When you buy a home, you want all of the previous residents to move out, including pests.

No matter the critter - rats, roaches or raccoons, among others - you don't want your new house to be infested with unwanted guests. You'll want to ensure the property is free of any pests before you close the transaction. If there are issues, you need to make certain the sellers have a plan for remedying the situation and hopefully footing the bill.

Have the property inspected

Even if you don't think there's a pest issue, you should schedule a home inspection. There could be hidden damage or other factors that you'd prefer to be aware of before taking ownership of a property, and an inspection gets you this information.

When it comes to critters, you're not only ordering the inspection to determine whether bugs or rodents are present in the house. You're also determining what pests are present, if they can damage the property and if there factors that could lead to an infestation in the future. Termites, for instance, are a wood-destroying insect. If a home you're considering has a sizeable colony, there could be safety risks if the insects bore through vital structures. In this and similar cases, you'll want the sellers to provide a reasonable discount or take care of the extermination and repairs before you move in.

Check for signs of an infestation

While you're visiting properties, you can check for red flags that signal there is a pest issue. Here are some warning signs to help you cross some homes off your list:

  • Pests: For more serious infestations, you'll see whatever pest has set up shop in the house. Typically, insects and rodents hide during the day when you would be able to see them. However, if you notice rats, beetles or any other critter scurrying about in plain sight, they may not be able to hide because of overcrowding in their nesting place.
  • Dead pests: In some cases, you may not see active pests but find dead ones in a property.
  • Shed shells or wings: Some insects regularly molt their exoskeletons or wings. If you see many of these items, there is likely an infestation.
  • Droppings: This is not just a sign for larger pests. Insects also leave droppings though they may not be easily spotted unless there's a sizeable population.
  • Bad smells: With critters urinating and leaving their droppings in a home, there's bound to be some unpleasant smells. If you notice foul odors, ask the sellers if there is a pest or other issue.
  • Small holes: Mice bore through baseboards to have a clear path between their nesting areas and food sources. Considering they can squeeze through even the tiniest of spaces - as small as a nickel in some cases - don't disregard any holes you notice.
  • Eggs: Bed bugs and roaches like to leave their egg sacs around baseboards and in dark corners. You may want to bring a flashlight with you to showings to check these areas.
  • Nesting areas: Pests like to settle down in a particular part of the house. If you think there may be a rat infestation, look for piles of paper or fabric scraps. These rodents can create nests in various places - from cupboards to the space behind stoves.
  • Pest control products: If you spot pest traps or poisons in a home, check with the sellers to determine if the house currently has an infestation. Even if the products are from a previous infestation, ask about the extent of the infestation and how the issue was addressed.