Just because you don’t see rodents and bugs during an open house doesn’t mean they’re not there. Instead of obsessing over the floors and gazing at crown molding, keep an eye out for signs of a potential pest problem. Knowing what to look for when it comes to droppings, holes and damages will lower your chances of buying a house with critters and creepy crawlies.
1. Examine the Foundations
Before entering the home, examine its exterior. Mud tubes along the foundation are often a sign of termites, which cause more than $5 million in property damage each year. Meanwhile, holes in the wood can signify a carpenter bee or ant infestation. If you don’t address these pests immediately, they can weaken the foundation and infiltrate the home.
While you’re sweeping the perimeter, look for holes, scratch marks and other signs of burrowing around the foundation. These signs are a red flag that there’s a bigger pest around like a possum, raccoon or squirrel.
2. Scan the Room
Once you’ve determined the home is worth your time, you can begin inspecting the inside. Immediately scan each room as you enter it, keeping an eye out for any pests that might try to scurry away to hide — after all, that would indicate an extreme problem you can discuss with your agent.
Inquire as to whether the owners know about the pests and collect any information you can on past attempts to rid the house of these unwanted guests. Use your eyewitness account as a bargaining chip to stipulate extermination before you close on the home, too.
3. Look for Spots and Stains
Keep an eye out for spots while touring the home. Often, fecal matter from bugs and rodents will show up as brown or black spots on the floors, walls and even furniture. These spots can also be red if you’re dealing with hungry bed bugs that can cost thousands to get rid of.
Look for stains on the carpet and walls that can signal an infestation, too. Many bugs will excrete liquid to let their relatives know where they’re headed, leaving stains on furniture, flooring and more. Meanwhile, mice and rats will leave larger urine stains, which can smell and be just as impossible to eradicate as the vermin themselves.
4. Inspect Baseboards
Don’t let those vaulted ceilings steal your attention. Remember to check out the baseboards, too. Rodents will chew holes where the wall meets the floor to easily travel from room to room. These openings might not be any bigger than a quarter, so be sure to inspect every nook and cranny before declaring the home free of pests.
Woodworms, camel crickets, wasps and other insects also like to dine on wooden parts of houses, including baseboards. Like rodents, these pests may create holes. However, they can also leave behind less obvious shreds of evidence like wood shavings, eggs, wings, casings and excretions.
5. Breathe Deep
Some homeowners have a knack for hiding their pests. However, not many people can hide the smell of an infestation. Whether it be urine from the rodents or an oily stench coming from cockroaches, you’ll usually be able to detect a certain stench that can clue you into pests.
Take a few deep breaths in each room and closet you enter. Even the faintest whiff of musty odors can signal a serious pest problem. If you can’t put your finger on the smell, it could also mean mold or mildew, which are equally problematic and costly to clean up.
Hire an Inspector During Your Home Search
If you’re unsure whether or not there are pests in your potential home, hiring an inspector can set the record straight. Before shelling out the cash yourself, ask the seller to conduct an inspection. Some counties and states will require them to conduct one before their home closes anyway. Either way, it’s wise to ensure there aren’t any creatures dwelling in and destroying your future home.