This post is written by James Lagergren, a licensed home inspector out of Port Townsend, Washington (License 1799) and Structural Pest Inspector (SPI 94987) on behalf of Rainshadow Home Inspection. They can be reached at (360) 301-2035 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing can spook a potential home buyer or seller more than rats in the crawl space. I had a conversation recently with a top Real Estate agent that advises clients to take a look in the crawlspace or have a contractor do it before sale. This is sound advice but the better thing to do would be to hire a licensed home inspector. This post is all about educating buyers and sellers on the risks associated with rodents.
Why are rodents a problem in and under houses? Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the Deer Mouse (Peromyscus Maniculatus) as a carrier throughout Washington State. Infection occurs through contact with the urine and feces. The mortality rate for humans that become infected is 38%.
“Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal…There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.
Late Symptoms: “Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a “…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face” as the lungs fill with fluid.
The reason you want to hire a licensed home inspector versus a contractor or to do it yourself is that we know how to do it properly. Taking adequate precautions are a part of the everyday job of every home inspector. These include wearing protective clothing, the use of a respirator and cleaning the body thoroughly after with the right kind of disinfectant. It’s always better to hire a professional who has experience in these situations than trying to assess the situation yourself.
Another virus that rodents carry is Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS). The CDC says “Symptoms of HFRS usually develop within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to infectious material, but in rare cases, they may take up to 8 weeks to develop. Initial symptoms begin suddenly and include intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision. Individuals may have flushing of the face, inflammation or redness of the eyes, or a rash. Later symptoms can include low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure, which can cause severe fluid overload. The severity of the disease varies depending upon the virus causing the infection. Hantaan and Dobrava virus infections usually cause severe symptoms, while Seoul, Saaremaa, and Puumala virus infections are usually more moderate. Complete recovery can take weeks or months.”
The primary control to prevent these diseases from affecting your family or hindering your real estate transaction is to prevent rodent entry in the first place. During a home inspection I look for dangers when entering a crawl space: Are any visible hazards present? The big ones are: water, torn-down insulation and exposed wiring. Torn down insulation happens as a result of rodents nesting in the area between the insulation and home (see above photos). Another benefit to hiring a licensed home inspector is learning about what potential repairs involve such as replacement of damaged insulation, professional cleaning and replacement of the vapor barrier. We can also offer the correct referrals after fully evaluating the conditions specific to your home.
I’ll end with this parting thought: whether you are buying a home or looking to sell the home you are already in get a home inspection.