If it seems as if bedbugs are everywhere in the media it is because they are just about everywhere in the United States. The bedbug menace many decades ago was reduced to just being the subject of a cute song kids sang before going to bed thanks to better pesticides and sanitary conditions. However, the prohibition on the use of DDT and the resilient evolution of bedbugs to have thicker shells and improved nerve centers means that they are back, with a vengeance.
Why should real estate professionals care about bedbugs?
First, they can be in any building. Apartments are usually one’s first thought, but they are found in day centers, theaters, office buildings, hospitals, schools, laundromats, college dorms, and on public transportation, not to mention homes. Bedbugs are not just found in low rent districts either. Liz Claiborne, Inc.’s Juicy Couture boutique on Fifth Avenue in NYC was closed for a period of time to treat a bedbug infestation in early December.
Second, if you are purchasing a building or a residence, it is important to know that bedbugs are a serious problem. Bedbugs do bite and they are very difficult to eradicate.
Third, many treatments are necessary. The most effective treatment for bedbugs appears to be thermal heat at a temperature that kills the bedbugs, larva and eggs. A HEPA vacuum system is used to remove them. Several treatments will be needed and periodic re-inspections are important to make sure that future generations of the initial infestation do not flourish.
Fourth, bedbugs are an expensive problem. A Taft client recently purchased a vintage 60 unit apartment building in Indianapolis and discovered a few days prior to closing that many of the units had bedbugs. The cost to eradicate the bedbugs? About $50,000, nearly $1,000 per unit. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate a credit against the purchase price for the cost of the treatment program (but it wasn’t easy). Exterminating bedbugs in a residence usually costs several thousand dollars and the price will vary depending upon the square footage of the home and the level of infestation.
So, what is a person to do?
- Have the property you are considering purchasing inspected for bedbugs by a qualified professional. Bedbugs are difficult to detect with the naked eye and prefer to come out at night so an inspector could miss them.
- Include a clean bedbug inspection as a condition precedent to closing on the purchase of the property.
- If the property is infested, obtain several estimates for treatments. Ask the exterminators for references. Eradicating bedbugs is not an exact science and you need someone who knows what they are doing.
- To be on the safe side, have the property inspected periodically. The smaller the infestation, the easier and cheaper it is to get rid of it.