Between Brexit and Covid the UK property market is in something of a spin. A higher number of elderly people are recently passed away. We need to keep our minds alert if we are serious buyers. Cleaning a hoarded house after purchasing it from a deceased estate may not turn out to be a walk in the park.
What You May Not Know About Cleaning a Hoarded House
There’s an old legal principle called ‘caveat emptor’ or beware the buyer. Nowadays, a seller is supposed to ensure the goods are fit for purpose. However, when it comes to fixed property this is generally only applies to structural elements and services. If the garden is untidy that’s the purchaser’s problem.
For the rest, it’s a matter for negotiation between the parties. If the sales agreement says the house will exchange hands in broom-clean condition that does not necessarily mean the cupboards will be up to your standards. If it says the sale includes the contents you may need to ask Avery Associates to clear the junk the seller left behind.
The Things Even the Best Estate Agents May Overlook
Compulsive hoarding of valueless junk was classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) until quite recently. Nowadays healthcare workers treat it as a separate condition. However, many home purchasers still do not know what an OCD house clearance may involve.
It’s a Project Not a One-Off Event
Many of these home purchasers are private buyers, or fix-it-uppers who mistakenly regard hoarders’ houses as a quick way to grow their capital. To be perfectly honest we know from experience this end of the property market is most definitely not for everyone.
In fact as Apartment Therapy remarks, clearing a hoarded house is more akin to continuing with a project someone else began. Some hoarder’s houses are virtually abandoned to time and nature, and require more than handy-person skills to recover.
It’s therefore extremely important to walk a prospective purchase thoroughly down in bright daylight, and make sure you know exactly what is offered for sale. Caveat emptor means there is seldom an undo button if you have remorse later.
An OCD House Clearance is Unlikely to Be an Antiques Road Show
Quite often we get calls from clients whose ‘dear old’ aunt or uncle died they had not seen for a long time. ‘Won’t you give it a once over for us and tidy it up? We heard from their carer they obsessively collected things. Please let us know if you find anything interesting.’
Interesting more often than not turns out to be piles of mouldering junk, and the sounds of rats scurrying in the ceiling. On other occasions we find places that just need cleaning and a touch of paint.
However, cleaning a hoarded house is usually quite a shock to the uninitiated who may find their once-revered relative died surrounded by quite unspeakable filth. There are times when such tasks are best in the hands of seasoned experts.
Securing a Mortgage Could Be a Tough Call Too
A speculator or a fixer-upper can seldom afford a purchase with obtaining finance. Mortgage inspections usually take place in a property ‘as found’, although an astute evaluator should be able to look past the clutter that built up as the deceased became infirm.
However, piles of junk like we show in the photo of a house we cleared for a client are another matter. We can’t expect the mortgage inspector to clear rubbish away in order to inspect for dry rot or worse under this.
Compulsive hoarding as evidenced in the photo we took of a blocked exit is very different from light clutter. It is a disabling syndrome that can lead to the victim’s home becoming uninhabitable unless checked. An OCD house clearance is not something to undertake lightly.
Compulsive Hoarding in Practice – A Clinical Point of View
A compulsive hoarder’s home can however also turn out a good purchase depending on the stage it has reached. That’s because the condition develops gradually often over several decades.
If a sales representative lightly comments ‘by the way I should tell you the last resident was a bit of a hoarder’ it is therefore extremely important to know the compulsive stage they had reached.
1… Hoarding Level One is a difficulty getting rid of things, as opposed to piling up junk. However, the house is still neat and tidy, and the occupant is well-fed, healthy and clean. They are also still well-engaged with their community. All is still well judging by the outwards signs. Their home can be a good buy …
2… Clutter starts accumulating in unused rooms, the garage, and the garden shed with Hoarding Level Two. The hoarder starts withdrawing from society, and seeks comfort from their growing collection instead. This the tipping point when anxiety and depression increase. These homes need careful inspection …
3… Hoarding Level Three becomes obvious to friends, family and neighbours. There are piles of clutter everywhere and some rooms are completely blocked. The hoarder’s health deteriorates as they live off fast food and put on excessive weight. Cleaning a hoarded house like this requires the help of an expert.
4 … Purchasing a home at Hoarding Level Four becomes a bit of a gamble, especially if access to services is blocked. Deep depression may cause the affected person to lose interest in maintenance. Floors and ceilings may sag while the occupants indulge in future fantasies. Purchasers should budget for complete renovation.
5 … Hoarding Level Five is the stage where the occupant and their home may have reached the point of no return. The future has little purpose in situations like this. The affected person desperately needs professional assistance. We would not touch a home like this. Are you brave enough, do you dare?
Catch 22 – To Clean a Hoarded House Before or After Purchase
An OCD house clearance may not come cheap, however ending up with a major rebuild on your hands could cost you far more. It can be wiser to purchase a hoarder’s house in ‘mint condition’ rather than end up with a patchwork-quilt of half-fixes.
You might otherwise fail to detect defects and have to choose between expensive litigation, or long delays before occupation owing to having to do major repairs. Avery Associates offers a bespoke house cleaning service, and we do also have a panel of RICS Chartered Surveyors.
It’s your decision at the end of the day whether you take a calculated gamble and purchase a home in shabby condition after decades of hoarding. We have had clients who profited that way. We have also had clients who did not, and ended up with an abandoned romantic ruin because they failed to inspect properly.