Youve finally done it: youve stepped into the realm of homeownership. The inspection checked out, the location is perfect for you and your family, and the neighbors seem friendlyall in all, you feel right at home. Buying a house is exciting, but before you sign on the dotted line, check to see if your new home was used as a meth lab. You might say to yourself this is unlikely, but CNN reports that thousands of unsuspecting people fall victim to purchasing meth houses every year.1
Once a house has been exposed to meth, the molecules stick to surfaces like the walls and floors and can even penetrate through to the insulation. This type of exposure is especially dangerous for young children who tend to put their hands in their mouths after crawling around or playing with toys on the floor.
The worst part is, once youve purchased the home, the burden of cleaning the chemicals and making it safe falls on you and your loved ones. And, unfortunately, the cleanup process can be quite expensiveupwards of $10,000, according to CNN.2 Avoid this scenario by following the steps below to determine if youre about to buy a meth house. Its always better to be safe, especially when it involves your family.
you a better idea of the area and locations of concentrated meth labs. If you dont see your house on this list, check your states law enforcement database for similar lists of houses that have been reported for drug activity.
Ask Your Neighbors
Neighbors like to gossipuse that to your advantage. Dont be afraid to stop by your neighbors place and ask about the history of your house. If theyve lived in the area for a while, theyll likely have important details about odd behavior, suspicious activities, and the previous owners. Not only is this a good way to make friends, its also invaluable firsthand knowledge to have of the house.
Go to the Police Station
After youve talked to a few neighbors around the block, take a trip down to the police station to see official reports filed on your house. Police officers have a plethora of information about the location that will help steer you in the right direction. Theyll know everything from the number of arrests to the kinds of disturbances and criminal activities that have taken place. If the house has multiple drug-related incidences, make sure meth wasnt involved.
Smell for Strong Odors
Its normal for older homes and fixer-uppers to be a little smelly. As youre walking through a house, sniff aroundliterally. Certain chemical smells such as paint thinner, ether, acetone, and cat urine might be signs of meth production. Dont be alarmed by every smell, but be sure to ask your realtor some hard questions if you smell the telltale signs of meth.
Check the Homes History
Make sure the deal youre getting on the house isnt too good to be true. A foreclosure or short sale seems like a great opportunity to buy an amazing property at an extremely low price. And oftentimes it is. However, troubled properties happen to have higher risks of meth contamination. Before finalizing the sale on a foreclosure, do your due diligence and check its history so you know its a good deal.
Note Unsanitary Conditions
First impressions can be very telling. If you walk into a house that looks messy and has trash all over the place, its a good indicator that something might be amiss. Another red flag is deep stains on the carpet and walls. Most meth producers tend to neglect their homes. Thats not to say that every messy house is a drug den, but keep a skeptical eye on things if you find yourself in a home that is excessively dirty.
Look for Destructive Behavior
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that long periods of drug use tend to lead to violent behavior.3 Drugs have a devastating impact on the brain, which may cause temper outbursts and other volatile actions. As you walk through a house, take a close look at the walls, doors, and frames. Do they look damaged or punched in? If so, find out about the previous owners. There might be a lot more to the story of a house with a violent past.
Buy a Test Kit
Looks can be deceiving. A newly refinished house might not have any visible signs of prior meth production, but you never know whats lurking right beneath the surface. Ask your realtor or inspector to do a meth test on the property. You can even purchase your own, relatively inexpensive, meth test and get permission from the owners to do the test. Not only will you feel good that your house is everything youve ever dreamed of, but youll have peace of mind that your family will be safe from harm.
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments youll ever makeso take it slow. Meth labs occur by the thousands all over the country, and its likely that there are many more undocumented cases. And, unfortunately, the health risks of meth are very seriouseven deadly. In the short term, you might experience headaches, nausea, and throat and eye irritation. While in the long term youll be at risk for cancer, liver damage, kidney failure, miscarriages, and birth defects.
And although its easy to assume that meth houses are only in certain locations, its simply not true. From high-end to middle-class neighborhoodsyou never know which house is hiding a drug-riddled past. So when youre out house hunting, do your research, keep your eyes and nose open, ask questions, andwhen in doubttest.