What I'm Seeing Now

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HOARDING

There were many issues with a circumstance I encountered in a recent inspection.  One those many issues was a condition called HOARDING.

The Mayo Clinic says this about hoarding: 

" Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets often in unsanitary conditions.

Hoarding, also called compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But many people who hoard don't have other OCD-related symptoms.

People who hoard often don't see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people who hoard understand their compulsions and live safer, more enjoyable lives."

Although I have never seen the TV show on the topic to know previously exactly what this condition is, but my experience in home inspecting now includes it.  I arrived at this property to hear an agent from the County say that the property was "1000% better" than her previous visit.  She said that at least you could walk around the house.

There was so much stuff, in order to create those "passageways," it had to be put somewhere.  There were so many people living in the house that I had to go through "rooms," to get to other "rooms."  Rooms were defined by piles of stuff. 

There was no table in the house. There is no room for one!

There were lots of beds. 

Only one location that was a bed could be identified as a bed.

This is it.

The bed is on the right. 

In order to create passageways through the house, "cleaning it up" because of County orders, the stuff has to be put somewhere.

This is a space created in the upstairs room to be a bedroom.

I was able to walk, but not easily.  This space is approximately 1/3 of the room.  The other two thirds is hidden behind sheets tacked to the ceiling and looks like this:

You can see that no effort was made to create a passageway.

I took the picture by spreading the sheets dividing the room.

It was done this way so the County could peek into the room from the staircase to see that things had been "cleaned up," but not see beyond the sheets.

On the left a sofa is laying on its back and the pillows in front.

On the right stuff is piled onto another sofa.

On the window is what was a very nice drape, put there before these occupants moved into the house some 24 years ago.  It has not been removed since.  I am told the house was in pristine, remodeled and upgraded condition when these occupants moved in.

You and I might consider this to be trash or junk.  

AS I ENTERED THE HOUSE, THE OCCUPANTS ASKED ME TO BE CAREFUL NOT TO DAMAGE THEIR "STUFF" AS I MADE MY WAY AROUND THE HOUSE TO DO MY INSPECTION.  I PROMISED I WOULD.

The basement contained an "apartment" previously unknown to the County, with a family, including four children, four dogs and where two pigeons live.  Yes, it is illegal to have pigeons inside a house in this County.  No matter.

About 1/3 of the basement has been divided off by carpeting and sheets tacked to the ceiling.  In order to create room for this "apartment," the "STUFF" had to be put somewhere. 

These photos show a part of it.

The water on the floor of the left photo is there because the sump pump was unplugged.  I tested it and it does not work anyway.  Everything in this area is soaked with water.  The moldy odor is overwhelming.

The "STUFF" needed to be put somewhere to make room to walk through the "apartment."

This is a part of it, an area in size approximately 8x10'.

The bedroom portion of this "apartment" can be seen in the previous post.  It is approximately 6x8'.

I did not take pictures of the occupied bedrooms.  They were just as hideous, but the "beds" were occupied, along with a lot of "STUFF" and a million, perhaps two million, roaches.  These pictures would have been even more shocking.

The living conditions were hideous and unhealthful, to say the least!  Shocking may not be a strong enough word.

When I arrived, early in the morning, one person apologized that the breakfast dishes had not yet been done.  I was happy to see dish soap in the kitchen, but for all those adults living in the house, there were few breakfast dishes.

There were, however, many bags laying around from a nearby fast-food restaurant, still smelling of the breakfast they had contained.

I made my way around the place, besieged by cigarette smoke, blaring, large, flat-screen TVs, five window air conditioning units (one sitting on the top of a shelf and draining into a bucket), a brand-new, front loading washer and dryer operating (I could not tell how in the world they were hooked up!), roaches, mold, and unceasingly loud, screaming, arguing people.

This is not a peaceful, happy place.  I was very sad as I left.  My true feeling was sadness. 

There were two County officials present - one speaking with the matriarch of the house (I say that because what this lady says goes) and the other following me around to protect me.

Neither official would go into the basement.  The one asked me how I knew the basement was there and where to go to find it.  I said, "Experience."  I actually had to move things to get to the door.  They had been in the house many times not realizing there was a basement, and thinking that door was a pantry.  The basement is where the children living in the house were hidden, slipping them out when necessary through a broken, rear door.

