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A Foreclosed Property with an Overgrown Yard and Boarded Windows.

Your Guide To Cleaning Out Foreclosed Homes


 

A Step-by-Step Walkthrough to Clean Out a Foreclosed Property

A foreclosed home can be a great investment, whether you’re a bank looking to sell a repossessed home or a flipper hoping to make a profit. However, depending on how long the house has been vacant, there can be issues that you need to fix and surprises around every corner. Whatever shape the foreclosed property is in, though, you’ll always need to clean it out before it’s market-ready. Our guide will walk you through everything you need to know to handle a foreclosure cleanout.

 

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Prep for a Foreclosure Cleanout

  1. Gather Tools
  2. Inspect the Property
  3. Plan for Waste Disposal

Steps to Clean Out a Foreclosed Home

  1. Clean Out the House
  2. Remove Old Materials and Fix Damages
  3. Clean the Interior

Steps to Clean Up a Foreclosed Property Exterior

  1. Clear the Land
  2. Fix or Demolish Structures
  3. Clean Up

 


 

Clean Out a Foreclosed Home in 9 Steps

Congratulations. The property is now yours. However, that was the easy part. Now it’s time to get to work and make your foreclosure purchase ready to live in. Whether the property was freshly vacated or sat empty for months, our guide will help you through the cleanout process, from removing junk out of the inside to ensuring the exterior is clean and presentable.

A Pile of Junk Removed From a Foreclosed Home Clean Out.

Prep for a Foreclosure Cleanout

Before you get to work, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to complete the property cleanout and get a scope of the project at hand.

Step 1: Gather Tools

Now’s the time to pull together everything you need to complete the property cleanup. Keep in mind that each cleanout is unique. The chart below gives a list of what you’ll need to get the job done. Keep in mind that some of the tools could be needed both inside and outside of the home.

Foreclosure Cleanout Supplies
Indoor Tools
Outdoor Tools
Safety Gear
  • Shop Vac
  • Drill & Drill Bits
  • Flashlight
  • Extension Cords
  • Dumpster Rental
  • Broom & Large Dustpan
  • Household Cleaners
  • Screwdriver & Screws
  • Hammer & Nails
  • Pry Bar
  • Wrench Set
  • Pad of Paper & Pencil
  • Trash Bags
  • Expandable Ladder
  • Lawn Mower
  • Weed Whacker
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Leaf Blower
  • Tree Pruner
  • Ax
  • Power Washer
  • Face Masks
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Long-Sleeve Shirt
  • Long Pants
  • Work Boots
  • Lifting Belts

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Step 2: Inspect the Property

Consider this a preliminary step to help you better understand the scope of the job. The key to this step isn’t so much to know if the home’s structure is in good shape, but to see how much junk has been left behind and note if there’s anything that may require special attention. Any physical work you do at this point will minimal.

  1. Assess the Structure: Walk around the exterior of the house, noting any structural deficiencies or problem areas such as missing shingles or exposed foundation that could lead to an internal issue. Also note anything in the yard that needs to be removed.
  2. Make Notes: Jot down anything that needs further attention as you walk around the structure. Continue to do this as you head inside the home.
  3. Protect Yourself: Put on gloves, a mask and goggles to protect yourself before entering the home if there are hazardous conditions.
  4. Plan Your Cleanout: Enter the home and make room-by-room notes of anything that is bulky, damaged or hazardous. Also note which rooms you think will take the most time or require outside help. Note: If a room does not appear safe to enter, bypass it for now and re-evaluate it later.
  5. Prevent Potential Damage: If you come across an active leak, shut off gas, water or electric distribution manually to the area. Note: If it is too dangerous to get to an area, be sure to come back to it when it is safe or have a professional handle the job.

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Step 3: Plan for Waste Disposal

Now that you have an idea of the scope of the job, it’s time to decide how to get rid of the bulk of the waste.

Hire a Hazardous Waste Company

Hire a specialist to take care of any hazardous waste, animal issues or pest infestations you found during your inspection. They’ll let you know if it’s safe to start cleaning other areas of the home before they arrive or if you should wait until they complete their job.

Rent a Dumpster

Call a few days in advance to ensure the dumpster will arrive on your scheduled cleanout date. Then, once the container is in the driveway, just walk heavy items through the dumpster door and throw lighter debris over the walls. You might also consider hiring a junk removal company, but keep in mind that some will not work on foreclosed properties.

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A room inside a foreclosed home filled with junk.

How to Clean Out a Foreclosed Home

The good news is that cleaning out the inside of a foreclosed home is not too different from cleaning out a home you’ve owned for years in terms of physical work. The even better news is that there’s no emotional attachment to the items, which tends to make the process go faster.

The bad news? You aren’t familiar with the home, so you may come across some surprises in the crawlspace or attic or find some unwanted guests behind the drywall.

Don’t let that deter you from getting the job done. The steps below will help you know what to expect inside the home to minimize any surprises. Keep in mind, if the task becomes too overwhelming for you or you aren’t sure if you should handle a particular step, you can always hire someone to take care of the project for you.

Step 4: Clean Out the House

There are plenty of ways to handle a home cleanout  — top to bottom, most cluttered room to least, largest space to smallest, etc. However, for a foreclosed home, it’s sometimes easiest to plan by waste type.

Bulky Waste

Bulky waste disposal can take up a large chunk of time and energy, whether it’s a heavy sleeper sofa or a tube TV with curbside restrictions.

That’s why it’s often a great place to start your cleanout. We recommend loading bulky and heavy items into a dumpster first to help with even waste placement. Plus, it will help to remove large obstacles within the home as you work.

