take initial steps to simply make the home easier to walk around in; from there, you might focus on eliminating trash, then reorganizing the items that remain, and then cleaning.
Be Prepared to Throw Things Away
If a relative previously owned this home, or if you have a personal fondness for some of the items you encounter, you might be tempted to salvage as much as possible as you go through the house. For example, you might review each item you pull from the shelves, and you might do your best to keep a piece of deteriorating furniture intact.
In most cases, it’s better to err on the side of throwing things away. Most items in a hoarder house have deteriorated in some way, and few, if any, remaining objects have significant value. It’s simply not worth the time and effort to manually inspect each item or try to store the items you want to keep. Glance over everything in case you find a diamond in the rough, but don’t hesitate to get rid of the vast majority of things in the house.
Hire the Right Professionals
It’s almost impossible to clean up a hoarder home by yourself. Recognize your personal expertise and limitations, and be prepared to hire the right professionals to help you. For example, you may need to contact animal control if the previous homeowner hoarded animals. You may want to hire professional movers if you’re relocating most of the items in the home. You may need to hire a hoarding specialist in extreme cases.
Should You Work With a Real Estate Agent?
If you decide to sell the home at any point, you may hear recommendations to work with a real estate agent. Real estate agents do charge fees, but are often helpful; they’re usually able to get you a higher sale price and can sell your home quicker than listing it on the market yourself. They can also provide you with tips and connections to help you get the house in proper condition for sale.
However, a real estate agent isn’t always the best choice. You may prefer to work with a professional home buying company, which will buy your house outright, oftentimes immediately. This option is faster and less of a headache, so it’s a preference for many homeowners.
Don’t Be Ashamed to Throw in the Towel
After a few days, or even a few weeks of work, you may feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work still remaining, or disappointed in the results you’ve seen thus far. If you get to this point, don’t force yourself to keep going. Instead, take some time to reflect on your current investment and decide whether you truly want to keep going. Cleaning and preparing a hoarder home is going to be stressful, but it shouldn’t be life-altering. If you find yourself no longer willing to move forward, don’t be ashamed to sell the home as-is.
Dealing with a hoarder home isn’t fun, but there are several ways to approach the situation. Depending on your goals, you can optimize for your own convenience (by selling the home as-is), or optimize for a net financial return (by preparing the home yourself). There isn’t a single right answer, so do some research and prep work to figure out which option is best for you.