Buying a ‘P house’ might not appeal to everyone, but with property prices rising around the country, buyers are eyeing up contaminated houses as a cheap bet in a hot market.
Bargain hunters could leverage the fact homes are contaminated to get tens of thousands off the asking price, pay to get them decontaminated and then do their own renovations.
In Blenheim, Bayleys Marlborough is marketing a “cosy flat” in the suburb of Redwoodtown, close to the shops and a nearby park, which is contaminated with methamphetamine.
The Trade Me listing said the one-bedroom, one-bathroom house “will require decontamination to bring it to a liveable standard”, but “once the work is done you will reap the rewards.”
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The Weld St property is being sold by a bank in a mortgagee sale. It has a rateable value of only $140,000, and is going to auction on May 13 when “the bank needs this property sold”.
The listing agent chose not to comment. However, she did say Bayleys was anticipating a positive result for the vendor on auction day.
Sean Johnson is the owner of Restore, a company providing cleaning and decontamination services in Blenheim. He estimated it would cost between $8000 and $10,000 to decontaminate the Weld St house.
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Johnson said prospective buyers, who he described as bargain hunters, would try and leverage the fact a property was contaminated to try and shave as much as $100,000 off the asking price.
Buyers looking for a cheap house would contact him ahead of taking the plunge to ask about remediation costs. People had also waited outside properties he was decontaminating to ask if they were being sold.
“Buyers are getting the cleanest house on the street, there might be a small margin of people that would never buy a former meth house, but there are bigger concerns like dampness and mould,” he said.
Johnson had done eight full decontaminations and three partial decontaminations in Marlborough and Nelson this year. Last year, he did about 30 properties across the Top of the South.
The first step in the process was removing all the soft furnishings, such as carpet and drapes, as well as the electrical fittings which had to be stripped out and disposed of as contaminated waste.
All the surfaces then had to be cleaned using a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum, which trapped particles in the filter. Then the entire house was sprayed with a decontamination foam.
Johnson said the product he used was developed by the United States Department of Energy as a first response to chemical weapons clean-up. It was left on for a day, dissolving the methamphetamine.
Ministry of Health guidelines released late last year for safe post-decontamination levels state where methamphetamine had been manufactured levels should not exceed 0.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres.
In a carpeted house where the drug had been used it was 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimetres, and in uncarpeted houses the threshold considered safe was no more than 2 micrograms per 100 square centimetres.
In a release accompanying the guidelines, the ministry said living in a laboratory environment meant potential exposure to chemicals at a level linked to “adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects”.
People living in a house where previous occupants had only smoked the drug meant “potential exposure to low concentrations of the drug on surfaces with a much reduced risk of toxicity”.
A Real Estate Agency Authority spokeswoman said agents could sell properties contaminated by methamphetamine.
“However, they are required to disclose any known defects with the property, and must also alert customers and clients to any potential issues that they are, or should be, aware of,” she said.