Can a real estate pre-purchase home inspection detect a former grow operation? Not according to Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes and CBC Market Place who investigated the problem in Ontario and and here in BC.
Recently the consumer program run by CBC called Market Place did a segment on detecting former grow operations by home inspectors. The show used Mike Holmes from the popular TV shows Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection as their expert grow op inspector.
Market Place found a recent home buyer who had purchased a home that they later discovered was a former grow house. The home buyer had a standard home inspection completed prior to purchasing the house but the home inspection did not reveal any signs of a former grow operation. They buyers only discovered later after the house they had just purchased was a former marijuana grow operation and their home inspection did not detect it.
On the show they went through the house with Mike Holmes to see if the house had signs of a former grow operation as the new owners believed after moving in. Mike went through and found several red flags that indicate a former grow house. Then Market Place posing as potential buyers of the house (setup with hidden cameras) brought in four different home inspectors to see if they would find the red flags of a former grow operation discovered by Mike Holmes. They wanted to see if the home inspector would inform the potential buyers the house may have been a former grow operation. Although some of the home inspectors did detect a few of the red flags Mike Holmes found, none of the four home inspectors detected a former grow operation nor warned the buyers of any major problems. Some of the inspectors did find mold or other issues but did not connect them as related to a grow op or a tell the potential buyers there was a serious problem.
The Globe and Mail news paper even wrote an article on the show. From the Globe and Mail article they quote a person on the show as stating, “The negligence of the home inspectors we brought in was shocking. This was so obviously a former grow-op and not one of the four caught it.”
To watch the actual Market Place Grow Op segment you can see it here.
I think to be fair to home inspectors, former grow houses are not necessarily easily detected. Mike Holmes had the benefit of knowing the house was a grow operation prior to doing his inspection. The four home inspectors they called in and the original home inspector who did not detect a grow op did not.
Former grow operators can spend a lot of money doing cosmetic repairs to cover things up. Often a former grow house will look perfect to the untrained eye. This can be deceiving to home buyers and home inspectors as the house looks fine but still may contain covered up or hidden mold contamination.
So how does a potential home buyer protect themselves from purchasing a former grow operation? The best way is to bring in a professional who specializes in the field if there are any suspicions. Home inspectors are generalists and must cover a lot of different things during a home inspection. Everything from electical and plumbing issues to structual and building envelope problems. Often detecting contamination and mold left from former grow operations requires specialized testing and expertise. If a house was used as a former grow operation it may still contain elevated levels of toxic mold. To detect the mold, air testing with laboratory analysis must be done. Visual inspections by an expert can also be important. Most of the red flags Mike Holmes found during his visual inspection would have been caught by those familiar with former grow houses.
See Grow Op Testing and Inspections for more information on services available.
ABM Environmental grow op service areas include Abbotsford, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, Squamish, Surrey, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Whistler and White Rock.