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10 Tips for Handling a Hoarder’s Home



By John Egan

If you find yourself handling the buying or selling of a hoarder’s home, you might feel like you’ve landed in an episode of the reality TV show “Hoarders: Family Secrets.” Chances are, you’ll encounter many of the same issues that pop up on the program. To cope with those issues, here are 10 tips from the experts.


1. Recognize that hoarding is a disorder.

Hoarding isn’t a way of life. It’s a mental condition that affects anywhere from 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population; in a recent survey commissioned by SpareFoot, seven percent of American adults identified themselves as hoarders.

Everything in a hoarder’s home carries emotional attachments, whether it’s a stack of old newspapers or a collection of hats, experts say.

“Something that looks like trash to the average eye may be a very important item—emotionally or financially—to the hoarder,” says Matt Paxton, one of the cleanup professionals on “Hoarders.”

2. Be compassionate.

Speak to hoarders as equals, Paxton says, and work with them closely to come up with a fair deal for both sides.

“Hoarders are good people who have experienced bad things. Do not treat someone with a hoarding disorder as a lesser person,” he says.

If you’re a real estate agent whose client is a hoarder, be honest while also being respectful and nonjudgmental, Paxton says. Here’s what you shouldn’t say to a hoarder who’s selling a home: “Do you see how messy this house is? I can’t list it.”

Here’s what you should say to a hoarder who’s selling a home: “My expert opinion tells me that we’ll need to clean up this space in order to maximize the sale price.”

3. Create a sense of optimism.

If you’re representing a hoarder who’s selling a home, assure the client that the home can be sold, says Paxton, the hoarding and extreme-cleaning expert for ServiceMaster Restore.

“If you don’t believe it, they won’t,” he says. “Treat them just like any other client.”

4. Team up with “extreme cleaning” professionals.

When dealing with a hoarder’s home, it’s best to clear out everything before it’s put on the market, says Dave Baxter, owner and CEO of Baxter Restoration, which provides restoration and remediation services in Orlando, Fla. Experts suggest tapping professionals who are well versed in “extreme cleaning.”

“You can’t know what you are really dealing with until you get all the crap out and have a look at the structure of the building to see what kind of damage has been done,” says Baxter.

Working with a team of professionals who are familiar with hoarders’ homes, rather than a typical cleaning crew, ensures there’s a high level of “compassion and understanding,” says Paxton.

“People with a true hoarding disorder cannot be pushed, threatened or cajoled into making decisions, so ideally, a professional organizer or therapist would be good to add to the team,” says Regina Lark, a Los Angeles-based professional organizer with expertise in hoarding disorder and chronic disorganization.

5. Consider storage.

Lark suggests renting a mobile storage unit or a nearby self-storage unit to temporarily store stuff if a hoarder is grappling with weeding out belongings.

6. Be realistic.

If you must list a hoarder’s home while all of the seller’s belongings are still inside, feature only a floor plan in the listing and include photos of what does look nice or can easily be fixed to look nicer, says Brad Chandler, co-founder and CEO of a real estate investment company in Springfield, Va.

“Encourage buyers to visualize what can be done with the ‘bones’ of the property and how it could look once it is renovated,” says Chandler.

Depending on the market and the property’s value, consider paying an architect or remodeler to draw up a plan showing renovation ideas and costs, he says. Such a plan can cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

7. Brace for extensive damage.

Hoarding often evolves over the course of many years, resulting in mold, animal infestation and other structural problems. Therefore, both visible and hidden damage may be lurking inside a hoarder’s home.

“Buyers and sellers need to fully understand that they may not be able to determine the full extent of structural damage to a house or residence until after the items are removed. This is where professional companies experienced in construction and repair work, as well as cleaning and decluttering, can be particularly helpful,” Paxton says.

If a house is being sold “as is,” you might not fully understand why the price tag was so low till after the house is empty, Paxton warns.

8. Recruit home flippers.

An investor might be willing to buy a hoarder’s home “as is,” with the owner’s possessions still inside, Chandler says. An agent can host an open house for potential investors without the hoarder needing to be there. “This shields the seller from embarrassment and eliminates the need for parading buyers through, as is necessary when listing the traditional way,” he says.

9. Establish ownership.

Make sure the person living in the home actually owns the home. A hoarder’s house actually might be tied up in a trust, or a hoarder might be living there for free. “Understand the legal landscape of ownership before getting too far into a contractual relationship,” says Paxton.

10. Be time-sensitive.

When arranging appointments with a hoarder client, set specific times and call ahead a few times before those appointments. “Understand that timing is not a hoarder’s strength,” says Paxton.

