July 18, 2012

Who wants to buy a meth lab?

This site has made a number of jokes about homes that could have been meth labs but probably weren’t.  But what if you could buy a real one?  Thanks very much to Burbed reader Cam for following up on our recent guide to NOT buying a meth lab.

San Jose, CA 95135


120715-sanfelipe-hallwayBEDS:  4
SQ. FT.:  3,200
$/SQ. FT.:  $375
LOT SIZE:  1.72 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Contemporary
VIEW: Mountains, Neighborhood
COMMUNITY:  Evergreen
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81205455
SOURCE:  MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN:  155 days

Now is the time to buy this small ranch in the prestigious Evergreen Hills area. New entrance bridge makes a statement. Perfect for the horse-lover (tack room, barn and fencing) or person interested in exploring the possibility of subdivision. Lots of extras including BBQ area, dog run/kennel, covered patio and a hot tub.

120715-sanfelipe-fireplaceHere’s what Cam had to say about this um, very unique (snort) property:

Found this just after the meth lab post.

Pending soon? Agent even included photos of the chemical stains!

The link is to a Redfin forums discussion which links to this property, and also points out the same address is on the DEA seizure list.  The home was seized in August, 2010.  So it’s a pretty safe bet that this house is the real thing.  Except this is interesting as it went into foreclosure the previous February.

120715-sanfelipe-hottubYup, it’s an REO.  And you know what that means, right?  It means the seller (also known as the bank) doesn’t know squat about anything that happened in this house.

Check out the fireplace! More importantly, check out the chemical stains next to the fireplace! No wonder they didn’t dare show us what was cooking in the kitchen.

This reminds us of that huge meth lab bust in March (not this one, in an apartment, like for RENTERS).  We don’t know if this house was seized because the police were tracking down a stolen iPad and hit the jackpot, or if the bank deliberately planted some “bath salts” in the hot tub because they really wanted SOMEONE to take it off their hands.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

July 7, 2012

Was this home a Meth Lab?

Some of the homes we feature on Burbed are in craptacular shape.  They’re held together only by the termites hugging, or they’ve been exposed to weather, or pets ran amok without benefit of a dedicated rest area.

And we’ve even made jokes about homes that might have been meth labs.  But there’s a site out there that shows you what to look for in case a home really was used as a drug factory.  Let’s take a look at a web site devoted to the problem of buying a property and discovering it is uninhabitable due to former methamphetamine production.  Welcome to Meth Lab Homes.



The site was started by someone whose son unknowingly bought a Tennessee house that was a former meth lab.  (No Tennessee jokes, please.  Meth labs are found all over the United States, including the Bay Area.  Including the REAL Bay Area.)

So here, as a public service to all you househunters, are some ways to tell if the house you want to buy might have had a former life as a meth lab.  Thanks very much to Meth Lab Homes for the photos and initial guidance on identifying signs that a home was used to produce meth.

Since this is Burbed, we couldn’t help but add more advice.

Chemical Stains

120706-methlabs-stainsIt’s hard to make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and it’s hard to make meth without spilling some hydrochloric acid.  If you see floors or walls with stains like this, you may have found yourself in a meth lab.  Of course, if you see brand news floors or carpets, you may also be looking at a meth lab.  Burbed advises that you rip up all the carpets and floors to check.  You can never be too sure!

Burnt Grass or Plants

One way to avoid telltale meth cooking odors is to cook outdoors.  Even if the house had meth cooked inside, the chemicals may be dumped in the yard.  Any sign of burning probably means you’re looking at a meth lab, because no Californian would otherwise start a fire outdoors in a drought climate.


Kitty Litter

120706-methlab-kitty-litterMeth lab cooks use household kitty litter to absorb the chemicals they work with.  So if you see any sign of kitty litter in, around, or near a house, there’s a good chance it was a former meth lab.

They probably kept actual cats to mislead you, so don’t believe any excuses about the former owners being pet lovers.  Also pet urine does a fantastic job hiding any meth chemical odors, so be on the lookout and give your potential house a good sniff test.

