Cat Hoarder in New York: Perfect Example of Syndrome's Effect on Home Values

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The case of an upstate New York cat hoarder once again puts the complex problem of hoarding in the spotlight. But there's a serious consequence of hoarding -- aside from health and safety issues -- that can be learned here: how hoarding hurts home values. Irene Vandyke, 50, of Wright, N.Y., could face charges after authorities found 67 dead cats wrapped in plastic bags in her freezer and 99 live cats stuffed in crates that were stacked floor-to-ceiling in her home. Her house was condemned and deemed unfit for human occupancy, the Times Union newspaper in Albany reported.

People who were aware of the situation in Vandyke's home said they tried to help her and remove the animals from her house, but she repeatedly denied their offers. Kerrie Colin, manager of the Animal Shelter of Schoharie in Howes Cave, N.Y., where the live felines were taken for medical treatment, told the Times Union that Vandyke was resistant to previous intervention efforts. "The minute anyone tried to take her cats, she freaked out and threw them off her property," Colin said. "She definitely had a hoarder mentality. She's not a horrible person. She just needs help and counseling."

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Cat Hoarder in New York: Perfect Example of Syndrome's Effect on Home Values

Homeowners do the damnedest things, and thank goodness for home inspectors -- they're there to catch all the fun on camera! Here, we bring you some of the craziest things home inspectors have seen on the job. Please don't try this at home!

“You can’t see me, you can’t see me.” I found this raccoon in a chimney when I opened the outside clean-out door. Yes, I lost the staring competition.

William Vicaire
Discovery Home Inspection
Leominster, Mass.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Most people use a piece of wood or metal pipe to help secure the sliding glass doors, but this was a first for me. Yes, those are Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans. I think a thief breaking in would stop and drink these or take them with him.

Rick A. Harrington
Patch Independent Home Inspections, LLC
Pickerington, Ohio


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

I call this one “plumbers and electricians should just learn to get along.” This drain-pipe fitting prevented full opening of the fuse box. Apparently, the plumber decided that no one would ever need to access these fuses, though they were connected to the water heater and were in use.

Matthew Steger
WIN Home Inspection -- Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown, Pa.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This is not Photoshopped. I wasn’t sure which code applied to this scenario. Do you use the 2000 code since the house was built in 2002, or the 1955 code since the car was a 1957 or 1958?

Lamar Rase
Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Missoula, Mont.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

The inside of the car was set to be used as part of a home theater. I’ve seen this in Disney World, but never in a house.

Lamar Rase
Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Missoula, Mont.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This is a functioning door on the second story of a home with no staircase. Do you need a handrail if there is only one (20-foot) step?

Wally Shank
Mid Penn Home Inspections
Carlisle, Pa.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Why would anyone want a new-construction inspection? Because, evidently, plumbers and carpenters don’t communicate! This photo shows the basement rough-in for the toilet -- IN the stairwell.

Charlie Yates
WIN Home Inspection Crown Point
Crown Point, Ind.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This one, I suppose, is for the basement wet-bar sink drain -- UNDER the stairwell!

Charlie Yates
WIN Home Inspection - Crown Point
Crown Point, Ind.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Dryer ventilation: sexy AND functional.

Charles “Chap” Fichera
Ceilings 2 Cellars Home Inspections, LLC
Green Lane, Pa.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Aren’t you supposed to take the instructions out of the furnace before starting it up?

Bruce Barker
Dream Home Consultants
Peoria, Ariz.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

It’s good that we don’t use furnaces too often in Phoenix.

Bruce Barker
Dream Home Consultants
Peoria, Ariz.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

I found this recently in Houston. I guess the owners were more worried about being ready for a hurricane (see the generator) than about blowing up the house.

Robert J.P. Goodspeed
Goodspeed Inspection Services, Inc.
Missouri City, Texas


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Talk about water hammer.

David Grudzinski
Advantage Home Inspections
Cranston, R.I.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

“Honey, I took care of that pesky leak before the home inspector showed up!”

