In all the home inspections we have conducted, there is hardly ever a mention in the PDS (Property Disclosure Statement) that there has been a grow operation or grow op.
What does a grow op house mean?
A grow op house is a home that has been modified into an indoor marijuana cultivating facility. Large homes on an acreage, a secluded lot, quiet areas, or a house somewhat away from the street with unfinished basements are preferred. An unfinished basement or garage with 200 amp incomming electrical service is also an important ‘must have’.
A resident 19 years or older can grow up to four plants for personal use. For example, four adults in a house can have 16 plants growing for personal use.
If a house was ‘busted’ by Police as an illegal grow op, then the house is placed on a registry that identifies its past use. It becomes challenging get a mortgage on such a property without an exhaustive list of inspections including testing for mold, indoor air quality, water or moisture damage and frther investigation into inappropriate modifications various house systems (electrical wiring, ventilation, heating, insulation and plumbing).
Nobody Knows Anything
Enter the home inspector. Prior to the inspection date, we always ask our client about the PDS and if there is anything of concern for them in the document. In particular, we ask if the house was used as a grow op. Invariably, the reply is always to the negative. This is a good thing, except when it isn’t.
Sign, Sign… Everywhere a Sign
Like the song by the Five Man Electrical Band, there are signs everywhere if the house is suspected as having been used as a grow op. This is not an exhaustive list, but just the top 10 indicators.
- Electrical Panel – Lot of empty knockouts on the sides and front of the panel. Sometimes rust or scorch marks inside from being in a humid environment.
- New Paint – The ceiling, floor and or walls have been recently spray painted.
- Water Stains – Visible on baseboards, walls or ceilings.
- Poly Sheets – Staple indents on walls and or small edges of poly sheeting left behind when most of it has been torn off and disposed.
- Mold – Dark organic growth on surfaces, inside closets.
- Plumbing – Pipes extended and capped without purpose.
- Ventilation – Holes through ceilings, walls or flooring that are patched up and serve no purpose.
- Attic – Mositure damage to roof sheathing or insulation.
- Emergency Generator – May have been present.
- New Floors – Usually only on ground floor or basement where there is a slab-on-grade.
If you suspect that the house may have been used as… let’s say, high volume indoor hydroponic herb garden, then after the home inspection and prior to the subject removal date, we would suggest the prospective buyer to take action on some or all of the recommendations below.
- Ask the seller about the suspect items. There may be a reasonable explanation that does not require further action.
- Using an environmental contractor, take mold samples off surfaces, to send to a laboratory for analysis. If walls have been painted, then small squares of drywall may have to be cut out to check their back surfaces. Sample the indoor air quality for contaminants. You want to be sure that the indoor air is a healthy home environment.
- Plumbing, heating and ventilation, or electrical contractors may have to be called upon, depending on what the home inspection report identified.
No house is perfect. However, do what you can to know as much about the condition of the house as possible before the subject removal date. A negotiated deal that takes into account the cost of what needs to be done to make the house right, and discounts the purchase price accordingly, can be the perfect home for some buyers. Other buyers may choose to just walk away from the property. But the important issue is, you know what to expect and you make the go no-go, decision accordingly.