Good Housekeeping

According to the website, meth users and makers don’t care about anything except meth.  Keeping the house clean and neat will not be a priority.  So if you see something like this when you inspect a home, the former owners or tenants were probably meth-heads.

120706-methlab-toiletDon’t believe nonsense about how engineers and software developers don’t care about hygiene.  Engineers and software developers don’t bother coming home to make a mess in the first place.

This is a great toilet shot.  We should send this one in to this website, as they seem to enjoy these kinds of pictures.

Bizarre Plumbing, Venting, and Electrical

120706-methlab-plumbingIf you’re considering a house and any of the pipes, vents, or electrical connections make you wonder if the contractor was on meth when putting them together, it’s a good bet you’re looking at a meth house.  Bizarre plumbing and venting could point to the need to keep telltale odors away from nosy neighbors.

If you find electrical outlets in places where nobody would want to plug in a television or a toaster, you may be looking at a meth lab.  Why else would anyone need an outlet in a garage?

Buy yourself a brand new condo instead.  Trust us, it will produce much fewer headaches.

Covered and/or Painted Windows

120706-methlab-windowMeth lab operators don’t want attention, and often cover or paint all windows near operations.  If you tour a house and see covered or painted-over windows, RUN, do not walk away.

You do realize that by “covered windows” we most certainly do mean draperies, curtains, blinds, and shades.  Remember, only people who live in glass houses have nothing to hide.  A covered window means a damaged homelife!

Glass and Plastic Containers

120706-methlab-containersMeth is produced in containers, usually in glass or plastic.  If you find any glassware or plastic bottles in a house you are considering, there’s an excellent chance you’re looking at a former meth lab.

Be sure to check all cabinets for any sign of glasses or plastic bottles.  Don’t be fooled by bottles with liquids in them.  Meth lab operators will fill their empties to lull buyers into a false sense of home security.

Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger!

Just about every house you consider could have been a meth lab at one point.  To be absolutely 100% sure you are not moving into a dangerous, chemically-infested hellhole, we suggest that if you must purchase a used home, that you burn the entire structure and grounds to fully consume all latent chemical byproducts.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

March 31, 2012

Is there a Grow House in your ‘hood?

120330-31st-growhouseRecently, there was a rather notable marijuana bust in San Mateo that netted 530 plants, due to a tip from a “concerned citizen.”  Every one of us probably has some kind of self-appointed concerned citizen living in our neighborhoods, and it’s thanks to people like them that we can discover there’s a pot house in an otherwise quiet, suburban subdivision.

Like this one.  Someone recently updated the Redfin record despite it not changing hands in nine years.


Check out the neighborhood, courtesy of Zillow.  This does not look like the meth district.  And the house isn’t just on the West side of El Camino, it’s on the West side of Alameda.  And on the Peninsula, West means more prestige, more appeal, and more Real.  If any part of San Mateo is going to aspire to Real Bay Areahood, this is a good place to start looking.


The local San Mateo Patch has some helpful hints on how you too can be a concerned citizen and rat your neighbors out for running a grow house.  Here’s how to tell what they’re up to:

Manheimer and Alcantara encourage the help of citizens in locating neighborhood grow sites. Each suggested some indicators that there might be an operation in your neighborhood.

"You’d hear whirring noises," says Alcantara, "because they need to have filtration inside the house. They need to get the oxygen out, and the carbon dioxide in for the plants, so they have filtration systems set up.

120330-31st-minivanYes, definitely call 911 at the first sign of a ceiling fan.  Those fiendish fixtures are a gateway appliance to high-energy lamps.  Here are some more tips from the San Mateo police:

  • Infrequent visits by individuals who stay for a couple hours and then leave.

Because everyone knows that suburban get-togethers last all the livelong day.

  • Lights in the house appear to be regulated, and on timers. Sometimes, rooms inside seem perpetually lit.