Mario Lucciola
All Spec Building Inspections
St. Catharines, Ontario


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This wiring controls a vanity light. The switch box is a Cain’s mayonnaise lid. Maybe he used mayo instead of shaving cream?

Tim Rooney
Homeview Property Inspections
Exeter, N.H.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

The water meter’s last words: “Help, I think I fell in quicksand.”

David Grudzinski
Advantage Home Inspections
Cranston, R.I.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Just a minor water leak or a Roman candle? You decide! I was told by the real estate agent prior to the inspection that there was some water on the floor in the basement. The water was actually home-heating oil. Notice the red sheen of the “water!”

Michael J. Ashburn
Ashburn Inspections
Murrysville, Pa.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This is a 4-inch drain pipe running through an air return duct. I don’t know who got there first, the plumber or the HVAC guy.

Frank Turner
Turner Home Inspection Services
Beaufort, S.C.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This rat ate so much while in the main fuse box that when it came time to get out, he needed help by placing his feet on the terminals. OUCH! Be careful opening electrical panels for many reasons other than the obvious!

Duane Serrano
Tri-Star Inspection Services
Campbell, Calif.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

This 5-foot black snake was rather upset about being disturbed. He is a perfect example of why all openings in an electrical panel should be sealed. The snake was removed and released unharmed.

Bob Sisson
Inspections by Bob
Boyds, Md.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

Paris has the Louvre, Washington has the Smithsonian and now home inspectors have the Crawlspace. This “creative” pier may win a modern art design, but not a structural engineering award.

David Haught
Certified Home Inspectors
Huntington, W.V.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

I found this old sandal wedged between the leaking oil tank and a car jack used as a plug. Sand was across the floor to absorb the oil. The odor of oil extended up into the house. Not a good sign. Carjacking takes on a different meaning.

JD Grewell
J.D. Grewell & Associates, Inc.
Silver Spring, Md.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

When recommending that bathroom vent fans be connected to an exterior vent, perhaps we should be clear that the exterior vent should actually be installed on the exterior.

Robert Wittenberg
HomeFront Inspection
Renton, Wash.


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

I think this water heater needs replacing.

Joe Lengel
Advantage Home Services, Inc.
Garrettsville, Ohio


Photo: Courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

See even worse home inspection nightmares here.

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Authorities, however, told WRGB-TV in Albany that Vandyke was "cooperative" when officers arrived to remove the felines and "relieved to see the cats go." Authorities said they were tipped off to Vandyke's animal hoarding after a neighbor called to complain about the smell of cat urine and feces coming from her home. The live cats are recovering well at the shelter, Colin said.

The often-deplorable conditions of a hoarder's home such as this one is usually the biggest concern, but equally important is how the hoarding is dragging down the value of the home -- and neighboring properties. One Yahoo! columnist wrote that she and her family were trying to sell her grandmother's Victorian house after she died. It was worth $500,000, but because it was impossible to clear out the mounds of junk piled high inside, the family ended up having to sell it for $300,000.

The International OCD Foundation (hoarding is thought to be a symptom of obsessive-complusive disorder) says that hoarding can lead to structural problems in the home, causing it to become decrepit. That drags down its value and the values of neighboring properties. Rodent infestations can also spread from the home to neighboring homes, further dragging down values of every home affected. For landlords, hoarding can result in the loss of rental income when it becomes impossible for an apartment damaged by the effects of hoarding to be rented at market rate.

Also, homeowners insurance may be difficult for a hoarder to get or renew. If a homeowners insurance claim is filed, an agent may come to the home to assess the claim's needs. If the agent finds a hoarding situation at the home during the visit, the claim -- or the entire homeowners insurance policy -- could be denied.

See more:
1 Dead, 1 Badly Burned in Fire at Cluttered 'Hoarders' Home in Greenwich, Conn.
Hoarders Don't Get Homes Sold (Listing Fails)
Recluse Walter Samaszko Jr. Left $7 Million in Gold Hidden in Carson City Home

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