Would you buy an apartment that had bed bugs 6 mos ago?(26 posts)
We are about to buy an apartment and just discovered (before signing the contract) that the apartment had bed bugs in October 2007. I have asked what the extent of the outbreak was and for receipts of what the exterminator did when he/ she was called in. What recommendations do you have for finding out if they are definitely gone from the apartment? I am told this was the only apartment in the building with the problem (it is a co-op in NYC). Please resond ASAP with any advice - we only have a day or two before contract signing. THANK YOU!
Its possible that it HAD Bed Bugs and that it no longer does, the trick is to make sure its clear before moving in.
I would suggest that you contact the new potential neighbors and have a chat with them. It it was just a single apartment and they are prepared to say its definatley clear then I don't see a problem.
You may want to request that the seller meets you half way on a Bed Bug dog inspection to make sure its clear.
Remember Bed Bugs are an exposure pest once gone they are gone unless you come into contact with a source of them.
6 months is way to early to know if the bugs were totally eradicated. You also don't know if this apartment was an isolated case or if the problem is in other units as well, because then it becomes a building issue, not just an apartment issue.
If you are purchasing the apartment, then no way in hell would I do it at this time. If they stated that it happened 2 yrs ago, and the whole building is clean of bed bugs, new the owners view points on treating such infestations were very pro-active, tehn maybe I would consider it. This does not sound like the case here, so no I would not invest my hard earned dollars in an apartment that may have a building infestation bouncing around in it. (imo)
Mmmm. looks like David posted the same time I did. I would also definitely look at his advise as well before making a final decision.
I was told by the management company for the building that it was contained to only this apartment. I am just worried that the bugs are in the walls or cracks of the floor (wooden planks) and not gone. I am especially worried because we would be tearing down some walls and opening others up while doing renovations before we move in. I am only speaking to the seller through my broker (to their broker). Their broker said she had no idea there was ever a problem. My attorney found it in the minutes from a board meeting in October 2007. I will post whatever updated info I receive. Thanks so much for your advice. Let me know if anyone else has any!
I concur with David's advice to speak with the neighbors & try verify that there are not any other units with a known infestation in the building.
Try to arrange to have the Bed Bug Dog check the adjacent units including the units above & below the apartment, if you want a reasonable level of assurance. If you want a recommendation on a Bed Bug Dog team,contact me via a private message & I will be glad to provide assistance.
Try to get any representations about the previous problem put in writing. The fact that they informed you about the previous infestation does say something positive about the seller's candor.
I would not buy the apartment. I think that there is no way of telling for positive that the bed bugs have been eradicated from the apartment or the building in which I would believe bed bugs would have spread to other units or have come from other units initially.
Take it that your lawyer finding this out ahead of time is a blessing.
I think DougSummers and the other posters have excellent suggestions here, but I still would not buy the apartment. I live in an apartment building that has been repeatedly treated (for quite some time now) and the population of bedbugs has never gotten to zero, ever. So there might be time periods (say, six months) or some apartments in the building (say the one you are looking at) where there might not be bedbugs NOW, but if bedbugs were in the building and not totally eradicated (difficult in a multi-unit building), they still could be in the building somewhere.
Someone who lived in your intended building at some point brought bedbugs into the building. You have no way of knowing if that person still lives in the building and might simply bring new bedbugs in from the same source, the same way. It only takes two bedbugs of opposite sexes, or an inseminated female, for you to have thousands by the late fall.
What you have been told regarding this property concerns me: "Their broker said she had no idea there was ever a problem." And the way you found it? "My attorney found it in the minutes from a board meeting in October 2007." That's terrible that you had to dig so deep to find the information. That is proof that the parties involved have not been upfront with you about the issue of bedbugs at all. They are hiding something. Caveat emptor. Don't buy.
Make sure you post the address on the bedbug registry.
Thank you so much for the advice, but I still don't know exactly how to find out if they are gone. I will bring in my own exterminator but how can he/ she tell? And about the bed bug dogs - how accurate are they?
I have been told (by the seller's broker and the management company) that this was the only apartment in the building that had bed bugs. I will ask about speaking to any neighbors, but people in NYC generally aren't very neighborly (at least as far as I have experienced) so I don't know if the broker will give me anyone else's contact info.
Maybe just go and talk to them? You would most likely get an honest answer rather than go through broker connections.
Update on info. from the sellers. They say that they got bed bugs while traveling, came home and had the apartment bombed twice. They have two small children that they currently live there with and said they would not continue to live there with their children if they still had them. The management company put in writing that there have been no other instances in the building and that they believe the problem was taken care of by the exterminator and no longer exists. I am still trying to find my own exterminator to go in with.
