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Have you sold unknowingly sold your buyer a home that is a Meth Lab?

Thought I'd put this question out there because in the past 6 months, I have shown at least 3 houses that I believe were Meth Labs. None of these homes were my listings and in bringing the topic up to the listing agents, I got a reaction like "okay thanks for telling me" and I had the feeling that these agents did not have a clue as to: 1. The fact that a "meth lab" can be located in any neighborhood, within any class and income level; 2. What the signs and symptoms were 3. The possible serious effects of being exposed to a past or present Meth Lab;

5 Signs Your Listing May Have Once Been a Meth Lab

http://styledstagedsold.blogs.realtor.org/2009/07/16/5-signs-your-l...

Are you living in a former meth lab?

http://methnews.blogspot.com/2009/07/are-you-living-in-former-meth-...

This is a gray area as far as disclosure, because an agent may have no clue they are even showing a current or former Meth Lab and as you have heard recently, there are horror stories of buyers purchasing homes which have been used as Meth Labs that have caused them to become sick; Some have even had to "walk away" from their house because of the sometimes very expensive remedies for correcting a house with traces of meth throughout. Before you say, "how could an agent not know they are showing a Meth Lab", read the following fact:

Meth Labs can be setup in a small space such as a closet, a box, garage and any small area of a house; How many of us have showed our buyers a house that has that one locked room where the Sellers say they have valuables or "weapons" and will not allow access; As an agent, I have gotten into the habit of scanning a room before I enter it and also reading the body language of Sellers. That is why on a recent showing, when me and the buyers were about to enter a home where Sellers were present, the first thing I noticed was a "pantry" near the entrance to the kitchen that had 3 hinges on each side of the door with a pad lock on each hinge; VERY STRANGE; My antennae went up that they this was possibly a Meth Lab based on the fact that the husband made sure we did not get anywhere near this "pantry"; The husband had physical symptoms: rotted teeth, an emaciated appearance, and a sunken face, however, these could be symptoms of some other illnesses or problems, so I don't solely rely on a person's looks; The convincing point came when me and the buyer walked a few steps into the kitchen and the smell of rotten eggs and ammonia overwhelmed both of us; In addition, our eyes starting burning; I quickly asked my buyer to come outside with me and on the way out noticed the blue discoloration around the fire extinguishers; I explained to her that I believed the home had dangerous fumes that I did not want her or myself to be exposed to and kindly informed the Sellers we were leaving; As I am not a "Meth Expert" and only rely on information and previous experiences to determine whether a house was or currently is a Meth Lab, I did not pass this opinion onto the Buyer or Seller.

A question I pose to other agents on this forum is: Have you been in this situation and would you disclose to a potential buyer or seller that you believe a property is a "Meth Lab"? I'd love your feedback.

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Comment by Steve Shewmake on February 22, 2010 at 10:56pm
Hi Carol,
You did the right thing by leaving, as stated before labs are very explosive, I deal mostly in rural properties in an area known for it's labs and grow houses, if I run into a situation like you were in I would disclose your concerns. In my opinion it's part of our job, I have a background in HAZMAT, and construction, so if I see something that concerns me a recommend a third party inspection. If a home is used for a lab, it is most likey going to be unsafe to inhabit. Even if they DECAM the structure, the metal fasteners that hold the building together may be damaged.
Comment by Kerrie Laminack on February 21, 2010 at 3:11pm
I am also curious about this, we have a disclosure here in Texas but foreclosures & bank owned properties are not subject to disclosure laws. I have shown former "grow" houses as well as homes that had obvious drug & gang activity recently. I have disclosed to my clients that there may be the issue of previous drug use thus advised that they get specialized testing on these homes if they want to purchase, I feel it's my obligation as a "buyer's agent". Our disclosure is not just for meth labs but any meth exposure at all. Should I just start suggesting specialized testing for any home? I had a rent house several years ago where the tenant had started using drugs but it was all speculation and he trashed the house but I just got him out gracefully, painted, cleaned, removed carpet & moved on. Do not KNOW that he was doing drugs or meth specifically but what else would cause his rapid decline from great renter to horrid house destroyer who added locks on the outside of his kids bedroom? I sold the home to a single woman & her father. Don't think there is a problem there but she could later sell the home & it "could" test positive for meth. So I feel compelled to suggest that all homes get tested prior to finalizing contract, is that over thinking?
Comment by Jose Rivas (DGRA) CDPE, SFR on February 21, 2010 at 9:51am
I guess every area has its own trends, some meth labs in FL grow houses are everywhere, when I live down there one of my neighbors got busted and the house was a grow house. Here is my area there I have seen some former crack hotels and former drug houses where there are rooms with 3 to 5 locks and exterior doors instead of interior doors.

We did a trash out last months where the trash removal company found a few boxes of shotgun shells and other ammunition hidden in the basement, we turned into the police
Comment by Whistle Stop Realty LLC on February 21, 2010 at 9:08am
Steve thanks for the feedback. I hope I am never in this situation again, but I do deal with a lot of rural properties and if I am ever in this situation again, I will definitely be contacting the police department to notify them and let them handle it, especially knowing that this could be a potentially explosive situation.
Comment by Whistle Stop Realty LLC on February 21, 2010 at 9:03am
Tony thanks for enlightening me as to the existence of "grow houses"; I had actually never heard of this until your post. Other agents may have seen the after effects of one of these "grow houses" or "meth labs" and not knew it. It is comments such as yours which enlightens us so that we as agents know exactly what we are walking into when we see something such as what you described here.
Comment by Tony Linton on February 21, 2010 at 7:05am
Hi Carol, Thanks for the post, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more feedback on this or other situations like this. In my area it’s not so much the “meth labs” but the “grow houses” I have recently sold one and done interior BPO’s on two others. It’s not so much the residue with the pot house but the damage done.
The way it is done is they basically take a larger sq ft home and gut the interior drywall down to the studs, leaving only the kitchen and a bedroom for living space. All the flooring is removed and plastic is put down so they can water frequently. The ceilings are all hacked up and the wiring is tapped into to provide for the grow lights, there are literally hundreds of plants packed in together in one gallon pots, since they water with a garden hose the drywall on the outer walls is also destroyed and generally have some mold issues as well. It seems as if they only use the house for one crop because the house is purchased with as little money down as possible and then no payments are ever made, by the time it hits foreclosure the growers are gone and nothing is left but the mess.
Comment by Pam Eikleberry on February 19, 2010 at 7:02pm
I was told that, if you spray starch (the kind that you use for ironing) on the wall, if there is meth, it will react and turn purple. . . . I haven't tried it yet--has anyone else heard of this?
Comment by Steve Adkins on February 18, 2010 at 10:09pm
Yes, absolutely! And a call to the local police. Some states now require the disclosure, my state is one. Not only must it be disclosed, it MUST be cleaned by profession HAZMAT teams before a sale. And if there there has been an arrest, the State can hold title to the house until the proper repairs have been completed.

As an ex-Law Enforcement Officer, I can tell you that you were in a very dangerous situation. Meth labs are highly explosive! And the fumes alone from a cooking lab can KILL within seconds! This is not something to treat as if it's not important. The simple act of flipping on a light switch can cause an explosion.

At the very least, contact the listing agent ASAP. You may save another agent's life by doing so!

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