This could be any new Southern Maryland homeowner’s worst nightmare: shortly after closing on their new house, a family in Canada discovers over $100,000 in hidden damages — the kind of damages that have to be fixed before the house can be deemed safe for occupancy. The cause? HGTV’s Mike Holmes made the discovery after doing a proper inspection on the property: the dream home they’d just bought had previously been used as an indoor marijuana-growing operation!
Believe it or not, it’s an increasingly familiar scenario. Last year alone, our own U.S. DEA busted more than 2500 “grow-ops.”
The damage such operations wreak on homes can be staggering. Increased humidity leads to warped wood, crumbling walls, and health-endangering black mold outbreaks. Holes are punched in walls and floors to run ducting. Electrical panels are circumvented to disguise high energy use, resulting in illicit wiring schemes that create true fire hazards.
Drug operations may be a rising current problem, but the issue is an older one: when housing modifications are hastily covered up, the next unsuspecting owner pays the price.
So, as a buyer in Southern Maryland, how do you avoid purchasing a home with the grow-op kinds of damages?
A thorough inspection is a must — but there are also some telltale signs you can be aware of yourself. You’ll want to be aware of mold, especially in corners of walls and ceilings. Look for patterns of screw-holes in the walls (where reflective sheeting would have been put up) or on the ceiling (where grow-lights would be hung). Ventilation is a huge issue for growers, so look for patched-up holes in walls and ceilings, modifications to fireplaces, and unusual numbers of roof vents.
Outside the house, your own inspection should include signs of electrical meter tampering or clumsy outside wiring. And look for evidence of hasty masonry patches (especially in the garage).
Fortunately, any of our reputable Southern Maryland inspection companies should be able to spot more obscure signs. If you will be buying this fall or winter, we’ll be able to recommend some of the best. The first step, however, is to start your search!