When you're preparing an investment property for sale or rent, the last thing you need is a squirrel infestation in the attic or other area of the home. Squirrels, raccoons, rodents, birds, and other animals that take refuge under your roof can build nests and cause significant damage. They can also lower your property's value and put occupants at risk of bites and infection.
But you can get rid of squirrels and other pests, or even prevent them from getting inside to begin with, by taking the proper steps. These include:
- Identifying the problem
- Recognizing sources of entry
- