Selling A Hoarder House: What You Need To Know

by Kevin Bazazzadeh – Updated May 29th, 2023

How To Sell A Hoarder House

Selling a house is a significant task, but when you are dealing with a hoarding situation, the challenge amplifies. At Brilliant Day Homes, we’ve worked with many homeowners in this exact situation. A hoarder house is a property that has been excessively cluttered with items to the point where it significantly affects the use of living spaces, safety, and hygiene. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive approach to navigating the complexities of selling a hoarder house.

Understanding the Hoarder House

A hoarder house refers to the home of a person with the incessant habit of stacking items in the house without discarding them once they become unnecessary.

The Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding is not merely a habit but is recognized as a clinical disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorder is characterized by:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
  • Perceived need to save items and distress associated with discarding them.
  • Accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter living areas and compromise their intended use.

Hoarders place intrinsic value on possessions that they do not really need to have in the first place. When such items pile up over time, they pose a threat to homeowners and those in the vicinity. Commonly hoarded items are food, photographs, clothes, newspapers, cardboard boxes, magazines, and even animals in some cases.

Five Levels of Hoarding

Hoarding is a complex disorder that can vary significantly in severity. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) has developed a Clutter-Hoarding Scale that identifies five levels of hoarding. Here’s a brief overview of each level:

IThe least severe level of hoarding.
-There are no noticeable odors or overflowing areas.
-Doors and stairways can be navigated easily.
-There may be some clutter but nothing excessive.
II-Clutter in at least two rooms.
-Exits may start to be blocked and household appliances may be broken for a period of time.
-Some pet waste or light mildew in bathrooms or kitchens.
-Increased signs of neglect of housekeeping.
III-Visible clutter outdoors and indoors.
-At least one bedroom or bathroom is not usable.
-Excessive dust, dirty laundry, and pet dander.
-Visible pests like spiders or ants, and noticeable odors.
IV-Structural damage to the home that has been present for six months or more.
-Mold and mildew, along with pests and pet damage.
-Rotting food and heavy dust, dirty surfaces and dishes.
-Sewage or plumbing problems.
-Beds are unusable, and hazardous materials may be present.
V-Structural damage to the home that has been present for six months or more.
-Mold and mildew, along with pests and pet damage.
-Rotting food and heavy dust, dirty surfaces, and dishes.
-Sewage or plumbing problems.
-Beds are unusable, and hazardous materials may be present.

The Emotional Implications of Hoarding and Prevention

Hoarders characteristically exhibit symptoms of emotional turmoil. They are anxious about discarding items, indecisive about which items to keep or throw away, embarrassed about their possessions, and suspicious that others are trying to touch their property. Obsessive thoughts on how they might need certain items in the future and difficulty in organizing possessions are common.

Since not much is known about the causes of hoarding, there is no surefire way to prevent it. Getting treatment early can however go a long way in preventing hoarding from taking root and complicating selling the property.

selling a hoarder house
Hoarder House

Preparing a Hoarder House for Sale

Cleaning and Decluttering a Hoarder House

The first step in preparing a hoarder house for sale is a thorough cleaning and decluttering process. This task is not only about improving the house’s appearance but also about ensuring safety and functionality. Given the volume of items typically found in a hoarder house, this process can be time-consuming and emotionally challenging, especially if the hoarder is still living in the house.

Develop a Plan

We have purchased numerous hoarder properties over the years. If you are attempting to take on a hoarder house yourself it is important to understand that before diving into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to develop a plan. This plan should include:

  • Identifying the scope of work: Determine which areas need the most attention and the type of items you’ll be dealing with.
  • Setting a timeline: Cleaning a hoarder house can take longer than expected, so it’s essential to set a realistic timeline.
  • Organizing a team: Depending on the extent of the hoarding, you may need a team to help with the cleaning.

Sorting and Discarding Items

Not everything being hoarded is trash. We have seen firsthand that there are sometimes valuable items buried amongst the piles. There might be keepsakes that the owner or the owner’s family would like to keep. There might also be items worth selling in order to defray the costs involved in the selling process (or to help the homeowner get by in the meantime).

The next step is to sort through the items, deciding what to keep, donate, sell, or discard. You can utilize estate sale companies if the owner has passed. If the owner is still living, this process can be emotionally challenging for the hoarder, so it’s important to be patient and empathetic. Here are some tips:

  • Start small: Begin with a small area or category of items to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Use a sorting system: Use boxes or bins labeled ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’, ‘Sell’, and ‘Trash’ to organize items.
  • Be decisive: Try to touch each item only once to make a decision to avoid second-guessing.

