Financial Resource Center


Finding a Reliable Pest Contractor

by Neil Bartlett / May 5th, 2021

Mice, ants, termites, bedbugs, cockroaches, and countless other critters—they're fine when they're in their own homes. But once they're in yours, they can threaten your health and property. If you're concerned you may have some unwelcome pests, the first step is to get information. Look for reliable sources, including university extension services and state departments of public health or agriculture. If you can nab a pest, all the better. "Just make sure you've got it right," says Curt Colwell, Ph.D., an entomologist with the Illinois Department of Public Health. "If you can identify it and it turns out to be a pest that requires some action to control, you can get good advice from those groups," he says. 

Identifying the pest is a lot like visiting the doctor—for effective treatment, you first need to correctly diagnose the problem. Without knowing the pest's identity, characteristics, and activity levels, you run the risk of blindly applying control measures that can be costly and ineffective.

Consider a pest control firm

If you have evidence of a pest infestation and you don't know what to do, contact a pest control company. "If you don't have time to inspect your house to find out where a pest is and what it's doing there, and you don't have time to learn what specific methods you can use to control it—or to apply those methods—then forget about doing it yourself," Colwell says. If you're not confident about your ability to work with traps, pesticides, and other devices—that's another signal that you should hire a professional.

What to look for

All pest control companies must be licensed at the state level. Word-of-mouth is a good way to find a reputable company. But don't rely too heavily on company-provided customer testimonials. "What satisfies one person is a friendly guy who comes in once a month, chats with you, and sprays all your rooms," says Colwell. "That doesn't mean you're getting good pest control service." It's best to find someone whose judgment you trust. Don't be impressed by how long a pest control company has been in business. By itself, it doesn't mean that much. It's more important to look at the expertise of whom you'll be working with. What's important is the quality of service provided by the individual the company sends to your house, and that can vary considerably between companies and even among individuals with the same company. "Employee turnover can be quite high for some companies, so your service may be rendered by someone who's been on the job for only a couple days, or by someone who's been there for a couple of decades," says Colwell.

Many pest control companies offer no-charge inspections. A free inspection also means you'll meet with the inspector you might be working with to solve your pest predicament. Don't be afraid to contact more than one company, too. "They vary—it's to your advantage to get more than one opinion," says Colwell. Avoid hiring a pest control company based on low price, say experts. Look at value, not price. 

When the inspector arrives

When the inspector arrives, ask questions—think of it as a combination house call and job interview. Some questions to ask:
•    What are the expected results? Reduction or elimination?
•    How long will it take to solve my pest problem?
•    What pesticides will be applied?
•    Is the treatment safe to use around pets and children?
•    Will the technician servicing my house be state-certified?
•    How much experience does my technician have?
•    Does the company offer a guarantee?

•    What is your cancellation policy?

Before you sign a contract, make sure you understand the nature of the pest, the extent of the infestation, and what work will be necessary to solve the problem. Ask if the company has liability insurance to cover any damage to your house or furnishings during treatment. Pest control companies vary in their guarantees. If one is offered, know what it covers, how long it lasts, and what kind of prevention and management are necessary. Listen to what the company proposes to do about your pest problem. If you're satisfied, make sure the technician it sends does what the company promised.


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