In blistering-hot real estate markets like Vancouver, Hong Kong, and San Francisco, people are considering all kinds of properties - from murder houses to gross sheds to literal Harry Potter-style cupboards under the stairs - that wouldn't, shall we say, typically be considered a dream home. By comparison, a former grow-op looks downright cheery - and makes great financial sense, considering such properties can go for much, much less than neighbouring homes without such a colourful history.
But moving into a former grow-op isn't without its risks - and, if you're into the idea, you'd better start looking now. With legal, regulated growing facilities increasingly phasing out clandestine, black market grows, the deals might not be around for much longer. Here are three things you need to watch out for.
1. Structural issues
Pesticides, fertilizer, and moisture can soak into the floorboards, particularly if there were a lot of plants in the house: as Ontario Remediation Services puts it, "marijuana grows in humid environments, and the plants have to be watered consistently (some systems even use hydroponic growing, which uses even more water). And with all the grow-lights simulating sunlight running nearly 24/7, things get hot." As well, grow-ops are notorious for bad, ad-hoc wiring jobs, which have to be ripped out and re-installed. All of this, however, is the worst case scenario: homes that have been used for a handful of plants might not have any of these issues.
2. Financing problems
You might be able to find a bank willing to finance a former grow-up - however, expect a slightly higher rate than normal. Most banks still see such properties as at-risk of major issues with mould, or wiring, at a later date, as well potentially bad for their reputation as an institution. According to the real estate site Rew.ca, "There's a good chance that if you walk into your local bank branch they'll turn you away. There is only a handful of lenders left that will even consider lending on a former grow-op and for the most part are made up of local Credit Unions."
3. Finding one
While these properties can be a steal, you might have a tough time finding one. The Vancouver Sun recently reported that the city has "issued more than 2,450 re-occupancy permits for former grow ops since 2000," which is down substantially from 2002, when Canadian laws changed, permitting medical marijuana users to grow their own supply. Since then, the number of remediated grow-ups on the market has steadily declined. That doesn't mean, however, that they aren't out there.
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