As Canada starts a brave new world with the legalization of cannabis, we have to remind all property owners about the dangers of residual smoke and its impact on market value. Here are a few things to think about:
Most buyers aren’t smokers: Only about 20% of adult Canadians smoke tobacco and non-smokers are very sensitive to residual smoking odours and shun properties that exhibit a long term smoking habit. We have had buyers enter properties for showings or open houses, who immediately turned around and left the property after smelling cigarette smoke. These non-smokers will be equally not interested in a property with a heavy cannabis smoke residue.
Ambient odour often unknown to owners: As with many other household odours, the degree of smoke smell may be under appreciated or even unknown to those who live there every day, as one gets accustomed to it.
This is why buyers entering a property for the first time should “listen to their nose” upon first entering a property, as this is the best time to detect potentially out of bounds smells. A damp basement is usually a giveaway from the first moment of entering, for example. After a few minutes, however, our perception adjusts and the odour is not as prevalent at a cognitive level.
Hard to remove: Long term smoking in a property is not easily or inexpensively remedied and buyers will either walk away completely or very much de-value a potential property, to facilitate the remediation.
Growing personal marijuana: 4 plants per household should not create a major mould worry but will people stop with 4 plants? The “grow op” stigma created over the last few decades will be a tough one to shake and even if legal, we suggest those selling remove any and all plants and materials from their property prior to listing. Why turn off even one buyer?
Don’t think it is OK to smoke in the garage: Many wisely smoke outdoors but just as many feel that smoking in the garage is OK. Doesn’t help much with most buyers in our opinion, so smoke outdoors or better yet, not at all. This applies equally to tobacco and cannabis.
Stigma remains: Hopefully, your neighbours are not big smokers, either-as this may scare away many buyers also. Though this may fade as legalization moves forward, the stigma attached to cannabis smoke odour will impact sellers and buyers for some time.
Renters and medical marijuana users: These are two legal battlegrounds we can expect to see unfold in the coming months/years with legalization. This will be an interesting challenge for both investor owners and corporate rental building owners and managers.
Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Oasis Realty Brokerage