120330-31st-remodelI wonder who it was who suggested putting lights on timers (see Home Safety).

  • Initial construction and the noise that comes from that work.

Because nothing says grow house like noise from contractors.

  • A "skunky" marijuana odor, and other odors, such as those from mothballs, air fresheners or chlorine, which are used in an attempt to mask the marijuana smell.

120330-31st-cleanerIn fact, call 911 if you smell anything other than the approved chocolate chip cookie dough used during Open Houses.

  • Unusual garbage strewn across lawn. Items used for growing marijuana, such as wiring, PVC piping and nutrient containers, may be discarded and left around the house.

So that’s why we’re seeing so many nominations for the Burbed Good Housekeeping Tag of Approval.

  • Windows covered in dark plastic or newspaper.

Better have them check out the goth teen across the street for the blackout curtains, too.

  • 120330-31st-fenceExtra security, such as guard dogs, fences, or cars loitering for long periods of time.

Remember the words of Robert Frost: Bad neighbors make good fences.

Let us know about any questionable signs your neighbor is running something nefarious, or any interesting things you see when touring Open Houses.  This is an Open Thread, so open up.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

January 27, 2012

This house blue me away

What’s this, another find from the East Bay?  Yes, we’re back in El Cerrito, courtesy of Burbed reader Becca.  This may not be the Real Bay Area, but the house is definitely Burbed-worthy.  Read on to find out why.

1120 Lawrence Ct
El Cerrito, CA 94530


BATHS: 2.5
SQ. FT.: 1,992
$/SQ. FT.: $204
LOT SIZE: 4,200 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Contemporary, Fixer/Handyman Special
COUNTY: Contra Costa
MLS#: 40554395
STATUS: Pending
ON REDFIN: 44 days

Submit all offers- seller wants this sold NOW!! Large home on quiet court. This home has lots of potential with great floor plan. Some finsh work and updating will really make this shine. Buyer responsible for all compliance issues- property sold "As-Is". $75 buyer doc fee at COE.

120126-lawrence-livroomHere’s why Becca thought this house was worth looking into:

I’ve been reading Burbed for a while, and I was happy to see that you featured something in my neck of the woods today.  If you care to show another house in El Cerrito, this one has some interesting attributes:

This one was listed earlier this spring for ~$600k, cash only, and the description of the house mentioned that it had been a "pot house".  I don’t know if the hideous blue color all over everything helps the plants grow faster.

No luck recovering a cached version of the one hit I got for this address and “pot house.”


120126-lawrence-backyardLooks like the back yard would suit just fine.  Although it’s what’s behind the back yard that made this place so well-suited for its former function.

Remember that house we just featured in San Mateo?  What’s a bug for a residence is a feature for a grow house! 

Feast your eyes on the satellite shot!  There’s no way this blue beauty is subject to any power outages!


Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:51 am

August 14, 2011

Transient Guests Trash Short-Term Subleases

imageY Combinator isn’t all smart phone apps and hardware gizmos. One of their startups was a firm called Airbnb, for Air Bed ‘n Breakfast.  You could rent out short-term space on an air mattress or sofa, or rent out most or all of your home while you were elsewhere.

The firm had plenty of positive buzz until it got whacked with the chainsaw of crappily-handled crisis: a malicious set of renters who deliberately trashed a host’s San Francisco apartment, smashed into a locked closet, stole her jewelry and private papers, and wrote her emails every day saying how much they enjoyed her apartment., The host, who goes by EJ, blogged about the horrible experience coupled with the complete unwillingness by Airbnb to take any responsibility for this calamity, and called out the firm’s meaningless gladhanding.  While a well-funded firm with celebrity backers might be able to bat aside one plucky woman with a Blogger site, they couldn’t so easily ignore a widely-read tech journalist who would not drop the story or accept the firm’s whitewashing of the events.

imageIt’s always a great idea for a new business to take a rightfully angry customer with grounds for a tremendous lawsuit and try to intimidate them because you’re worried this could impact your funding.  You can’t buy publicity like this!

