Budding Trend: Foreclosed Homes Converted to Pot Gardens

The housing market isn't the only thing that's gone to pot in Las Vegas.

With the foreclosure crisis in high gear, some enterprising residents are converting vacant homes into marijuana grow sites, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In one raid, Vegas police discovered 61 plants in a recently foreclosed four-bedroom home. In another, they confiscated 878 plants worth approximately $2.6 million.

The budding trend's growth coincides with the city's wildly speculative housing boom and subsequent bust. In 2005, when home prices were still rising, there were 18 recorded pot sites and 1,000 confiscated plants in the state. In 2010, police raided 153 indoor operations and nabbed 13,000 plants, according to the Times.

Search Homes for Sale Browse through photos of millions of home listings or search for rentals In October, one in every 180 homes in Nevada received a foreclosure filing -- more than three times the national average of one in 563, says RealtyTrac, a foreclosure analytics company. In large part due to the foreclosure backlog, property value in Las Vegas dropped from $317 per square foot in 2006 to $138 per square foot in 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Vacant homes, as we previously reported, fall prey to grifters of all stripes. In Bay Shore, N.Y., a couple found themselves the victims of a criminal trifecta -- squatters, scammers and thieves. While Richard and Lisa Scott waited for their bank to approve short sale offers on their foreclosed home, the property was vandalized by squatters, fraudulently rented out on Craigslist and finally stripped of its copper plumbing by robbers.

And even when no criminal activity is involved, vacant homes are vulnerable to another threat: mold. In humid states like Florida -- which, incidentally, also teems with foreclosures -- vacant homes can succumb to the effects of mold and mildew in a matter of weeks, and the damage can quickly add up.

There are, however, at least a few rare instances in which vacant homes yield pleasant surprises. While making repairs to a home in Florida, a plumber discovered $20,000 hidden in an air duct. It turns out that the previous owner, a widow with an apparent aversion to banking, took to hiding cash in the home for her next of kin. The altruistic plumber turned the money over to the police.

See also:
Vacant House Yields Late Owner's Stash of Cash
Vacant Home Targeted By Squatters, Scammers and Thieves

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