I am not sure what I would do about proceeding with the apartment purchase. I will tell you a short anecdote though --
I lived in a rental apt. in Brooklyn from 2002-2006. The apartment was old and unrenovated and the general upkeep of the building was not that great. There were wood floors and lots of cracks. I had a mouse problem. but I never had a bedbug problem. On the day I was moving out, I chatted with the neighbor directly above. He was asking about my apartment on behalf of his friend who he thought might be interested in moving in after my departure.
We chatted and I mentioned the mouse issue and the cigarette smoke wafting up from somewhere. He said he never had had mice (I think he had a cat) but that a few years prior, he had had a bedbug problem. He said he thought a houseguest had brought them from an overseas trip. I believe he said he self-treated and took care of the issue and that they never re-appeared.
My point about that is that it is possible to have a bedbug incident, exterminate and get rid of the problem. This seems more likely if the problem is caught and addressed early.
To find out if they are gone you will need to inspect the property to look for the signs of an infestation these are:
1 Live samples (there are lots of pictures about try Google images) Obvious sign they are still around
2 Cast skins. Bed Bugs go through an incomplete metamorphosis as they develop through five stages from birth to adult. These are paper thin and light tan in colour and are only a sign that there has been activity.
3 Faecal traces. Bed bug droppings are rather telltale signs. They tend to be black in colour and will often be found close to where they hide. A lot of people say they look like black pen marks dabbed around. They can be in odd places like around lifts in wall paper, cracks in plaster, around the carpet junction or between the cracks in wooden flooring. They are also only a sign that there has been activity because they tend to leave a stain and are hard to remove.
To illustrate this I will give an anonymous case study. I inspected a property last week; it was on three floors in the middle of a terrace row. The infestation started at the top front of the flat in bedroom A. It later spread to bedroom B on the same floor. The lounge and kitchen on the middle floor appeared clean but had all new furniture.
The other two bedrooms on the lower floor had light signs of bed bugs and there were only a few faecal traces on the newish looking beds.
The whole apartment had been gutted and restored with painted walls, laminate flooring and new furniture.
In bedroom A and B the most obvious signs were heavily masked by the restoration but still visible to a close up examination. I am not saying that any PCO would have spotted them but I am certain that from what I know of scent detection dogs they would have detected it before a randomly selected pest controller who is not used to looking for the finer details.
Thankfully the Landlord has accepted responsibility in this case and the occupants are being relocated to a new Bed Bug free apartment at the Landlord's expense but they have had 3 months of living in a rather nasty predicament.
If the apartment is right for you and you don't mind putting in a little leg work then chatting with the neighbours will give you a lot of information. If you focus on the facts about Bed Bugs it will also ensure that they are educated about what to look for if they are exposed at some stage.
I know it’s not exactly the topic to start a conversation with a potential neighbour over but with all the TV publicity I am sure they will understand the concern.
The fact is that if people are educated about the problem and choose to take steps to ensure it is dealt with then an apartment has no greater risk than a single family home. If people avoid rather than educate and eliminate then the problem will remain untreated and will continue to spread.
I also live in an apartment, in my case there are four adjoining parties. I know that none of my adjoining neighbours have Bed Bugs because even the ones I don't get on with have chatted about it. They have even asked me to go look at an item of furniture dumped in the street with faecal traces all over it. We know someone in the neighbourhood has them because the furniture appears about every six months or so but until my neighbours talk to their neighbours and so on we will not reach the person who has the problem.
Does it make me want to move out of my apartment and find a single family home? NO not in the slightest it means that I am glad my neighbours know what to look out for or I can’t afford the $1,000,000 plus it would cost London is a very expensive city.
On a more serious note again I really would suggest you consider the following in the following order:
1 Educate yourself on what to look for
2 Educate yourself on how to make sure you don’t bring the problem home if there is one
3 Prepare some info to check with all adjoining neighbours
4 Visit to inspect
If you inspect and find old signs check with the neighbours, see if it was just the one apartment, it's feasible that it may have been but without investigating you will not know.
If you are not sure and want a confirmation and inspection by someone who really knows what they are doing (an entomologist with a specialisation in field inspection, a reputable and verifiable pest controller who specialises in Bed Bugs or a scent detection dog again verifiable). Of the three options the one you are most likely to get a consensus on is the dog but partly because there are very few true pest controllers who only specialise in Bed Bugs and certainly in the UK even fewer investigational freelance entomologists.
This may become a lot more common a procedure for people to go through in selling or renting an apartment listed on the Bed Bug registry. After all having had an infestation does not mean that the property is more likely to get one again, i.e. if they picked it up in a <insert city> hotel (insert city to avoid accusations and to illustrate it COULD happen almost anywhere) and you happen to have no inclination to what to visit that city and that particular hotel and room assuming it is still an active infestation then you are not going to have a problem.
Once eradicated 100% they are gone.
