People Ask Me: Should I Buy a Hoarder’s House


This was the west side of Brick House 319 one year ago. We have come a long, long way since this photo was taken. Since I started this blog, many people have emailed me wondering if buying a hoarder’s house, with the intention of renovating it, is something that they should consider.

Cutting to the chase, I would not recommend buying a hoarder’s house unless you have a combination of wherewithal, have extensive knowledge on how to do the work involved and be capable of doing most of it (it’s all about sweat equity for us). And also be physically capable, be a workaholic, have the patience of a saint, and if you’re married, it better be a strong marriage–otherwise it will be extremely taxing on a relationship. It will cost you more if it ends in a divorce.

Some quick facts about John and I and how we could buy a hoarder’s house and make it work:

#1-Strong marriage; we’ve been together for 30 years. We’re best friends and have each other’s back. I was 17 when I met him, he was 24.

#2-John has the skill set to attack the myriad of jobs involved in what seemed like at times, an insurmountable job. In the past he worked for two builders; he knows enough to pull this job off. He’s a jack of all trades; he’s also a workaholic. This job is all-consuming and is every day–365 days and counting.

#3-You absolutely have to know how to budget money and know the cost of each step of the renovation. If we had to pay people for all of the work that John has done in the past year, it would have been a FORTUNE. We could buy this house knowing John would be doing ALL of the work with the exception of hiring the following sub contractors: Framer and a licensed plumber, electrician and HVAC–and the mason too. Let’s not forget other expenses such as the draftsman for the architectural plans.

#4- You will need tools and a lot of them. John has a huge arsenal of tools. He’s been doing this kind of work for years and years. Tools are expensive.

#5-And then you will have to find the RIGHT hoarder house–one that doesn’t have structural damage. We were lucky in the fact that Brick House 319 is built of block and brick. Because of this, it withstood the crippling 30-yeard hoard. How many homes could have handled the sheer weight that was in this house–not many. Of course, each hoard is different but I would think structural damage is an issue in most hoarding situations.

#6-Something to consider if things don’t go smoothly is having to hire an attorney. We all know how expensive attorneys are so be prepared for when a potential issue arises with the hoarder/seller or one of their family members.

#7 Have a place to live WHILE renovating and be able to pay on both–rent and owning a home/double whammy. So one of you better have a job with security and good medical benefits for when you MIGHT get hurt on the job. It’s dangerous work. (I’ll tell you more about John’s injuries on past job sites in a future post–if you’re interested.)

#8 Be able to contain yourself from ripping your hair out when looking at your bank account balance.

Should I go on? Of course, if you have deep pockets, you could bulldoze the house and start fresh by building new while still living in your present house–this takes lots of money. And for those people that can do that, would you even want to get involved in buying a hoarder’s house–you would probably move on to another piece of property, because you can. However, there’s always an exception when finding a hoarder’s golden address in NYC or San Francisco.

Oh, and one more thing, be prepared for lots of naysayers and have the ability to disregard their comments like water rolling off a duck’s back.

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Digging through the west side of the house.

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The west side entrance to the property filled with over 1000 plastic bins stored and hidden on a 1/2 acre of land (actually it’s just under a 1/2 acre).


The west side of the house now with the invisible chains gone.


Brick House 319 is now prepped and ready for the licensed contractors to come in and start their work–once the building permit is approved (any day now).


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