General Trash

Now’s the time to get all of the miscellaneous trash out of the home, from boxes of household junk to items hidden in the basement or attic. You can take it out to the dumpster item-by-item, load up garbage bags or even use a trash chute from an upper floor to let gravity do the work. Whatever option works best for you is the route to go.

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Remove Old Materials and Fix Damages

Now that the house is empty, the space is clear to complete minor repairs or get rid of damaged fixtures. What you chose to take care of really depends on your remodeling plan. Projects commonly taken care of in this step include:

  • Replace Damaged Flooring: Whether it was damaged when you bought the foreclosure or something happened during the cleanout, updating the flooring is a smart first step — whether it’s hardwood, tile or vinyl.
  • Remove Carpet: Unless the carpet is clearly new, a good rule of thumb is to remove any carpet in a foreclosed home. You don’t know what may have happened to it while the home was vacant, and without tearing it out you can’t gauge if the flooring beneath needs any work.
  • Tear Down or Patch Walls: If there’s a hole in the wall, fix it. You might also consider tearing down a wall to open up the floor plan. Just be sure it isn’t a load bearing wall first.
  • Replace Light Fixtures: If a fixture has exposed wiring, is clearly damaged or has any other problem that could pose a safety issue, tear it out and replace it.
  • Fix Windows: Any window issues need to be addressed, from broken panes of glass that need to be replaced to keep critters out to cracks in the framework, which could lead to structural damage.
  • Update Wall Coverings: Maybe the wallpaper has stains or you think there’s an issue with wiring behind some wooden panels. Whatever the reason, remove the covering and update with a neutral paint color that will appeal to buyers.

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Step 6: Clean the Interior

Your repair and home improvement work is bound to create a bit of dust. Now it’s time to do a final cleaning.

Clean every room on one floor, then move to the next level until every room has been cleaned. In each room, you’ll need to do a combination of these tasks:

  • Vacuum: Use a shop vac to clean up any dust or debris chunks that remain on the floor.
  • Mop: Mix a bleach and water solution to mop any concrete surfaces that could use a sanitization.
  • Dust Surfaces: Wipe down any fixtures, walls, mantles and countertops that have collected dust.
  • Clean Windows: Scrub windows clean of all grime and smudges.

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A foreclosed home exterior in need of repair.

Steps to Clean Up a Foreclosed Property Exterior

Step 7: Clear the Land

With the inside taken care of, it’s time to head out of the house and make the property presentable. The effort needed for this step will vary widely. Some foreclosed homes are in great shape with well-kept yards. In other cases, there may be missing siding or roof shingles scattered throughout an overgrown yard.

Remove Debris From the Property

Start by getting rid of anything in the lawn that doesn’t belong there. This could be anything from grocery bags trapped in tall grass to an old playhouse that needs to be removed. Make sure to rent a residential dumpster with enough capacity for larger outdoor debris, or contact us to arrange an empty-and-return if needed.

Keep in mind that some of the debris could be useful in repairs. If there’s a panel of fencing or some wood from a deck, evaluate if it can be salvaged before you toss it.

Clear Overgrowth

Now that the yard is clear of obstructions, the next step is to make sure the lawn and landscaping are clear of weeds and overgrowth. This is a simple project that requires just a few steps:

  1. Rent a Yard Waste Dumpster: Get a yard waste dumpster to toss large amounts of overgrowth instead of waiting for curbside collection.
  2. Remove the Shrubs: If there’s any overgrowth that can’t be handled by a lawnmower or weed whacker, you’ll need to get rid of it first. Use an ax, tree pruner and shovel to cut this brush out.
  3. Cut the Rest: With the thicker materials gone, use a weed whacker to trim the lawn and overgrowth down to a manageable size, then use a lawnmower to cut to an even length.

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Step 8: Fix or Demolish Structures

Next, make sure any structures on the property are clean and functional. Common things to repair include:

  • Roof: If any shingles are missing or roof issues have caused leaks, be sure to fix them. It could be simply replacing a few shingles, or it could be replacing an entire roof — gutters included.
  • Siding: Replace siding that is missing from the home. If the siding was salvageable, simply re-attach it to the home. If the pieces are missing, try and match it at a nearby home improvement store or you may need to replace the entire area.
  • Deck: Make sure that any rails are sturdy, staircases are level and all boards are free of warps and strong enough to hold weight. Keep in mind that in some cases, the best solution is to demolish the deck.
  • Fence: Address areas where the fence is leaning or replace missing panels, whether it’s wooden, chain link or vinyl. Be sure to check that gates latch properly and do not drag against the ground when opening and closing.
  • Shed: Ensure that the wood is free from rot and the metal isn’t rusted through, otherwise it might be time to consider tearing it down.
  • Patio and Walkways: Repair trip hazards. If the cement isn’t level or large chunks of the patio are missing, consider re-leveling or replacing the missing pieces.
  • Mailbox: If the home has a free-standing mailbox, ensure that it is sturdy and properly cemented into the ground.

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Step 9: Clean Up

Now that the yard and structures are looking great, it’s time to tidy up the home’s exterior. Use a power washer to completely clean the house and get rid of dirt and grime. You can also use it on the driveway and cement surfaces to spruce them up. Be sure to wipe down any windows as well. The goal is to increase the home’s curb appeal, either to your tastes or to make it more appealing for potential buyers.

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Congratulations! You've Cleared the Way for What's Next

You’ve taken the time and put in the effort to get your foreclosure home into great shape. Whether you plan to move in or sell the home, know that your hard work has taken something that was once inhospitable and made it into a place someone would be proud to call home.

 

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