Hoarding Is a Selling Agent's Nemesis

October 14, 2014

You walk into a listing appointment for a home you're going to sell, and piles of clutter are everywhere. From the basement to the garage, the home is filled with stacks of newspapers, collectibles, broken furniture, clothes, and more.

The American Psychiatric Association recently classified "hoarding" as a mental disorder, and it's estimated that 2 percent to 5 percent of the population has the disorder.

Hoarding can often be "brought to a crisis point when a home owner has to move on," according to a recent article in The Record, a Hackensack, N.J., publication. "It is a major obstacle in a real estate market where 'get rid of clutter' is usually the first advice real estate agents offer sellers."

Linda Stamaker, a real estate professional with Prominent Properties Sotheby's International Realty, told The Record that she recalls working with a buyer client who purchased a home from a hoarder. On closing day, she and her client arrived for the walk-through, and the seller was still struggling to empty out the house.

"The buyer was flabbergasted, and we realized there was no way we could close," Stamker says. They postponed closing for a few weeks, but even after returning weeks later, a group of people were still emptying the house. 

"In the end, we did close that day, but we had to keep money in escrow to be sure she would remove the trash bin from the property," Stamker says.

Some real estate agencies are teaming up with professional organizers and geriatric social workers to deal with hoarding behavior. For example, Abbott & Caserta REALTORS® works with experts to help sellers who are overwhelmed by hauling out their stuff, whether they are hoarders or seniors who have collected too many belongings in the home after decades of living there.

"Moving is very stressful for almost anyone, and when you add hoarding challenges, the client is usually over-the-top overwhelmed and downright paralyzed," says Pamela MacLeod of Organized from A to Z. MacLeod says that people form attachments to their items, and everything usually has to be sorted, not just tossed in a box or thrown away.

Sometimes, getting an owner with hoarding tendencies to clean out a home is impossible. In those cases, the home often has to be sold "as is," which could greatly restrict the buyer pool.

"Quite often, [the buyer] will be an investor who understands what needs to be done and is capable of getting that house cleaned out and then making the necessary renovation for a flip," says Ron Aiosa, a Coldwell Banker real estate professional. "Of course, that always comes with a discounted price, and it should. This buyer is taking on the workload, and the truth is, many deficiencies show up after all the garbage is removed."

Source: “Selling the Homes of Hoarders No Easy Task,” The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) (Oct. 11, 2014)