If you are a real estate broker or agent, you may come across a situation in which the owner of the residence intended to be put on the market for sale is the home or a hoarder. Encountering the residence of a hoarder that is to be sold can be utterly overwhelming for a real estate professional. A daunting question is how to deal with a real estate seller who hoards? In basic terms, a real estate professional cannot deal with a hoarder by his or her self. In addition, the process of addressing the residence of a hoarder is complex and multifaceted.

Know Your Facts

First and foremost, when it comes to a strategy to deal with a real estate seller who hoards, you need to know some basic facts and have an understanding of hoarding. At the heart of educating yourself on the life and home of a hoarder, you need to understand above all else that hoarding is a bona fide mental health disorder. It has been classified as such in recent years by psychological professionals.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the healthcare organizations that has taken a leading role in researching and treating hoarding disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, hoarding disorder is defined as a pervasive, persistent difficult to discard or part with possessions, items, or objects because of some perceived need to save them. This possessions, items, or objects can have no value whatsoever and may even consist of trash.

An individual laboring under hoarding disorder will have a significant and even overpowering difficulty in getting rid of these items.  Eventually, excessive accumulation occurs and can render a house unlivable and even dangerous.

Hoarding ranges in severity from mild to severe. A real estate professional facing a situation of severe hoarding faces one of the most challenging situations he or she will encounter during the course of a career.

It’s Not a Function of Staging

The tasks that need to be undertaken to get the residence of a hoarder to salable condition requires much, much more than staging. Think of staging as the treatment of a person with a little head cold. Imagine dealing with hoarding on a property to sold as transplanting most, if not all, internal organs.

Dealing with hoarding in advance of putting a house on the market for sale requires a multi-front approach to achieve success. As is discussed in a moment in greater detail, addressing a hoarding situation in a residence requires the support and assistance of multiple professionals, family, and friends of the hoarding homeowner, and even that of the person with hoarding disorder his or her self.

Before the hoarding cleanup process can commence, the hoarder needs to be generally convinced that parting with objects, cleaning and restoring the home, and putting the residence on the market for sale are all advisable.

The next phase of hoarding cleanup is the sorting and disposition of the accumulated “stuff” in the residence. As with any home organizing endeavor, you need to consider sorting items into four categories:

  • Items to keep
  • Items to sell
  • Items to donate
  • Items to throw away

This will be the most challenging part of the hoarding cleanup process as far as the hoarder is concerned. You cannot impose upon a hoarder the need to eliminate objects. Rather, you have to bring the hoarder to the proverbial table and acquiesce to the idea of getting rid of items. The manner in which this phase of hoarding cleanup must be conducted underscores the need for assistance from different professionals and others, again which is discussed in greater detail in a moment.

In addition to eliminating accumulated items in the residence, a sharp focus must be paid to the sanitization of a hoarder’s residence. Another reality of a hoarder’s residence is that the property can present a health hazard. As a result of such issues as non-functioning toilets, rotting food, and a myriad of similar matters, dangerous pathogens or biohazards can be present in a hoarder’s home. These can include viruses and bacteria that can cause serious health and even fatal health issues.

In the case of severe hoarding, there will be structural damage to the premises. The HVAC system is not apt to be working. As mentioned, the toilets very well may nonfunctional. In addition, other aspects of the plumbing may not be working either. Consequently, professionals will be brought into the project to address issues associated with the physical aspects of the residence itself.

Finally, the ultimate objective of the biohazard remediation or hoarding cleanup process is to restore a residence to a fully livable and salable condition. It is at the conclusion of the final restoration process that the residence occupied by a hoarder is physically ready for the traditional steps that are taking towards getting a house on the market for sale – including staging.

Don’t Go It Alone

As alluded to previously, when dealing with a real estate seller who hoards, you need to understand that you cannot go it alone. Dealing with a hoarder necessitates a multifaceted approach involving different professionals, family members, friends, and others. These professionals include everyone from a psychological expert to a hoarding cleanup professional and an array of other in between.

An experienced hoarding cleanup specialist can be an ideal starting point for a real estate professional needing assistance with a prospective home seller with hoarding disorder. A skilled, experienced hoarding cleanup specialist understands what needs to be done to remediate the situation at a hoarder’s home. In addition, such a professional can assist in directing a real estate professional to other invaluable professionals and resources.


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.