Well, almost. Bed bugs feature in a trio of New York Times Real Estate articles this weekend.
The first, Buying and Selling in Bedbug City attempts to navigate the complicated and murky waters of shopping for a co-op or condo in a multi-unit building, in what New York Magazine’s Intelligencer referred to Friday as “The Age of Bedbugs.”
Teri Karush Rogers reports in “Buying and Selling in Bedbug City” that
According to the law, sellers and their brokers must acknowledge a [bed bug] problem if asked. But conflicts of interest aside, neither can be expected to know whether an infestation exists elsewhere in the building.
The problem is so pervasive that some lawyers have begun incorporating sellers’ representations about bedbugs into sales contracts, adding to now-standard ones about leaks, mold and noise issues. And buyers are having to determine if the pests are a deal-breaker or just one more headache on the road to a new home.
The article also tells stories of buyers who walk away once they find out a building has a bed bug issue, and those who don’t.
Perhaps the most distressing point made:
“Most residential buildings in New York City have had bedbugs,” said Aaron Shmulewitz, a real estate lawyer at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman who represents 300 Manhattan co-op and condo boards. (Among his most frequently asked questions: Who must pay for extermination?)
The message here is that it’s apparently no longer about whether your prospective building in New York City has ever had bed bugs, it’s now about whether your unit or a proximate unit has them, and about how well and proactively the building deals with bed bugs or has dealt with them in the past.
The second article, “Disgusting, Yes. But a Deal Breaker?” suggests buyers should consider the location and proximity of an infestation to the unit for sale, how long the infestation has been going on, how widespread it is, and the ability and willingness of owners/occupants to cooperate with and participate with treatment and prep (and, it is not mentioned but goes without saying: prevention of future infestations). Of course, it is often very difficult or impossible to determine the answers to those questions.
The third article, “Debugging a New Home: Of Surrogate Sleepers and Pest Sensors and Special Dust,” suggests techniques for making sure a new home is bed bug free: bed bug sniffing dogs are an option, but not perfect; hiring someone (presumably someone known to react to bed bug bites) to sleep in your new home is an option; pest control professionals Gil Bloom (of Standard Pest) and John Furman (Boot-a-Pest) are quoted as suggesting Nightwatch bed bug monitors; Jodi Gangloff-Kaufmann (of the New York State Integrated Pest Management program) suggests having the insides of walls dusted.
Dessicant dust can be placed in the spaces behind outlets, for example. In addition, floors can be sealed with a thick coat of polyurethane, and sealant caulk can be applied to moldings. Some pest control companies have started marketing these as “exclusion services.”
Of course, we have heard of people fleeing bed bugs, or who were trying to avoid ever getting them again, going to such lengths when moving to a new home, or when trying to keep their old home free of bed bugs after treatment. However, this is the first time I have heard these “exclusion services” suggested as preventive measures in the mainstream press to people who may have never had bed bugs before.
It’s a sign of the times — a scary one, but a healthy one nonetheless.