Several years ago we discovered that methamphetamine had been smoked in a home one of our clients had under contract. The house was immaculate, but the testing and cleanup costs were over $35,000. This was the result of the previous owner's son smoking a few times with his friends. Had there been someone living in the house at the time, they could have lost all of their personal property as well (as it is all considered contaminated).
Following this experience, we began recommending meth screening tests to each client and paying 1/2 of their $375 cost. From the fall of 2011 through the end of 2012, we had found 5 additional houses with some level of meth contamination. This was just over 10% of all the houses we had tested, so we knew by that point this was a widespread problem. While based on a very small sample of homes, these results are consistent with the findings of cities east of I25 participating in Colorado's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Of just over 300 homes that were tested under this program as of last spring, they found 7% of single family homes and 13% of multifamily homes contaminated with meth.
If you want to read a good summary article on this issue, you might look back at the Denver Post article that we helped Tom McGhee put together last Spring.
In 2013, we found only two homes with meth contamination and the levels of contamination were very low in both cases. But these homes were both priced over $500,000 and one was new construction. In 2011 and 2012, all of the homes we found testing positive for meth were priced at under $300,000, and most were priced near $200,000. While we still believe that meth contamination is probably more common in less expensive homes, we now know that it can be found in any property.
By default, we have become some of the most knowledgeable real estate agents in Colorado on this issue. In general, the real estate community has buried its collective head in the sand on this issue, and continues to collect piles of sand to keep it handy. In our view, no one should consider buying a house in Colorado without first having an experienced industrial hygienist conducting a meth screening. A screening will cost you $350 to $600, but buying a home with low to modest levels of meth contamination from smoking could cost you $15,000 to $50,000 to have cleaned. And you could also lose all of your personal property. And at least with high levels of contamination, there are substantial health risks as well.
If you know anyone who is buying a house, have them contact us for a list of industrial hygienists who will do these screening tests.