Certainly there are many issues here, and HOARDING is only one of them.  But, as I learned, it is a very serious problem.  And this is one condition that likely will not go away as these people are relocated elsewhere.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 44 commentsJay Markanich • September 29 2011 05:50AM

Comments

Good morning Jay-that really is something sad to read about. Very clearly a disease.

Posted by Marco Giancola, Realtor (305)608-1922, Miami Beach Florida (Beachfront Realty) about 7 years ago

Wow! Jay that is a terrible situation, hopefully you won't have to one of those types of inspections for a long time!

Posted by Michael S. Bolton, MN Appraiser (Michael S. Bolton,Inc.) about 7 years ago

Jay, oh my.... I know someone who can no longer live in her house as a result of this. Yet she continues to bring stuff over there. Very sad. But this, with children living in those conditions, oh my. I am going to check outo your links, but hope that my stomach is up to it.

Now I want to throw everything out in my house... LOL.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) about 7 years ago

Unbelievable

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) about 7 years ago

Marco - I guess it becomes a disease. It was very sad.

Michael - this was my first in 30 years.  I have had messy houses, but nothing like this.

Andrea - it is healthy to move every few years and get rid of stuff!

Ken - truly.  And really, you didn't see the worst of it.  People laying in bed covered with roaches, odors you wouldn't believe, unbelievable treatment of each other, cigarettes everywhere - it was awful.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Who had listed and was buying this house in this condition?  Can't imagine calling an inspector without a buyer....and it doesn't look like you could find the walls/floor.....etc. to inspect it ...yicks !

 

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 7 years ago

My understanding is that the house will be demolished today Sally.  That was the goal of the inspection, to declare the place unsafe and thereby condemned.  I saw very little of the floors.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

That is a horrible injustice to children to force them into living inside someone's nightmare. . poor children don't have a choice.. the responsible person need to be identified,  committed and give the rest of the family members a chance to live a normal life.. 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) about 7 years ago

Ah, Fernando - the key word is RESPONSIBLE!  These folks are very good at what they do!  It isn't virtuous or responsible, but they are very good at it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay - I read your other post yesterday, and it's amazing what conditions people with possibly no other option will endure.

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) about 7 years ago

Yeah, that house needs to be torched.  I'll refrain from sharing my opinion of what needs to be done with the occupants.

The children growing up in that environment don't have a chance.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 7 years ago

This house went on and on Carol.  It was frightening and an awful experience!

They don't Reuben, thinking this to be normal and "life."  My opinion is somewhat stated but not entirely.  One of the men present, on disability, though I couldn't figure out what that might have been, was really terrifying.  I wondered what, or who, he eats at meals.

The house is supposed to be demolished today.  I might drive by!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay: If the county has been out numerous times in 24 years, why in the world wasn't something done before this. Those children needed help!

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) about 7 years ago

I've seen this on TV a couple of times.  A sad thing to be sure

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) about 7 years ago

I don't know Anne.  Things are blurry and I did not ask all those questions.  I was focused on the house.  Personally I think the "system" perpetuates stuff like this, and enables it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Looks like those folks have a bad case of "Packrattious" which an only be cured by a healthy dose of "CleanTheCrapUP" which is available in prescription form from your local pharmacy...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) about 7 years ago

I think the crap is being cleaned up today Michael, as they demo the house.  No pharmaceuticals involved at all!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Unfortunately there are others out there in similar condition. I wonder what kind of long term health problems those kids will have? I bet none of those free loading slobs goes to the 86 year old ladies funeral.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) about 7 years ago

The money they get to bury her might go somewhere else Jeff?  Whatever do you mean?    ;>)

Keep in mind, she has been 86 years old for the last 24 years!  See my previous post, linked in this one.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, is that one of those new seagull proof "covered landfills" that are all the rage?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 7 years ago

About six months ago I was in a house almost like this one (not quite this bad). It wasn't until later that I realized that my feet had been attacked by fleas. I had hundreds of bites all over both feet. Not a very pleasant experience.

