Causing panic amongst home owners, buyers, sellers, and realtors alike is the nuisance pest, bed bugs. Reports have been increasing dramatically nationwide and have left the population in a constant state of worry of bringing them into homes. Since the late 90s and early 2000s, the presence of bed bugs has become much more prominent and this due to increased travel, a trend to seek antique second hand furniture, increased population density, and the lack of dealing with infestations when they are present. Because they are considered an “equal-opportunity” pest, anybody can get bed bugs. Infestations have occurred in million dollar homes and in 100 year old apartment buildings. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not attracted to filth or dirt. Although, we can be thankful for the fact that they are not known to carry any diseases, but they do cause terrible discomfort both mentally and physically.
Why are bed bugs a problem for real estate agents?
Bed bugs are elusive and can be difficult to spot even for the most experienced bed bug exterminator. Which makes spotting an early infestation an obstacle for the common eye. This leads to cases of a bed bug infestation not becoming present during a sale, or even worse, having it appear after a sale. This could lead to a seller getting sued for unknowing (or knowingly not disclosing) giving a new property owner or renter a bed bug infestation.
It is important to minimize the likelihood of legal action by taking preventative measures against bed bugs. Arming yourself with information, legal documents, and doing a bed bug inspection before marketing a residence could save you what could be thousands of dollars in legal fees.
How do you spot a bed bug infestation?
Bed bugs are very hard to find if you are unfamiliar with identification and habits, so it is more beneficial to have a professional bed bug exterminator inspect the property. But as a realtor when you are evaluating the home, it would be advantageous to know whether you should call a professional. There are several alarming or rather discreet signs that a home may have bed bugs:
- Molted skins that appear clear yellow or white in color
- Fecal spots that appear as little black dots
- Musty odors that are similar to the smell of dirty, wet clothing that has been sitting out
- Live bed bugs
- Blood smears
These signs of bed bugs are typically found in the following locations throughout a property:
- Mattresses and box spring seams
- Wooden or upholstered furniture
- Drawer joints
- Loose wallpaper
- Electrical outlets
What if there is a bed bug infestation in the house I am selling?
If a home has bed bugs, it is not off the table in terms of selling. Start with a simple discussion with the homeowner to seek proper bed bug extermination. With proper extermination techniques, like a bed bug heat treatment, the bed bugs can be eradicated in just one day with no chemical residue. Once the bed bugs are completely eradicated from a home, there is no risk of potential buyers bringing them back to their home or having them in their new one.
Eliminating a bed bug infestation before marketing a property reduces the risk of any lawsuits occurring based on the implied warranty of habitability (IWH) which states that when a person rents or buys a home, it should be safe enough for human use.
Do I have to disclose that the property use to or has bed bugs?
In the State of Ohio, a seller is required to disclose all defects on the property that have occurred in the past 5 years. Although the words “bed bug” are never disclosed on the formal document, it does state “material defect”, which is any problem that would affect the value or the decision to purchase the home. We are not licensed attorneys or lawyers and are not in any way licensed to give legal advice, but it is recommended to always disclose if there were any previous or is a bed bug infestation (under section N). This can also be relevant to any other pests, such as termites or carpenter ants. This will prevent any buyer coming after the seller or realtor after a property exchange claiming that there were bed bugs, which can be costly to get rid of.
Residential property disclosures vary from state to state. If you have any questions regarding real estate and bed bugs, it is important to speak to a licensed attorney, agent, or your states department of housing.
If you are selling a home that you believe has bed bugs in the Cleveland, OH area, call Bed Bug BBQ at (216) 221- 1227 or visit us on our website. We have numerous articles to help you with identification, prevention, and bed bug extermination.