I saw a recent study in the Denver post that in the Denver metro 1 in 10 homes have been used for Marijuana cultivation. I can attest to this statistic, I have walked into countless rental homes only to find out that they are growing marijuana in the basement or entire sections of the house. 3 tips to detect a marijuana grow operation. As a homeowner or purchaser what does this mean for you? How dangerous is this? What are the biggest impacts?
Although in marijuana cultivation hazardous chemicals are not used, growing marijuana in a residential space can create three other major problems. The primary inputs in any cultivation are water and electricity (for lighting), both of these inputs can cause major damage to a home. A byproduct of these two inputs in cultivation of marijuana is a powerful smell.
Water: Mold is a huge problem since marijuana plants need a moist environment. All that water and humidity can rot walls, destroy subfloors, impact structural beams, ruin electrical, wet any insulation, etc… The repercussions from all that water can cause some serious damage and cost thousands to fix depending on how extensive the damage is.
Electrical: Growing currently requires a pretty heavy load on the electrical system. Residential houses are not designed with dedicated circuits to handle the continues loads required for lighting. This constant draw can burn out wires, destroy the fuse box, and ultimately burn down a house.
Smell: A byproduct of growing marijuana is a very “memorable” smell. This smell is very difficult to remove from carpets, blinds, walls, etc…
Why should you care? You don’t want to be the one buying a former Marijuana grow operation. If someone had a handful of plants it is likely not a big issue, but larger scale will have a large impact on the safety and functionality of the property
In 2012, a research team from National Jewish Health working with law enforcement entered 30 illegal grow operations and evaluated them for potential hazards including mold, pesticides and fertilizers.
The study concluded that “airborne levels of mold spores that we found inside these structures may subject the occupants, emergency personnel and other individuals to significant health hazards, especially allergies, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and other respiratory diseases.” Source Denver Post
How can you avoid a marijuana problem house?
- Electrical: Look at the meter and see if they have brought in additional power (or a second meter) to keep up with demand. Pro Tip: Open up the breaker, you should see a selection of different fuses, for example an oven has two “bridged” breakers, if you see more than a couple of larger breakers this could be a sure sign. Also look at the outlets (especially in the basement) and see if there are any black/burn marks on any outlets, fixtures, etc…
- Water: Use your senses, look at the ceiling, are there any “bubbles” where moisture is coming through the paint? Does it smell musty? Do you feel “dampness” on any surface? Pro Tip: Open up a register (if the house is ducted) and look at the carpet or flooring to see if there is any discoloration on the floor. If no registers, see if you can pull a small piece of carpet back to see if the subfloor is discolored
- Odd configuration: Most of the home grows I have seen have configured rooms weirdly to optimize growing, when you walk in, you will notice these oddities since they seem unnatural for the house
I think that the indoor grow problems is just beginning in Colorado until the price points become so low it is not profitable. The tips above will become increasingly important as you are evaluating property.
Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.
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