Posted by Troy Pappas, Virginia Beach Home Inspector (Safe House Property Inspections) about 7 years ago

Jay, that pile of debris could be a great source for hidden treasures as there has been a lot of saving going on for a lot of years

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) about 7 years ago

This one is truly sea gull resistant Charlie. Croakster says hi to Blurt.

Troy - I had fleas too.  They and the roaches were everywhere.  And the black widows in the basement!

Ed - who know what is in there!  But I'm not going through it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Hi Jay, this is unreal...  I read the other blog post about the inspection and I agree with you - the system is screwing up those it was intended to help, by turning them into lazy whiners.  It is destroying the children as well, because they have to be able to remain eligible for the check.  Everyone feels so sorry for the "poor", but many months, they have more cash than I.  They always have a newer, bigger TV.

Posted by Karen Steed, Associate Broker Haralson Realty (Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco, Buchanan, Temple, Carrollton) about 7 years ago

Jay, how's your cough today? These people have a serious illness, and unfortunately the illness of the mind goes a long way to making a serious illness of the body.

Posted by Peg Barcelo, The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC (Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369) about 7 years ago

Jay, thanks for continuing the story on this 'home'. The most frightening part of your tale is that officials didn't realize there was a basement (where the children were hidden). Reminds me of that poor girl who was abducted and kept for years in a shed...even giving birth to two of the pedophiles children. And officials were monitoring him!!! Sounds like some charges should be pressed in this case. Aside from my listing that was condemned and bulldozed, the 2nd worst one I listed was a 4plex DIRECTLY across the street from the POLICE STATION and CITY HALL... the owner had a large number of German Shepherds living in there with him that had not gone outside in close to a decade (insert smell-a-vision here). He also had been hoarding mattresses he would pick up from monthly bulk trash piles around the city.... It took HazMat in suits to clean out the dog feces, mattresses and remove all the drywall and half the studs before the property could be rebuilt and deemed livable. I did get a buyer for it though!!!

That Hoarding show on cable really points out the extent of the illness. Having marketed a great number of homes like that over the years, I can appreciate families that try to intervene. Sadly, it is usually after either the loved ones death or when they get old and have to go to an assisted living facilty, that we as Realtors get the phone call to list the property and the second nightmare begins.

Awaiting the final photo of the demolition!

Posted by Beverly Jo Cole (Southern Cross Real Estate, Inc.) about 7 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Again, this one is so sad...I pray the children and Mother are being taken somewhere safe and protected from further neglect.

 

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) about 7 years ago

Thanks for continuing the story.  This has really blown me away that this went on so long and there were children iiving in this envirornment.  I can only imagine how sad you must have felt leaving.

Posted by Sherri Berry, Murfreesboro TN Homes & Real Estate (Reliant Realty, Murfreesboro) about 7 years ago

Jay -- It is too bad that a home that was in beautiful condition was allowed to get so destroyed as to be a demolition project.  It would have been nice to know that they had some way to get rid of the cockroaches before they did the demolition, so they don't just head out to other homes in the neighborhood.

 

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 7 years ago

What's really sad, Karen, is that these children must think that this is normal behavior.  Imagine what they could become if not for this, and what they might become because of this.

Thank you Peg!  I am feeling much better, although I had a hard time throwing out the kitchen trash can contents today...

I was shocked when I heard they knew nothing of the basement until my inspection Beverly.  The homeowner called me today and the plot thickens.  Things seem to be getting worse and these people are really, really good at this!

Lisa - I know where they are going, and there is already a story.  One of the men in this house was paid $150 by the new landlord where they are going to mow the lawn.  The landlord feels sorry for them and paid much more than the market would demand.  The man who was paid went to the neighbor next door, gave him a story, and got the neighbor to mow the lawn for him.  The man the landlord felt sorry for never mowed the lawn, but kept the $150!

And it begins again...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, did you see the grama? Is she alive? So sad. There's hoarding, and then there's worthless varmin using the system where slobby living became the norm one day and everyone just got used to it. How they don't all have sevree lung infections, asthma, etc. I'll never know, or perhaps they do. The poor kids, children of hoarders and a yelling envirenment, filled with mold and cockroaches. They deserve better. They don't have a chance without sooo much professional help. SO sad.

