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There is a home for sale about 10% lower than market value in the area in which we're shopping for a home. When we visited, the real estate agent disclosed that renters had used the basement as a marijuana grow-op for 3 months before it was discovered and shut down.

The owner has had an engineering and environmental report done which confirms the house is perfectly up to par now.

What additional concerns should I have, if any?

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    If it has passed environmental testing, there will be none, in my opinion. – Jack Jan 25 '15 at 17:04
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    @Jack - I agree but I would say two things. I would be concerned about the smell. And this is the owner's environmental report. Unless the company doing that report is offering a warranty I would have my own done or super tight inspection. But I have bought a few "pot" houses that had a couple of minor issues and came out well ahead compared to the house from "nice old lady" that was hiding 20 things. – DMoore Jan 25 '15 at 22:44
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    This question appears to be about real estate market value rather than home improvement. It does not mention specific problems. In addition, the range of possibilities is too broad for a canonical answer...e.g. The problem of interesting visitors based on past use mentioned in one of the answers. – ben rudgers Jan 26 '15 at 23:27
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    @benrudgers - the question I think is about what home concerns would there be from a growop, not asking for real estate advice. I think we answer these (concerns, what to look for) all the time. – DMoore Jan 27 '15 at 22:00
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    @DMoore Favorite Programming jokes lives on StackOverflow today for historical reasons even though it is off topic. This question is fun to answer but buying a house isn't a DIY home improvement. There are no specific problems to be solved in the question, the relevant expertise is all in regard to real-estate investing. This type of question persists because it doesn't get closed for being off topic. – ben rudgers Jan 27 '15 at 22:28
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I have experience buying similar houses. Basically GrowOps have the following issues:

  • Electrical redone to support lights and equipment
  • Ventilation rerouted through places where it shouldn't
  • Plant and smoke smell throughout the house (if they are growing most of the time there are lots of people smoking).
  • Moisture inside drywall

In your case you are lucky. Doing a GrowOp in the basement offers access to ventilation and electrical without having to radically change anything. You can simply add a circuit to breaker or tap into another and pull it once you are done. Ventilation can go out basement windows/doors.

If I were doing a full inspection the first thing I would do is inspect the area for how they were getting their electric. I would definitely open the panel to make sure there was no stupid add-ons that weren't done by an electrician.

Next I would be looking for fresh drywall/paint/mud. If they had to open up walls for ventilation I would be weary that the inside of the walls were OK. At the same time I would make sure I smelled the house minus candles/scenting. I would open up the house and then keep it closed for a while and do a smell test. Getting smoke/pot smell out of drywall can cost a fortune.

Last check the attic. A lot of pot houses I have inspected vented into the attic. It doesn't mean you don't buy the house but you need to figure out the damage done in attic and how much it is to fix.

Given your situation I would mainly be concerned about smell. Check everything else out and simply subtract any issues to already low price of home.


Special Note: For anyone legally doing this I would offer the following advice (note that this is generic and obviously won't work for all situations):

  • run new circuits for this usage. You will probably need a couple of 20A circuits for even a smaller operation. If you are in a basement this is usually super easy. Without a basement I would suggest using armored wiring for temporary lines or just opening a couple of walls. Do not overuse your current circuits. This could cause a fire or burn out a lot of outlets. No amount of goods is worth burning down your house.
  • for ventilation you will need at least one large run or possibly two medium runs with an induction fan for each. It would be best to pop these right out windows but this may effect neighbors or draw too much attention. Using flexible venting through attic and directed out gable vent would be a good temporary option.
  • everything you are growing should be encapsulated in plastic. If it were my house I would have a tent that housed everything with the ventilation the only permanent opening. I would then tape plastic sheeting over every surface in the room where it was growing. So tent and every wall is blanketed with plastic sheets.
  • I would run a dehumidifier outside of the tent. Possibly one in the tent too but this would depend on readings and condensation I was getting in the tent.
  • I would have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms checked and plentiful.
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    From what I've seen/heard, most GrowOps tap the electrical and water before the meter. These things can use a lot of power and water, and large consumption of utilities can be a red flag to the authorities. You'll want to check for that as well. Damage from excessive moisture would be my major concern. The problem with that is it's not always obvious, and can go unnoticed until it's too late. – Tester101 Jan 26 '15 at 13:52
  • @Tester101 - I have seen electric tapped but not water. The instance I saw the electric tapped it was blatantly obvious to anyone doing an inspection - and should have been to meter reader too. – DMoore Jan 26 '15 at 16:05
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  • GrowOps often use excessive amounts of electric power and water, which can cause those sytems to prematurely fail. They may be wired incorrectly to support higher loads.
  • GrowOps often smell like their product.
  • There may be water/moisture damage
  • 'interesting' people may visit, based on the house's past use.
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    And the visits continue for quite some time. It takes time for the brain haze to disperse so the word filters through... Better a grow operation than a Meth lab, though. – Fiasco Labs Jan 27 '15 at 3:55
  • The interesting people point makes no sense. If you run a grow op, the last thing you want is to people to know you're running one. Another point you're missing is mold. – dan-klasson Jan 27 '15 at 9:38
  • Definitely have a mold inspection done. This should consist (at minimum) of an air quality test and an inspection is all surfaces for mold. Especially attic. – user32170 Jan 27 '15 at 21:54
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"Perfectly up to par" is an interpretation of the report. What the report will state is what the professionals observed. If there was no destructive investigation then hidden conditions were not observed. If there was no monitoring for a particular airborne contaminant, then none was observed.

Reports are written based on what the professionals were paid to do. Few owners pay for destructive testing. Few pay for open ended investigation.

Except perhaps for very very narrow issues, it is unlikely that the seller's report covers all the risks to the buyer. As with attorneys, hire your own professionals to protect your interests.

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