Professional Cleaning

This is not a clean-up job for you and your friends. In many cases, this is not even a clean-up job for the local cleaning service. This is a job for extreme cleaning professionals. The cost of clean-up isn’t cheap but you should spend the time to research the cost to clean out a hoarder house and what it entails.

Health and Safety Considerations

When it comes to cleaning a hoarder’s house, what you can see is merely the beginning. Every pile of newspapers or tower of trash is hiding something underneath, something that is probably unhygienic and possibly toxic.

Cleaning a hoarder house can uncover various health and safety hazards. These may include:

  • Mold: These can cause respiratory issues and other health problems.
  • Pests: Rodents, insects, and other pests may have infested the property.
  • Structural issues: The weight of accumulated items may have caused structural damage.
  • Hazardous materials: Some hoarders may have stored hazardous materials like chemicals or sharp objects.

So many things in a hoarder’s property could be unsafe if not handled and disposed of properly. Mold and bacteria need to be cleaned thoroughly. Animal and human waste need to be disposed of in a proper manner. In all these cases the house will smell terrible and it can be a challenge to deodorize the house.

The point is, if there was ever a situation that called for professionals who understand what it means to enter a potentially dangerous environment in order to clean it, this is it. Whatever costs are involved, they’ll be worth it in the end so you can bring the home back up to a livable level.

Damaged house that makes selling a hoarder house as-is a good option

Repairing The House

Just like you don’t know exactly what’s going on underneath the mess until you start cleaning it, you don’t know how extensive any damage is to the house until you really get in there as well. 

Years of neglect are bound to take their toll and it’s very likely that a hoarder hasn’t done their due diligence to maintain the integrity of all the materials that make up a livable home.

Even after the cleaning is over, you’re not out of the woods yet. You might be able to see some damage but you won’t know the full extent until you get inspection professionals in to look for structural damage, electrical issues, and plumbing problems. Even if you can make the home look spotless, you might have a dozen issues that aren’t up to code lurking behind the walls and under the floors. Repairing these issues can help you out in the long run.

can a hoarder house be condemned? Yes with this much damage and clutter.

Preparing for Sale

Once the house is clean and safe, it’s time to prepare it for sale. This might involve:

Renovations and Staging

Just addressing damage to the property may not be enough to sell the property. You may have to make updates to bring the house to current market expectations.

Staging the house can help potential buyers visualize the space. This could be as simple as arranging a few pieces of furniture or as elaborate as hiring a professional staging company.

Professional photography

High-quality photos can make a significant difference in how the property is perceived online.

Preparing a hoarder house for sale is a significant undertaking, but with patience, planning, and professional help, it can be done. The result is a property that’s ready for a new chapter, free of the clutter and chaos that once defined it.

Selling A Hoarder House As-Is

Selling a hoarder house ‘as-is’ is a good option for homeowners strapped for time and cash to transform the house. A big thing to consider if fixing the house up is the surprises you might find. Unlike a normal house where most of the issues can be seen up front, hoarder houses can hide major damage under all of the trash and items. What might look like a simple paint and carpet remodel could turn into a full renovation if major mechanical systems like the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and roof have not been taken care of.

Houston House Renovation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can A Hoarder House Be Condemned?

A hoarder house can be condemned if the condition is bad enough. Public health and/or fire safety problems put the home at risk for condemnation. These problems include blocked access to any doors, electrical hazards, the presence of biohazardous material like dead animals or animal waste, mold, and structural dangers like a bad roof.

hoarder home in houston texas that needs cleaning

Can You Sell a Hoarder House With A Realtor?

You can use a realtor to sell a hoarder house, however, hiring realtors means listing the house on the market. Most homebuyers will have no interest in the house since there are a lot of financial risks to buying a hoarder house. In addition, hoarder houses are not likely to qualify for a conventional loan.

Can you Sell A Hoarder House Without An Agent?

You can sell a hoarder house without using an agent. If you don’t want to list the house then selling it as-is to a real estate investor or contractor will be your best bet. Investors pay with cash, so the house doesn’t need to pass inspections that are required by a bank for a traditional buyer.


Dealing with a hoarder property involves much more than a conventional property sale including engaging in extensive cleaning, and addressing potential repair work. While the process can seem overwhelming, remember that professional help is available, and different selling options exist such option is selling the house ‘as-is,’ which can alleviate much of the burden for homeowners lacking time or resources for extensive clean-up and repair work. Ultimately, the goal is to transform the space from a hoarder house into a property ready for a new chapter, providing a safe and welcoming environment for its future inhabitants.

Want to sell a hoarder house without doing any cleaning or making any repairs? We buy hoarder houses.

sell a hoarder house without an agent

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