How the opioid crisis can affect the real estate market

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
October 9, 2018 - 3:00pm Updated: October 9, 2018 - 3:52pm

You find a house that you’re interested in buying only to learn it contains traces of illegal, dangerous drugs.

What do you do?

Taralyn Adams recently fell in love with a house for sale in Sylvan Lake. After hearing rumours of past drug-activity taking place at the residence, she hired a crew for around $1800 to test for any traces of illicit substances.

The tests came back positive for drugs including fentanyl, carfentanil, cocaine and meth. Most traces were detected on walls and in the carpets, while others were detected in the house's duct system.

“I just want people to be more aware of what they’re going into,” Adams says. “Do your due diligence, and that’s not only for purchasers, but even the real estate agents, because their lives are being put at risk.”

Adams says it makes her sick to think of children crawling around in the house touching, or worse, licking the walls. She described feeling hungover the day after she and workers from Trauma Scene Bio Services went in to test the home.

Adams and rdnewsNOW contacted Alberta Health Services to confirm what role they play in a situation such as this.

Dr. Mohammed Mosli, Medical Officer of Health for the Central Zone says their role is to enforce the Public Health Act and that AHS typically deals with rentals and places accessible to the public or connected to a public space, but not private properties.

“The advice we can give is if that property has been the site of fentanyl or any other powdered drug use, then we do recommend cleaning and washing with water and detergent,” Mosli says, speaking in general terms – not of this specific case.

“However, if it’s more like a production facility then a more specialized service would be required and the potential owner or person who is aiming to live in that property can consult a more specialized hazardous material cleaning or remediation service.”

Adams, who is no longer pursuing the house, says Trauma Scene recommended remediation work costing about $28,000.

AHS also sent a letter to Chad Jensen, the listing realtor for the foreclosed home, recommending he ensure people are informed before entering the house that there are traces of drugs present.

Jensen, a realtor in the area for 23 years, says he is obligated to follow through on that advice due to Real Estate Council of Alberta regulations.

“These are very high-risk properties. Anytime a purchaser is buying those types of properties, they need to be educated that there are no warranties or representations,” he says. “Doing those extra tests may be beneficial to make sure you know what you’re buying.”

Jensen says it’s next to impossible for a realtor to know about these types of circumstances without tests being done.

“Unfortunately, without a history on the property, we don’t know anything more than the buyers until it has been discovered by an inspection. We try to gather as many facts as we can on the property, but with foreclosures, when we list the property, there is no history,” he explains.

“The bank doesn’t know anything about it other than the previous buyer. Sometimes the heat’s been turned off over the winter so pipes are frozen, and sometimes there are mould issues.”

Adams says the moral of the story is preventing something potentially tragic.

“I would just like that not to happen to somebody,” she says. “Not be blindsided and move into the home and the worst possible outcome to happen, like a child rolling around in the carpet where there’s carfentanil.”

The home at 7 Hendrickson Bay is expected to be re-listed following a new appraisal.


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