Do You “Death Clean” Your Properties?

No, it’s not a new way to purge a property of ghosts or “negative energy.” It is a real thing, however, and now officially a part of the English language lexicon. Death cleaning, defined by as “the process of cleaning and decluttering one’s home so as to spare others, especially family members, from the chore of it after one’s death,” is a common issue encountered by real estate investors, who may actually end up with deals on properties as grieving loved ones opt to sell a house rather than sort through the property of the deceased inhabitant[1]. The process of death-cleaning, if conducted after the fact, takes some heirs years.

“Stressful is an understatement [on the process],” said Winter Haven, Florida, resident Mary Joye, who had to clean out her parents’ house and “three warehouses of stuff” after her mother’s death in 2011. Children of pack rats or hoarders may have an even harder time during the process as their grief is compounded with the frustration of dealing with years of trash and detritus as well as valued mementos[2].

Death cleaning should not be confused with death scene clean up, which is the process of removing biohazardous materials from a property after a violent death occurs. Death scene clean up is not just for murders but also suicides, and investors must be sure they have covered all legal obligations in the event that they find themselves in possession of a property where cleanup has not been effectively handled.

Investors can leverage the new popularity of death cleaning and the often-associated “Kon Mari method,” both of which emphasize removing clutter and retaining only possessions that bring the owner joy or other positive emotions, during the staging process and when seeking potential real estate deals. While most investors are familiar with the concept of probate leads, you might also consider seeking “Kon Mari leads” by advertising to individuals who are trying to Kon Mari their homes or “death cleaning” leads who may be looking for ways to handle an overwhelming burden associated with a property in the recent wake of a loved one’s demise.

Have you ever done a death cleaning? What would you change about the process next time? Do you death clean your own residence?

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