Hoarder homes present a challenge both to an appraiser such as myself and those who are dealing with the person suffering from the disorder. Here are a few tips if you are confronted with a hoarding situation.
First, remember that a true hoarder typically has a distorted concept of value. In other words, a diamond ring and a Kmart plastic bracelet hold the same importance and will be treated as such. So, trying to "help" them by removing what appears to be clutter and rubbish can be quite traumatic for the hoarder.
Second, when it comes time to clear a hoarder home, remember that money and valuables can (and usually will) be stashed in a wide variety of places. This means every garment pocket, every shoe, and every purse needs to be searched, as well as books flipped through for dollar bills. Likewise, a detailed search of all drawers will likely be needed as well. Hoarders can be very creative when looking to hide things.
Third, when considering whether to intervene with a relative or friend, start early. Guardianships and POA's can be a lengthy process and will typically require the involvement of both legal and medical professionals. From my own professional experience, there is often a dementia component to the hoarding as well, which can thus place the hoarder at risk of injury within their home (degraded environmental conditions, etc.)
Lastly, be compassionate. Serious hoarding is a distinct recognized mental disorder and as frustrating as the situation can be, the hoarders are still just people with mental challenges, not kooks as they are often made out to be on TV. Again, involve the proper medical and legal authorities as needed to make things go as smoothly as possible.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association and currently serves on the board of the local FSGA chapter. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Aging Network, a non-profit that provides grants to other non-profits benefiting seniors in need and is also a board member of PEL, an area non-profit whose resale store profits support programs and scholarships for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. He is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent