DEAR BERNICE: We have our house on the market. We currently live on a greenbelt and love the sense of being away from the hustle of the city, but still being reasonably close to all the services in town. Recently, we have started hearing noises in the wall at night. I’m afraid that we have some rats or mice that are living in our walls. One of our neighbors tried putting out traps, but that didn’t work. The rats just grabbed the bait out of the trap. We don’t want to put out any poison since we have young children. We understand we may have to tent the house for termites, so that would take care of the problem then. We don’t want to have to tent the house, however, unless we have to. Is there another way to get rid of these pests? –Denise D.
DEAR DENISE: Being on a greenbelt is great. It can also pose a host of problems caused by being next to natural habitat. One of the most common issues is that rats, mice, squirrels and even raccoons may decide to take up residence in your home. For example, while my in-laws were away, a raccoon had climbed in through their chimney and pretty much destroyed three rooms in their house.
Sometimes it’s tempting to ignore that rustling inside your walls. I can appreciate that you may not want to deal with this until after your property is sold. The last thing you want, however, is to have someone walking through your home and seeing mousetraps or even worse, rat droppings.
Ignoring this problem can be costly. Rodents can chew through your wiring and cause a fire. Also, even if the rodents don’t cause any damage, in most states you still are required to disclose that there is noise in the walls. Worst of all, mouse droppings can carry the deadly hantavirus. You can contract the virus simply by cleaning up the droppings. If you discover any droppings, make sure you wear a mask and gloves when you do the cleanup.
Your best bet will be to contact a professional exterminator, especially if you’re not certain about what is living in your walls. Just putting traps on the floor may not work since rodents are pretty smart. They can grab the food from the side of the trap and not get caught. An article from Move.com suggested hanging the trap on the wall. Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of traps. There is, however, one other solution that is worth trying.
Several years ago I was staying at a friend’s townhouse in California while she was spending the winter in the desert. Like you, she was on a greenbelt. I loved how quiet it was at night. A couple of months into my stay, I started hearing rustling in the walls at night. It was quiet during the day, but the noise was coming from about 2 feet away from my bed. It kept me up most of the night. But she couldn’t call an exterminator because the problem was in the interior walls. That meant that it had to be handled by the homeowners association. We didn’t want to use traps because the bait would attract hordes of ants.
After several sleepless nights, I remembered reading a study that showed that rats would flee from rap music. My friend had a big boom box. I placed it next to the source of the noise, tuned it to a local rap station, pumped up the volume, and headed off to work. Nothing was going to sleep through that. Best of all, it worked beautifully — no more noise that night. I repeated the process the next day just to make sure the rats knew that the rap music was going to be a regular part of living there.
However you choose to treat the problem, do everything possible to prevent animals from entering your home. Inspect the windows, doors and other openings to make sure that everything is properly sealed. If you are on a raised foundation, check the screens around the crawl spaces. Make sure they are tightly secured. Also check the roof to make sure all the screens on the chimneys and vents are undamaged.
Finally, you also need to check with your real estate agent about the nature of the disclosures you must make to your buyer. You may be required to disclose that you have had rodent problems in the past, even if you have eliminated the problem. The most important thing to do is to take action. This is one time where a seemingly small problem can turn into something much more serious.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.
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