Over the past few years, bed bugs have once again become a serious problem all over the US; in fact, reports indicate that just over 90 percent of those surveyed by leading pest control companies report problems, as compared to just 37 percent five years ago.

Across the country, most pest control companies receive between 10 and 50 calls a week from real estate management companies, homeowners or renters complaining about bed bugs, a huge increase since 2004. The National Pest Management Association‘s spokesperson Cindy Mannes has pointed out that the bed bug is seen as the most annoying pest of the 21st century, according to some.

Bed bugs are not a product of filth, dirt or dust as is commonly believed. They can be a problem just about anywhere, from expensive apartments and luxury family homes to more modest city apartments. They can be annoying and can cause homeowners a lot of discomforts, although they don’t actually carry disease.

The bedbug problem has become worse partly because of the increase in international travel, and partly because effective DDT pesticides have been banned for some time in the US. Noted bed bug expert Michael Potter also described bed bugs as one of the worst pests of the 21st century, on a par with rats and cockroaches.

Home sellers have to give potential buyers a detailed and accurate description of the condition of the property, including any known infestations of pests, according to the law in most states. However, home buyers and realtors should know about the various loopholes that exist, and it always pays to be extra cautious if you are buying a condo, apartment or home.

Very few current municipal or state codes address bed bugs specifically, and bed bug infestations are not specifically addressed on many real estate disclosure statements. Also, some home sellers would much rather just pay the penalty rather than fill out the disclosure statement advising that the property had a bed bug problem.

You can find out what the regulations are in your state by checking with your local health and building departments, although you should also be aware that condo and co-op owners aren’t always covered under these real estate disclosure laws. The bottom line is that the seller has no real obligation to disclose to the buyer any bed bug problems, and if you are buying a property, it really is a case of buyer beware and being as careful as possible.

A bed bug problem generally has to be advised by a real estate broker, and if there has been a problem with bed bugs or other pests, most states require an honest answer if the seller is asked about the problem. However, in most states a buyer still has to rely on the honesty of their real estate agent, landlord or seller as most states simply don’t require a seller to inform a real estate broker about bed bug issues.

If you are buying a new house or apartment, you may find that your realtor suggests that you have the home inspected for bed bugs before making an offer, and many buyers are doing just that and contacting a reliable pest control company.

What Are Bed Bugs?

The typical bed bug is about the same size as an apple seed and has evolved over time from bat and bird nest parasites. Bed bugs are nocturnal, and at night they emerge to feed on human blood. If you have been bitten by a bed bug, you can also common experience an allergic reaction, caused by the bug ejecting an anesthetic into the body. It can often take a day or two even to notice that you have been bitten.

The female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs during her lifetime, and they are deposited in cracks or crevices; once the eggs are hatched the small bugs, known as nymphs, begin to feed at once. Although bed bugs can live for up to 7 months without drinking blood, they typically need to feed every few days, often voiding at the same time. Because bed bugs can travel up to 100 feet from their nest, any infestation can spread quickly through a house or apartment by way of pipes, air vents or other conduits.

Here’s a cool idea. The www.bcbug.com exterminators use dogs to find bed bug infestations. What a unique way to find bed bugs!

What to Look For

A sweet smell rather like coriander or raspberries or a musty odor may be a sign of a bed bug infestation, as well as dark blood or fecal stains on or near carpets. And you may be able to observe the tiny pests crawling around on the furniture, carpets or linens. Look for tiny egg deposits, fecal smears, and whitish lymph molts. And if you have bats in your roof, you may have bed bugs that are looking for an easier source of fresh blood.

Buyer Beware!

Although the above signs can all be indications of a bed bug problem in an apartment or house, it isn’t always obvious that bed bugs are present. Beetles, mite, wasps and other pests can often be mistaken for bed bugs, and it often does take a good pest control company to check a property before you even think about placing an offer.

Always ask the real estate agent, landlord or property owner about any previous problems with bed bugs. However, because it not all sellers is obligated or inclined to provide this information, you really do need to request a home inspection to be absolutely sure.