TechCrunch has been covering the Airbnb Stupidity Saga pretty thoroughly, so you can check it all out there.  Because of their coverage, another not-so-satisfied Airbnb host wrote in and he sent pictures (these are his pictures, not the other hapless host above).  Looks like he drew another Airbnb short straw and ended up with some meth-heads in his place.  This is what they did to his bathroom door.  He thinks they used an axe.

imageAnd here’s one of the many meth pipes they left all around his Oakland apartment.  As Troy the unfortunate host wrote:

In addition to valuables stolen, the thieves/addicts did thousands of dollars of bizarre damage to my rented home and left it littered with meth pipes. They were identity thieves, too and all my personal information was strewn about. Further investigation of my own led me to evidence that the people were not just thieves but were also dangerous. I too, feared for my own safety and would not stay at my house for some time.

I had a similar problem with haphazard communication from people at AirBnB. I gave them multiple opportunities to make me a happy customer to which they did but then retracted their offer after their was miscommunication among the team. Sometimes days went by without hearing from anyone, while I was fear-stricken, totally disoriented, and angry. It was almost the most absurd customer service crisis one could ever imagine. But I am one squeaky wheel, and we eventually found an agreeable solution that I was generally pleased with.

Although this all happened almost a month and a half ago, it wasn’t until this Monday that Airbnb announced that they were making some changes in their booking policies, and, incidentally, apologized to EJ for their mismanglement.

This is an open thread.  Let us know if you see any meth pipes when you look at Open Houses today.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:35 am

May 11, 2006

$697,000 for a meth "super lab" in East Palo Alto

So I saw this article the other day:

EAST PALO ALTO / Hospital setup found during meth lab bust / Medical tools may have been intended for injured criminals
An East Palo Alto home where police found a “super” drug lab last week also housed an elaborate hospital-like operation — stocked with thousands of dollars in medical equipment, surgical tools and supplies — that authorities believe was to be used to treat injured criminals.

The top floor of the Runnymede Street home was filled with “boxes upon boxes upon boxes” of medical supplies and contained a room equipped with a hospital bed, fresh linens, scalpels, IV stands and surgical tools, according to Lt. Tom Alipio of the East Palo Alto police department.

“It was set up just like a hospital room,” said Alipio, who said a second room was in the process of being set up. “We found a kit that a surgeon would use to reassemble a joint — like a hip or a shoulder.”

So I found myself wondering… “Gosh! How much does a meth super lab/hospital cost these days?” Fortunately, with some simple sleuthing, I was able to find the address and this ZEstimate:

Zillow.com – xxx Runnymede St, East Palo Alto, CA 94303

Residence: Single family
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 1.0
Total rooms: 5.0
# Stories:
Sq ft: 760
Lot size: 18,768 sq ft / 0.43 acres
Year built: 1935

Hey! Wow… 760 sqft sounds small. Fortunately, the article provides more details…

Alipio, who said the items appeared to have been stockpiled to treat gunshot or chemical wounds, said everything appeared brand-new, but he couldn’t be sure if the room had been used to treat any patients.

Alipio said he was stunned by the sheer volume of the items, which he said would fill a semi-trailer truck.

“This goes above and beyond the taking of a garbage bag or a bottle of soap,” said Alipio.

Investigators said wounded criminals could use such a place to avoid going to regular hospitals, which are required to report suspected criminals to authorities.

The room and supplies were discovered in the upstairs front unit of a house that had been divided into three units and also contained a drug lab that had been fortified with concrete cinder blocks, steel doors and metal bars. The entire property had been wired with an elaborate security camera system that police said was not being monitored at the time of the raid.

A single mother of five young children had been living in the back of the home at the time of the raid but was not connected to the drug operation, police said.

Hey! That sounds like a lot of livable space! And its prewired for security! Keep your eye out for this jewel when it shows up in court. Could be a good buy!

Click here to post a comment -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:00 am