Buyer beware: Signs of pest issues to know when buying a new home

Rose Smuller

Early autumn with modern residential single family home

Buying a home can be exciting and somewhat stressful. When touring potential homes, many home-buyers focus on cosmetic changes they want to make in their new home. However, they may not be aware of more serious issues lurking beneath the surface: pest problems.

Some pests, such as termites, rodents, and wildlife, can cause severe and costly damage to homes. Pests can also carry health risks: cockroaches, mice, rats, stinging pests, and fire ants are just a few examples. It’s important to know what to look for when it comes to identifying potential pest issues to avoid having to take care of a problem later.

According to the National Pest Management Association, at any given time, approximately 29% of American homes are experiencing a pest infestation. While the occasional insect guest can happen in any home, you may want to have more serious pest concerns resolved before you buy – and some may be serious enough for you to consider not making a purchase.

It can be difficult to spot pest issues – some pests are too small to see or live in areas that may be difficult to access. That’s why it’s important to know signs that may indicate a more serious problem.

Use a qualified home inspector, or ask your realtor if having a pest inspection done before you make your decision is an option.

How to spot signs of potential pest issues:


  • Look for mud tubes on the exterior foundation, along basement walls, or in crawl spaces – they are easy to spot with the naked eye
  • Weakened or hollow-sounding wood: termites typically feed on wood beneath the surface making the structure sound hollow when you knock or tap it.
  • Exterior damage: Decks and wooden fence posts in the garden are at great risk of termites

Rodents and wildlife

  • Both mice and rats leave droppings behind
  • Listen for scratching noises coming from under the floor or behind walls.
  • Check for signs of rodent nests in cabinets, pantries, and behind appliances
  • Chewed or gnawed wiring may also indicate a problem with rodents or wildlife

Insects (common pests include cockroaches and ants)

  • Live or dead insects could indicate a problem
  • When outside, look for openings or gaps that insects could use access to gain entry to the home – anything larger than ¼-inch is a cause for concern
  • Fire ant mounds are another issue to watch for in yards
  • Bee, wasp, and hornet nests attached to the home or in the yard may be abandoned, depending on the time of year; if they make you uncomfortable, contact a professional to have them removed

Carpenter ants

  • Carpenter ants will look for softened wood to infest; if you notice signs of wet or moisture damaged wood, it may be a good idea to have a pest inspection done before buying
  • These pests can hollow out wood, similar to termites, which can be costly to repair
  • Carpenter ants are larger than most ants – about ¼-inch to ½-inch in size – and black in color
  • In areas where carpenter ants are active, you may notice piles of what looks like sawdust near their entry holes

Bed bugs typically aren’t an issue for new homes, but if you are purchasing a townhome or condominium unit that shares walls with neighbors, be aware that your risk of bed bug issues could increase.

If you can’t decide whether or not to purchase your dream home, call a pest professional. The local pest control experts at Ehrlich are here to identify any potential pest issues. Getting a professional evaluation will give you a better idea of what can be done to eliminate existing pest issues and keep your new home pest-free for a long time to come.

Rose Smuller
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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