Spotting pest issues when buying a home

Buyers market: spotting pest issues when buying a home

When it comes to major purchases, there’s nothing more exciting than buying a new home. The new home search is filled with plenty of decisions and “watch outs.” However, most new home buyers rarely think about pests. Pest problems can be lurking beneath the surface – and knowing what to look for could help you avoid expensive repairs and treatments after you’ve signed on the dotted line.

Termites are likely the one issue that home buyers DO take precautions against, often having inspections done ahead of time. And for good reason: the average cost of termite damage repair in the U.S. is $2,500. But, other pests, such as rodents and wildlife, can cause severe and costly damage to homes.

Even more scary: pests including cockroaches, mice, rats, stinging pests, and fire ants can have serious human health impacts, ranging from allergies and asthma to life-threatening stings. Others, such as bed bugs, can bite and be extremely costly to eliminate.

We’ve all spotted the occasional pest in our home from time to time, but if you’re considering buying a home, you want to make sure that more serious pest issues are resolved before you buy. According to the National Pest Management Association, nearly one-third of U.S. homes are experiencing a pest infestation any given moment. As you go about your home buying process, don’t be afraid to ask about the history of pest problems in the home.

Pests are experts at hiding and often choose to infest areas that are out of the way or even hidden from view. Although spotting pests may be difficult, warning signs are often in plain sight. Here are a few that you can look for when touring potential new homes.

Looking for potential pest issues:

Insects (i.e. cockroaches and ants)

  • Look for live or dead insects
  • Openings or gaps on the exterior of the home could give insects easy access – look for anything larger than ¼-inch
  • Don’t forget the yard: large ant mounds could signal fire ants
  • Stinging pests nests attached to the home or in the yard; look up in high trees, under overhangs on the structure, etc.; some nests may not be active, but you could ask to have anything removed that makes you uncomfortable


  • Mud tubes on the foundation, along basement walls, or in crawl spaces
  • Weak or hollow-sounding wood: termites typically feed on wood beneath the surface making the structure sound hollow when you knock or tap it
  • Yard damage: Decks and wooden fence posts in the garden may reveal problems
  • Western can perform real estate inspections for termites. Contact us for more information

Carpenter ants

  • Carpenter ants will attack wood softened by moisture, so be on the lookout for signs of moisture damage
  • These pests can hollow out wood, similar to termites, which can be costly to repair
  • They’re big – carpenter ants are approximately ¼-inch to ½-inch long and a deep black color
  • In areas where carpenter ants are active, you may notice piles of what looks like sawdust near their entry holes

Mice, rats and wildlife

  • Droppings: mice and rodents leave behind tell-tale pellet droppings
  • Scratching noises, especially behind walls, or in floors or ceilings
  • Gnawed wiring
  • Open cabinets, pantries, and look behind appliances for any of these signs

Bed bugs are not as likely to be an issue in homes that are for sale. Infestations typically leave with belongings (beds, sofas, etc.). However, if you are purchasing a townhome or condominium that shares walls with other units, you could ask the property management about previous bed bug problems.

Your best bet is to use a qualified home inspector. Ask them to let you know of any potential pest problems or conditions that may be conducive to pest issues, such as moisture leaks. You can also ask your realtor if it is possible to have Western inspect your potential new home before you buy. This will ensure that you can keep your new home free of pests for many years to come.

Rose Smuller

As a Marketing Manager for Rentokil North America, Rose manages e-communications for residential pest control services. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with friends and spoiling her niece and nephew.

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