Both real estate agents and their buyers need to be aware of homes possibly contaminated from use as Meth Labs. In 2008 it was reported that over 6800 homes were busted for methamphetamine labs. These are the only ones on record. There are many more that have never been made public record.
Why the rise and concern about these “meth” homes? Meth seems to continue to gain popularity. The challenging economy along with all the vacant properties for sale seem to be the primary factors for this concern. Vacant properties are ideal for the person who wants to set up a lab.
The cost to clean up the after-effects of a meth lab can run anywhere from $5000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the home and the severity of the problem. The vapors and gases meth releases can seep into the walls, air vents, draperies, and floors. Most buyers will cancel a contract on a home if they find out before they close escrow. That is the key. The buyer wants to find out this information before a closing rather than after the sale.
There are some precautionary measures the buyer and the buyer’s agent can take prior to or during a real estate transaction. Meth labs have been used in low-income housing up to and including luxury homes. Some of these measures include:
1. When viewing the home be alert to some of the obvious factors such as burned or severely stained countertops and a very strong smell.
2. Dead spots in the grass areas need to be considered. Meth labs will dump the toxic waste causing these dead spots.
3. Meth labs use cold medicine, lithium batteries, coffee filters, anti-freeze and paint thinner. An abundance of these items or empty packages of these items in the garbage are a good sign something is not right. Coffee filters with a colored residue are also a sign of contamination.
These are some of the most obvious signs of contamination, but the home still could have been used as a meth lab without any of these signs.
During your home inspection period ask your home inspector about meth labs. Some inspection companies offer testing specifically for this purpose. There are environmental reports the buyer can obtain. You can call your local police station and see if the property has ever been called out to the home. Talking with the neighbors to see if they ever noticed any suspicious activity is another good resource.
Buyers and their representative should always do their due diligence. When we purchase a home we always research things that are of concern to us such as schools, amenities, airports, and freeways. Meth lab contamination is just another issue that should be researched in your pursuit of a new home.