Often a real estate agent will call us saying they have a client who is looking to buy or sell a house and rodent droppings were found during the home inspection. The buyer still wants to buy and the seller wants to sell but they want a professional opinion on the situation.
When Rob Grzelka found a home to buy in the Syracuse, NY, area, his disclosure form told him all was in good working order. But the inspection didn't reveal that the place had long sat empty, or that winged creatures had made the house their home.
"We moved into a home with hundreds of bats living in the attic ceiling insulation," he says. The home inspector didn't detect them -- he didn't check behind the insulation -- and the disclosure form didn't mention them. "It went undetected until a bat made its way downstairs," Grzelka says. The bill from the pest removal company ran more than $2,600.
While it can be convenient to buy and move into a home that's already been vacated by its owners, as you can see, problems can arise if it's been empty too long. Infestation of furry creatures is just one hazard. Vacant homes are especially prone to leaks and floods and may require costly improvements, including new appliances or, say, guano cleanup.
Before deciding on a dwelling that no one's inhabited for a while, keep these potential problems in mind -- and their solutions.
The problem: Plumbing is a vacant house's vulnerable spot, says Jason Shank, training director of Cleveland Plumbing Industry. Instead of turning off water and draining and treating pipes to prevent catastrophic fractures, many absentee homeowners will simply shut off the water at a toilet or sink valve.
It sounds like the right thing, but it nearly ensures that the person who next opens that valve will be mopping. Each plumbing fixture's valve, gasket, or hose needs water to stay pliable. If it dries out, "the seal will crack and will not be able to do its job," says Shank. Once the valve opens and the water turns on, a leak or flood will likely follow.
The pipes can also dry out, crack, and wreak the same havoc. "The water pressure can cause extreme bursts and flooding throughout your home," says Shank.
The fix: Make sure all water and valves are turned -- and left -- on for several days before a home inspection. Your inspector will get a good sense of potential problems, so you can avoid paying for a pricey plumbing repair or water damage.
The problem: Appliances in an empty home can also take a hit.
"The valves in dishwashers can get stuck in the closed position when they sit around unused for weeks on end," says Shank. Once you turn that water on again, watch out: You might face a leak, a flood, or at least the need for a replacement.
The fix: Since it's hard to know for how long an appliance has been sleeping, try negotiating the purchase price to reflect the need for a new dishwasher, washing machine, and refrigerator with ice and/or water features.
The problem: Long-unused faucets can be drippy, instead of free-flowing, once the water is turned back on, says Shank.
If the home's pipes are galvanized steel, there's a good chance that scaly minerals in the water have built up inside the pipes. When water has been off for a while and then turned back on, the deposits may prevent water from flowing at normal velocity.
"The resulting clogs or blockages to all or part of the water system may be very difficult to remove," he says.
The fix: If the faucet spits and sputters or the flow is drastically reduced, Shank suggests turning the water on and running both the hot and cold at each plumbing fixture to clear any air from the system. Then turn off the faucets and remove the aerator (the screen disc) from each fixture and clean it if there's visible debris. Run the faucet without the aerator to flush the system, and then replace it.
The problem: Over time, a home without humans can become a refuge for many woodland creatures. Squirrels who have access to the roof from unpruned branches can chew access holes that they -- and many of their critter counterparts -- use as a revolving door. They can also chew insulation and wiring, and, as Grzelka found out, they can be hard to detect.
"We have found dead mice and rats and a live mother possum feeding her two babies in attics," says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration company in Rockville, MD.
The fix: Many pest removal companies offer pest inspection services to spot infestations and other animal-related problems. And even though it's a few unplanned hundred dollars, that extra set of eyes could spare you thousands later.
While the effects of a foreclosure are obviously most devastating to the homeowners and their family, neighbors can also be impacted.
For one, a foreclosure can drive down the value of the rest of the homes in a neighborhood. In addition, a foreclosed home that is empty and uncared for can attract a variety of pests, including termites, spiders, ants, mosquitoes, stinging insects and rodents. An overgrown or unkempt yard, for example, can harbor many more pests than a well-groomed one. In addition, a foreclosed home is more likely to be in need of repairs to the structure. Small holes in siding, rips in screens, broken window glass and cracks in foundation provide easy access inside for pests.
Pests find that an empty house makes a great home for them - providing shelter and even food (in the form of other pests, crumbs, abandoned pantry items and decaying material) and water (from leaky pipes, toilet bowls and standing water). Once these pests find their way into a foreclosed home, it is only a matter of time before the population grows and offspring venture out, seeking food and shelter in other homes on the block.
A rodent infestation is especially likely to spread from a foreclosed home to other nearby houses. As it is, rodents invade an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. each winter, and with rapid reproduction rates (a female house mouse, for example, can give birth to up to a dozen babies every three weeks) a small infestation can quickly spread to neighboring homes. Rats, on the other hand, can travel up to a mile in a single night. They are also known as exceptional diggers and often build intricate systems, called burrows, which allow them to travel around a neighborhood undetected.
Once rodents do invade a home, they can pose serious health and property risks. Rodents contaminate food and spread diseases like Hantavirus, a viral disease that can be contracted through direct contact with, or inhalation of, aerosolized infected rodent urine, saliva, or droppings. They can also carry and spread fleas, which can pose serious health risks to family pets. Additionally, rodents can pose a significant property risk as they have a tendency to destroy insulation in attics and gnaw wiring, causing up to 25 percent of house fires in the U.S.
Unfortunately, if a house in your neighborhood is under foreclosure, there is little that you can do to prevent pests from infesting that home. But there are many steps that you, as a homeowner, can take to prevent those pests from finding their way into your home. Your first step should be to contact a licensed pest professional who will be able to determine what types of pest infestations your neighborhood is most at risk for, and recommend a prevention plan to help keep your home pest-free. Of course, any pest prevention plan works most effectively when a homeowner carefully follows the recommendations of their pest control professional and follows simple pest-proofing tips.
If you're noticing a rodent issue please contact a Professional pest control company such as Rodent Solutions for rodent removal in your Sarasota and/or Bradenton Home and/or Office. - Call 941-704-0063