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RISMEDIA, June 24, 2010—As we continue to see record numbers of foreclosures across the country, Dan Steward, president, Pillar To Post, is making it his priority to educate the public about the proliferation of homes used as drug labs (specifically, meth) entering the residential real estate market. “As foreclosure numbers continue to mount, we at Pillar To Post feel it is our responsibility to help consumers be aware of what they could be getting themselves into when buying a home,” says Steward.

Home inspections have become more important with the rising number of foreclosures. “Not only do inspectors need to carefully examine the systems and structural components of a home, they also need to go one step further and make sure the home hasn’t been used as a drug lab in the past.

“With so many foreclosure properties hitting the market, and many of them being listed as rentals, landlords are unaware of what is occurring until it’s too late,” adds Steward. Once the property gets to the point of being listed as a foreclosure, there isn’t a lot of information on the disclosure form. While prospective buyers can’t ever be 100% sure, Pillar To Post’s home inspections provide real estate agents and their consumers a realistic level of protection as they go through the home-buying process.

Even though the signs of meth residue are invisible to the naked eye, there are a few ways home inspectors at Pillar To Post can help protect prospective buyers. Inspectors can perform a simple swipe test in which they wipe the inside of air ducts and the surfaces of countertops, send the samples to the lab and have verification in just three days. A second key test is a Neighborhood Environmental Report, which offers information as to whether a home has been busted as a drug lab or whether other environmental factors affect the property.

While 2004 was considered the turning point during which homes formerly used as drug labs began to infiltrate the market, knowing if a home has a past is no easy task.

“The biggest problem when dealing with meth is that the signs are invisible,” says Steward. While there are some obvious things to look for, such as an acidic chemical odor, stained or burnt countertops or sinks, pails in and around the home filled with chemicals and burned out vegetation, there are no absolute signs that can be pinpointed. “Even if there are no telltale signs, the chemicals used in the production of the meth have been absorbed into the home—in the carpet, the furniture, drywall and any other porous surface—and the ill health effects can last for months or even years.”

The problems for buyers don’t end there. “What you get is buyers thinking they are getting a great deal, and while they know the home needs a little TLC, they are unaware of the meth lurking within the home until problems begin to arise,” says Steward. These problems include respiratory problems, learning disorders in infants, skin rashes and headaches.

As soon as the family gets to the root of the problem, they are then responsible for the cleanup. Once it is common knowledge that the home was used as a drug lab, the equity of the home drastically decreases and cleanup costs range anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the home, the degree of the contamination and the stringency of local requirements.

“We spend a lot of time training our inspectors and provide continuing education classes for Realtors on a vast array of subjects including old homes, green building, preparing houses for sale as well as information on how to protect clients when dealing with former drug labs,” says Steward.

As foreclosure properties continue to enter the market at a drastic pace, it is important that buyers use a reputable and professional Realtor as well as an experienced and trained home inspector. “It is crucial that buyers take responsibility as well and remain diligent when going through the home-buying process.”

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