As for establishing goals for cleanup, set several reachable deadlines instead of one massive deadline, Paxton advises. In other words, don’t tell the hoarder: “This house must be clean by end of week.” Rather, approach it like this: “By Friday, I need you to clean up this hallway. Then by Monday, I need to be able to see this 2-foot-by-2-foot area.”

John Egan is editor in chief at SpareFoot, which operates a marketplace that helps people find and book self-storage.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for real estate tips and tricks for you and your clients.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Listing)

happy_buyerBy Gina Thelemann

Congrats! You’ve spent days, weeks or maybe even months trying and now it’s confirmed — you’re expecting (a listing). There are hundreds of books, blogs and coaches who have given their best advice about what to do when you land a listing lead, but you’re a busy expectant REALTOR®, so we’ve gathered the best advice below. Here’s a foolproof guide for how to acknowledge, prep and nurture your listing lead all the way to the closing table.

Euphoria, then anxiety

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Take a minute to celebrate your good fortune. Dance around, fist pump and send all your most positive vibes out into the universe.

Almost immediately, though, you’ll get a nagging feeling in your stomach. What do you do now? Can you handle this? Should you have prepared more for this moment?

Acknowledge and schedule a first appointment

It’s important not to lose your confidence. Your lead is counting on you, so be sure to follow up within five minutes. Depending on how far along you are, schedule an in-person home value analysis or even a listing appointment.

Nurture, your way

When you talk to other agents and brokers, they’ll have a lot of advice on how to follow up. Some swear by an 8×8 automated email plan, while others call once a day until they’re explicitly asked to stop. Others pretend to “swing by” their front door with a massive care package.

Here’s what none of the experts are telling you: This prospect is your, um, baby and it’s your responsibility to nurture it in the ways that feels best to you. Don’t be afraid to nix the “tried and true” methods that feel unnatural to you.

Surprise! It’s twins!

You didn’t even know it was a possibility, but in your listing appointment, your client asked you to represent them on the buyer side, too! This will be more work for you, but the rewards (ahem, commission) will be so worth it.

Start nesting

It’s important to prepare the home for the big change that is approaching. Make sure the homeowner cleans the home from top to bottom, and de-clutters to remove anything that will turn off potential sellers.

Have a plan for going public

It’s time to share the good news! Some people prefer to announce to everyone at once via social media, while others may leak to important contacts in advance. One thing is certain: in today’s low inventory market, there will be a lot of questions and interest, so be prepared for a big reaction.

Indulge in your cravings

It’s not pickles you want — it’s more listings. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. Be sure to take care of yourself, though, because it can be easy to run yourself ragged as you try to be everything to everyone.

One last warning: Avoid alcohol and soft cheese (but eat all the cookies you want)

We probably don’t have to say this, but it’s important to avoid alcohol when you are hosting open houses or showings. Soft cheeses are also not a great call, as they can get messy and expensive.

A tried-and-true trick is to bake some cookies before any potential buyers come to the home. The smell of freshly baked goods will put everyone at ease, and you deserve a treat (or ten) if buyers are slow to show up.

Have a closing plan

Once a buyer is confirmed, be sure to make all the steps necessary to get to the closing table with ease. Use a closing table checklist to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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You Don’t Need to Be Psychic to Read a Homebuyer’s Mind

YoungHomeBy Courtney Soinski

When communicating with a new potential homebuyer, do you ever wish you could just read their mind? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be psychic to figure out what a person is thinking.

Thanks to a recent survey conducted by Chase, we can now gain some insight from the mind of the home shopper. According to an article published by Housing Wire, “The Chase survey sampled 1,098 Americans with a qualifying age of 25 – 65, with a 500-respondent oversample among those who intend to buy a home within the next 18 months.” You’ll be able to explore what’s going on in a potential homebuyer’s mind when contemplating the major decision of buying a home.

I discovered a couple interesting statistics from the survey results, which you may find surprising. For example, 42% of respondents admitted that they are not at all concerned about completely understanding the mortgage process. However, when asking them questions about annual percentage rates, down payments and lenders, only 1 in 4 interested homebuyers answered correctly.

Additionally, these homebuyers are willing to jump right into the market. It was reported that 70% of prospective buyers are worried they’ll miss their chance to buy due to rising prices. This is all the more reason for homebuyers to take advantage of your professional real estate expertise, so they can make an informed decision.

While potential homebuyers do not know everything about the housing market, they are very willing to make that home purchase because of rising rental costs and low interest rates. It’s also important to note that 20% say the desire to make an upgrade from their current home was their top reason to buy.

Here is a detailed look at the survey’s findings:


Source: Housing Wire, Chase

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