Once educated they can be avoided and detected early and thus if the unfortunate does happen can be dealt with quickly and correctly.
OK marathon post over and out (I think I preferred the phone in apart from the lousy reception as I shot up the country).
No. No, no and no.
The other comments on this topic have been very rational and sensible.
I am going to offer my irrational advice because bedbugs have robbed me of even-tempered judgment:
DON'T BUY IT.
I bought a beautiful condo that turned out to have bedbugs, came from the neighbor, and it was an absolute nightmare. Yes, I had some aggravating circumstances that made fighting difficult. Still, the apt below had months of treatment and... Yes, you can theoretically get rid of them if your new co-op experiences an infestation in the future. But it is usually HARD. And many people, on this website even, have just given up and run away because it was so hard.
This is a good economy for homebuyers, even in NYC I would imagine. Of course, it may not be so easy anymore to find apts or buildings that haven't had bedbugs. Still, I think I would keep looking...
With the spreading bedbug plague, why would anyone want to buy a condo? If you have a PCO check it first and declare it bb-clean, a neighbor could later pick a sofa off the street and bring bedbugs in, no matter how careful you are yourself about that sort of thing.
If you rent an apartment or house, and the place becomes infested, you can always move away, using care to make a bb-clean move. Leave the headache with the landlord.
Also, as the public becomes more and more aware of bedbugs, a condo will become increasingly hard to sell without a PCO clearance. So if your condo gets infected, its value will drop. And if your condo neighbors allow a serious infestation to develop it will become very difficult to clean up the whole building. Vikane might do it if all the condo owners are willing to pay the cost. But they may not want to, or might not even have the money for it. Besides, I think Vikane can only be used in a detached building.
It seems to me that renting is the only way to go.
This bb will effect the buying and selling of property.
Mother nature putting a freeze on the escalating prices.
A horrible way for it to happen.
But it will happen.
this is all so weird--i too feel like saying "don't buy!" But then I start thinking of all the things I no longer want to do because of the dangers of bed bugs. I'm scared to go to the movies or get on a plane or buy a couch. At what point do we say "we have to live life and take some chances once in while"?
And even if you don't buy that apartment, who's to say you aren't going to get them where you are?
Everyone here has made fantastic points. I wish there were an easy answer.
brain is right, that risks are part of life, but I guess my advice would be to look at it this way:
If the place has bedbugs, will you still love it?
Because if it does, you will have to live with them for several months at least. And selling it will be hard. So if you are willing to wage a war for the place, then buy it. If you aren't, then I'd think about how much you really want to own an apt.
I lived with them for 5-6 months. It was a slow creeping horror, social isolation, and terror of spreading them felt like having SARS or something one needs to be quarantined for. Several times in the beginning, despite thinking I was being careful I found one on my coat... Worse, I felt one in my sleeve... while out in public.
I escaped them Feb 1 by fleeing with very little and having the little vikane gas treated. I had a nightmare about bedbugs within the past few weeks, so 3-4 months later.
Good luck, and sorry to be a downer. I hope it works out for you.
One point no one has made is that the success of getting rid of bbs from a building that has multiple apartments in it really depends most on the behavior and willingness of the people who live there to address the issue.
It seems to me in NYC that there would be a higher degree of success in eradicating bbs in a building where people are owners and not renters. Owners can't run from the problem (at least not as easily) and they have high incentive to protect their investments. Plus I suspect that on average people who own their apartments will have more financial means than people who rent - though in NYC obviously there are very very wealthy people who rent and there are some quite low-income people who own coops they bought years ago.
That said, I really don't think I would buy a place that had bedbugs as recently as 6 months before. And even if no bedbugs had ever been in the unit, I would still want to know that the management company and the board were well-educated and reasonable people who would be able to handle a bedbug infestation if it were to occur by getting a top-notch PCO and doing outreach and education to the residents.
About the dogs: One pest control company made a pure guesstimate, based wholly on anecdotal evidence, that trained human inspectors (PCOs) are on average, about 50% accurate in detecting bedbugs; while bedbug dogs are maybe 90% accurate. So yes, there is a big difference. If you really want the apt, get the dog. Whoever gave the advice about getting the seller to pay or split the cost, that was good.
Second, it doesn't sound to me like the sellers are being upfront. Being the (almost-former) owner of a BB-infested condo, I tend to be more suspicious, since I would probably do anything to unload my tainted condo. Disclosure laws in Colorado are clear though, and on the advice of a lawyer, I decided I lose less money by walking away than by trying to clear out, treat and sell the place.
I'm sorry, but it seems to me there is a chance that your sellers are just trying to unload their infested co-op. There is a possibility that they treated for months, couldn't achieve a satisfactory level of success and decided they wanted out. That heart-tugging argument about not living with children and bedbugs? Maybe that's exactly right - maybe they don't want their children living anymore in an apt that still has bedbugs.
