BY RON BARLAY
During my more than twenty years of experience as a real estate agent, I have had the fortune of selling homes that come in every shape and size and condition. I have also had the experience of selling and buying a number of homes that were once used to grow marijuana.
It is wrong to believe that drug homes only reside in low-income neighborhoods. They, in fact, can be located in every type of neighborhood. In fact, homes in quiet neighbourhoods with unfinished basements make for the ideal grow house.
When it comes to buying a former grow operation, mould and wiring issues are usually the biggest concerns. The high humidity needed to grow the plants can lead to mildew in the home. The wiring in the home was likely extensively altered to tap into hydro lines to power high wattage lights. (The positive news is that many of these grow houses have been in operation for less than one year and in that time period structural damage is typically minimal because it isn’t enough time for the mold to thrive.)
Another issue when it comes to buying these homes is the fact that there can be stigma attached to them. (I highly recommended that a clause be inserted in every purchase whereby the seller warrants that the property, to the best of their knowledge and belief, has not been used as a grow house.)
A Toronto Star survey of Greater Toronto Area homes suggested that former grow ops sell for about fifteen to twenty five per cent less than similar homes, on average. (I know some buyers actually search out and will buy former grow operations just for this reason; they can purchase a property in an area that they would not have otherwise been able to afford.)
When working with buyers who are seriously interested in purchasing a former grow operation, I recommend that we obtain an environmental clearance certificate from an engineering inspector. These can be costly, however, they are a necessity, if you want to purchase a home that has “a clean bill of health.” They ensure that the home has been remediated and remodeled up to the proper standards. You can then rest easy knowing that with a little tender loving care your home will be back to a good state of repair.
It should be noted that if you are buying a home that was used as a grow op, it is very difficult obtaining financing. In fact, if you have a down payment of less than twenty percent, unless you are obtaining private funding, chances are you won’t be able to obtain funding.
As a final note, there has been discussion that a registry of Ontario homes that have been formerly used as grow ops be established. In Peel, if you are thinking of purchasing a house or moving into a rental unit in Brampton or Mississauga and would like to know if it has been identified as a marijuana grow operation (MGO), Peel Regional Police can tell you and a good real estate agent will do this investigation for you.