San Francisco has a hoarding task force, I think there should be more like it nationally.
Thx for sharing, it'll be a while before you shake that one off!


Shelly Whitworth
www.MorSystems.com

Posted by Shelly Whitworth (MorSystems.com) about 7 years ago

I really was Sherri, but have learned so much from this experience I am changed forever.  And still a little sickened - read what I wrote to Lisa above.

Steven - I don't know what they do in that situation, but doubt anything will be done.  And the demo has been postponed!  The plot thickens...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Wow Jay, inspecting a home like this must be dangerous.  Hope you are very careful in places like this

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 7 years ago

You do have to be careful Chris.  The worst ones are the empty ones, full of stuff, with a raccoon family in the attic!  They are territorial and really, really nasty!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay,

That looks to have been a nightmare. I do a lot of insurance inspections here in Detroit, and I have seen the same type of thing. Just a suggestion, learned the hard way, keep a bottle of flea spray in your toolkit, and spray your pants before entering the home for any inspection. The little bit of cost in the front can save you big time over the cost of having an exterminator have to remove fleas from YOUR house. Glad to hear the cough has subsided.

Posted by Kenneth Miller (Jordan Hill Home Services, LLC) about 7 years ago

Thanks Ken.  I didn't know what I was getting into!  I usually keep some OFF! in my bag, but did not have any that day.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, There was a time when I thought home inspection was something I would like to do. No More. There is just no excuse for this beyind insanity of some degree. "OFF"? There must be something stronger. These conditions seem ripe for growing something to be used in germ warfare. Seriously, is this something that could be a community hazzard?

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) about 7 years ago

Jay,

This is horrific. I can't believe you didn't just turn around and leave. Nothing would have gotten me out of my car and into that house. You have one of those jobs that I wouldn't do in a million years, but I'm so thankful that we have home inspectors like you to help protect buyers.

Posted by Virginia Kail, American Way Real Estate, Homes and Land for Sale (Investments, starter houses, luxury homes,farms, acreage) about 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

These pictures are just gross. I sell REO's and sometimes I have nasty houses like this but someone just cleans them up for me. I never thought of these people as being sick but just slobs so maybe I need to reconsider my opinion. Thanks for sharing. How can you even do a home inspection with this mess? I hope you charge more for this type of mess.

Posted by Kristin Hamilton CA Realtor, (909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning (Sun Lakes Realt) about 7 years ago

Shelly - yes, we spoke.  She told me she is 86 and will "not see 87."  The County official said she has been saying that to her for years.  They have a task force out there?  Wow!

All of them were coughing all the time, but all of them had cigarretes in their mouths ALL the time. 

Brad - I use Off! because it is a spray.  On camp outs I use DEET, but that doesn't work so well on clothing.  Sometimes things get gritty on home inspections!

Virginia - thanks but I had a job to do, and a case to build, and I did it.

Kristin - I did charge more than normal.  And I did a thermal examination of various areas, which I tacked on to the bill.  They gladly paid the bill.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

That's a lot of S*&#!  Wow, I can't imagine having all that junk in my house.  Scary and sad for those children.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) about 7 years ago

The "bedrooms" were worse Justin!  The stuff is what divided one space from another!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Yes, sad is the right word. I visited a similar house last fall, and it made me sad because the house was built for my grandparents back around 1915 or so. In fact, my Mother was born there. I had been in it years ago when it was lovingly tended by an elderly couple, so was unprepared for what it looks like now.

I didn't go farther than a few steps inside the kitchen door, but that was far enough. There was a path from the door through to the living room and one over to the stove. The counters and kitchen table were all piled with at least a foot of "stuff." Another day I went to the front door and could see that the living room was just as bad, with just enough space cleared from the chair and couch for the family to sit to watch TV.

The only difference is that these are "nice" people. The husband works at the sawmill, the son goes to school, and the mom works in home health care. But when they go home, they sit.

Posted by Marte Cliff, your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 6 years ago

It is sad, I agree Marte.  We have expectations and when they aren't met we experience disappointment.  You are probably right about those people - nice, but do nothing types.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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