Sorry to be so cynical, but people's financial, emotional and physical health is at stake here. People might resort to some unscrupulous tactics to protect their family and fortune.
Okay, I could have easily said all that in one sentence: Why are the sellers *really* selling?
This was just a double post. Sorry.
In a recent post on this thread, I suggested renting an apartment rather than buying a condo. More and more people might reach the same conclusion. As a result, there will be less demand for condos and their price may fall. So a person who buys a condo now may lose financially.
A viable alternative to renting an apartment would be to buy a one-family detached house that has been checked by a good PCO before buying. A second opinion by another PCO would be good, maybe with a dog.
After the purchase, bedbugs might crawl there over open ground or sidewalk from nearby houses, but I have seen very little about that occurring. Maybe it doesn't happen often, or maybe never.
With a detached house, if you or one of your family inadvertently brings in bbs in packages or on clothing, or bbs crawl in over open ground or sidewalk, you will be able to take immediate action as soon as you find out about it. You won't have to convince condo neighbors it really is bbs, and then persuade them to take immediate action. (Fast action is important -- while an infestation is light.)
Also, you don't have to worry about a condo neighbor bringing in bbs through carelessness. There is just your own family who can be instructed in how to be careful. And if the worst comes to the worst, you can have the whole house Vikaned or heat treated without having to persuade others. Everything is under your own control.
Furthermore, even if condo neighbors are all careful, the risk of bbs being brought in increases in proportion to the number of condos and people in the building.
An adjoining building attached to a condo building further increases the risk. Pipes, wires, and cracks can serve as crawlways between the buildings.
Another poster on this thread said that condo neighbors will want to protect their investment. That is a good point, and normally it would be so. But suppose one of the neighbors is an alcoholic who doesn't care about anything except drink?
Or a drug addict who spends everything on his habit?
Or someone in a tight money squeeze who wants to postpone PCO treatment for a while when you want to sell your condo?
Or someone in a divorce situation who has pre-marriage wealth, or expects an inheritance some time after the divorce, and wants to hurt the other one who has nothing except half-ownership of the condo? (Things can get awfully mean in a divorce.)
Or just some sort of kinky person who won't cooperate?
And after all, this thread is about whether a condo should be bought 6 months after the building has been cleared of bbs. So suspicion remains.
A one-family detached house may also increase in value because would-be condo buyers, disillusioned about bb problems in condos, will seek a one-family detached house instead. That will increase the demand for them.
All-in-all, I think the bedbug situation is positive for one-family detached houses and negative for condos. By "positive" I mean in money value, also in not depending on others to be careful about bringing bbs in, and ease in quickly getting PCO treatment if it does occur.
Of course, a one-family detached house might be beyond commuting distance from a person's place of work or business, so it may not be an option.
I would buy it. How do you know that other places you are looking at don't have the problem and just don't say anything. Just have the previous owners say that they will pay all expenses concurred for bedbug infestation within the next year. That way you are not on for the cost and they are on the hook only for a year. Live your life!
Someone stated to "Live your life!" Let me tell you that having to deal with bed bugs is no way to live your life. Your life becomes hell, a life at war with bed bugs. Your home is your sanctuary and once these bugs gain control and being that they are so tough to get rid then your home is not a sanctuary anymore it becomes the front for many months or years and some people give up and move and moving and not taking bed bugs with you is another problem that you would have to deal with. All it takes is one pregnant female bug to begin what can become a major infestation. So please do think hard about the purchase. Of course at the rapid pace that the epidemic is growing then in a couple of years the possibility that no home will be without bed bugs except will exist unless that if you live in the middle of nowhere in a single family unattached house and go nowhere like to the movies or hotels or flea markets or a hospitals or schools. A tough call indeed. Best of luck with your decision.
I might be replying too late to be useful ...
lawgirl, check out this thread started by someone who found bedbugs in her co-op after they closed. Pre-closing, her attorney dug up some evidence there were bedbugs in the building, but the homebuyer and her husband chose not investigate any further and went through with the sale. It's not a good situation to be in.
Talk to your attorney about getting written assurances and indemnities protecting you should you discover bedbugs in the condo for a specified period of time post-closing. I don't know that such provisions would actually have teeth. Would you have the stomach to litigate if the worst happens? But depending on how the seller reacts -- will they balk? will they get nervous? -- you might learn something. You should also put any request for a professional inspection into the contract.
Personally, I think six months is not a long time to be "free" of bedbugs. Do you love this place? Tread carefully. Because your attorney discovered this, you essentially have notice that this issue exists. At this point, if you proceed with no legal safeguards in place, you might be left without any right to remedy from the seller.
Good luck. Buyers are sitting pretty these days - even in NYC - so you probably have more leverage in shaping the deal.
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