Whether you sell real estate, invest in it or just buy it for pleasure, you’d be hard-pressed not to have heard about that class of criminal who hides out in the anonymity of residential or industrial neighbourhoods producing multi-million-dollar marijuana crops and chemical drug operations.
While these properties will likely never shake the stigma of being illegal grow houses or drug labs, the advantage to buying them is that they sell for 20 to 25 per cent below market value.
But hang on to your savings because, according to the Canadian Home Inspection Corporation, the cost to remediate a former grow-op can range from $60,000 to $80,000.
Former grow houses can be difficult to spot especially if shut down some years in the past. Although a major overhaul is generally in order, many are given only a superficial cosmetic touch-up before being put on the market.
If you suspect an undisclosed former grow op have the home inspected and, in some instances, having the dwelling’s structure checked by a professional engineer.
Here are some signs to look for:
- Mould in corners where the walls and ceilings meet.
- Unusual number of roof vents or signs of roof vents.
- Fresh paint on window frames to cover damage caused by the high levels of humidity.
- Painted concrete floors in the basement with circular marks where pots once stood.
- Evidence of tampering with the electric meter (damaged or broken seals) or the ground around it.
- Unusual or modified wiring on the exterior of the house.
- Brownish stains on the underside of beams or arches that bleed down a wall.
- Concrete masonry patches, or alterations on the inside of the garage.
- Patterns of screw holes on the walls.
- Fireplace alterations.
- Denting on front doors (from police ramming the door).
- Your average homebuyer may have difficulty securing a former grow op as mortgages are difficult to obtain on these properties and insurance can be difficult to assume as well.
- Consumers are hindered by the lack of a central registry, which is considered crucial to protecting homebuyers from the potential health and safety hazards of properties formerly used to manufacturer illegal drugs. While some police departments such as Toronto and London have posted the addresses of grow houses, the practice is not consistent.
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is pushing for the establishment of a registry for marijuana grow operations and clandestine drug laboratories.
While real estate agents are obligated by law to disclose if a home has been used as a marijuana grow operation or a drug lab, the grow-op registry raises the thorny issue of privacy violation.
There are a lot of sides to buying a home that was a past grow house. A real estate agent can help.