Residential Real Estate Reefer Madness – How to Avoid Purchasing a Grow House

We are often told that there are three important things to consider when purchasing a property: “Location, Location, Location”. While this carries considerable weight, I would like to add “History, History, History” to the list. The history of any given property can have a substantial impact on a property’s value, especially if that property has been a marijuana grow house. It is the responsibility of any homeowner or Listing Agent to disclose any Latent Defects of a home – known flaws in the property not easily discovered by a thorough inspection — to potential purchasers. This latent defect is in fact a stigma that must be disclosed to future buyers if you decide to purchase the former grow house.
This is why:

Marijuana grow houses pose considerable health and security risks to potential buyers. Often these homes have had the wiring altered by non-licensed “electricians” to meet the excessive power requirements. These alterations range from illegal power hook ups to increase supply – which overloads the electrical system — to cutting the power meter to avoid detection. Often a dangerous fire hazard for would be inhabitants.

Indoor marijuana cultivation demands excessive amounts of water. Plumbing is frequently altered to meet this requirement. Excess moisture is often improperly vented into the attic where, in the short term, it can generate dangerous levels of mould and spores in the attic and throughout the house – a considerable health risk. In the longer term excessive moisture in the attic can compromise the structure of the very roof and home. The growing process also creates noxious gasses which compliment the use of pesticides. Air quality can remain poor long after a grow house is shut down, contaminating the walls, carpets and ceilings.

Add to the this list the fact that the foundation is often damaged when electrical hook ups are altered behind meters and floor joists and load bearing walls are cut and removed to allow the necessary alterations. It quickly becomes clear that there is extensive and expensive damage done to the average marijuana grow house which is why the stigma must be disclosed. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (2004), the average claim to repair the damage caused to a former marijuana grow house was $41,000.

An identified marijuana grow house is often given a “prohibit occupancy” order until a plan of remediation of the property can be executed and inspected. Should the plan be accepted and executed to allow occupancy it may prove challenging to find mortgage financing. It is much more simple to avoid the whole situation, but how?

Using a Realtor that is familiar with the physical signs of a marijuana grow house is a good place to start. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association CREA these signs include but are not limited to:

mould where ceilings and walls meets in corners, signs of irregular roof venting, painted concrete basement floors with rings showing through where pots once rested, electric meters that have been tampered with (including the ground around the meter), modified wiring outside the home, brownish stains around the soffit bleeding down/along siding, concrete masonry patches or alterations on inside of garage, patterns of screw holes in walls, alteration of fireplaces, front door dented (police forced entry).

Should you be considering purchasing a home in Burlington, Oakville or other parts of Halton Region that you suspect may have been a marijuana grow house, you have a great resource provided by the Halton Regional Police Services, a list of Identified Marihuana Grow Houses dating back to 2004:

Click here for list.

This list is dynamic and I am unsure how frequently it is updated, so should you suspect a potential property that you are considering purchasing and it does not show up on this list contact them directly 905-825-4747. Knowledge is key in the battle against marijuana grow houses.

Should you be looking for further information on the battle against marijuana grow houses in Ontario be sure to tune in to catch Mike Holmes on the season premiere of Marketplace on the CBC Friday January 8th, 2010 at 8:30pm EST.

Click here for Mike Holmes Marketplace Preview