Plus, at $36,000, the price was perfect for a young family trying to make ends meet in small-town Klamath Falls, Ore.
“We said, ‘It needs a little bit of love, but it’s got good bones,’” Jonathan Hankins recalled. “We just had no idea that those bones were poisonous.”
Within days of moving in this past summer, Beth Hankins, an ER nurse, started experiencing breathing problems. Then Jonathan got migraine-like headaches and nosebleeds. By the third week, their 2-year-old son, Ezra, developed mouth sores.
“He couldn’t even drink water without being in pain,” said Jonathan, 32.
They were about to schedule doctor visits when a neighbor shared the bad news: 2427 Radcliffe was a former meth house.
The family ordered a $50 testing kit and had the lab expedite the results, which revealed a contamination level nearly 80 times above Oregon Health Authority limits.
Buying a foreclosed house from government-sponsored Freddie Mac meant the family was informed about being responsible for detecting hazards like lead paint and asbestos, but there was no warning from real estate agents or Freddie Mac about drug activity. The realtor had no idea what this address had been used for prior to its sale.
It’s a Catch-22 that Joe Mazzuca of Meth Lab Cleanup, a national remediation and training company, predicts others could find themselves in. Based on national and state data, Mazzuca conservatively estimates there are 2.5 million meth-contaminated homes in the U.S. “The signs and indicators aren’t always there,” he said. “You don’t always see the meth residue. It’s extremely dangerous stuff.”
Decontaminating a former meth lab can run anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000, according to experts. Jonathan says he’s been quoted a clean up cost more than his house is worth.