If you’ve been a fix and flip investor for any length of time, you’ve no doubt seen every manner and condition of property. A typical foreclosure often has some “junk” left behind, as well as damage, from holes punched in walls to graffiti or even more serious issues like electrical wires that have been cut or plumbing that’s been tampered with.
Most of these issues can be spotted during your showing and during follow-up walk-throughs with your contractor.
But have you ever considered flipping a hoarder house? With these properties, the rooms are typically filled floor to ceiling with stuff — books, clothing, furniture, boxes upon boxes, even trash. There may even be animal feces and rodents.
The problem is, when you can’t see the floors and walls you can’t spot most of the telltale signs you’d normally look for when analyzing a property. So what to do when flipping a hoarder’s house?
When evaluating your next real estate investment, consider these tips for succeeding with a hoarder house fix and flip:
Assume the worst for the renovation
Often, you need to clear the place out before you can get a contractor in for estimates. In this case, expect the worst.
Many fix and flip investors will go so far as to assume a complete teardown. It may not come to that, but it is worth preparing for. Do, however, assume mold and water damage and expect to rip out sheetrock and tear up floors. Plan to take the house down to the studs and potentially the need for electrical repairs and upgrades, too.
Don’t forget to factor in the exterminator! Hopefully there aren’t termites, but there is likely to be all kinds of pests and rodents drawn in by the trash.
If you’re working directly with the seller, you might be able to put the house under contract and make the sale contingent on clearing out enough junk (don’t word it that way in the contract) to get a contractor inside for estimates.
Know that the seller may resist this, however, especially if they still live there. Hoarder houses pose a uniquely sensitive challenge because you are working with someone that may have a mental health condition (see more on that below).
Outsource junk removal
There are companies that do this professionally, and they’ll probably be more cost-effective than your contractor. They will certainly take care of it much faster than you could.
Get several estimates and find out how much it will cost per dumpster — the largest size. You might be surprised how fast the tonnage adds up. Some rehabbers will also have metal scrappers come through to take what they can and help reduce the weight.
People are often tempted to wade through the mountains of trash looking for that treasure they can cash in on ebay. Resist this urge. The likelihood of finding gold is exceptionally slim, and you want to keep your eye on the bigger picture: the flip.
Remember that the profit on your rehab will far exceed anything you find in the house, and let it go. Take an hour or two walking through if you’d like — particularly if the items are in good shape or the person kept items new in boxes — but then focus on the real task.
Factor in delays
Whether you’re working directly with a seller or are working with a Realtor, understand that hoarder houses are a special circumstance. Hoarding is a documented mental health condition in which the seller has an unhealthy attachment to all that stuff; it is very, very difficult for them to let go and they will often create all kinds of delays to the sale.
Anticipate issues and create incentives to close on time but understand that you’ll probably encounter at least one delay and possibly a cancellation.
Understand what hoarding is
Above all, understand what hoarding is and be empathetic to it but don’t try to counsel the people involved. Hoarding disorder is a real condition and requires professional help, so leave that to the experts.
An understanding of the condition, however, will help you maneuver the negotiations and be better prepared throughout the process.
Because of its condition, a hoarder house fix and flip has the potential for significant profit with less competition from other investors. Many fix and flip investors can’t make it past the front door, and others simply don’t want to deal with it or take the risk.
But if you are extra conservative and have the patience and personality to deal with the uniqueness of the situation, a hoarder house can be a good option for a rehab — and make a huge impact on the neighborhood as well.
Get financing for your fix and flip
When you’re ready to purchase and renovate your next property, Asset Based Lending is here to help with 24-hours approvals and 5-10 day closings.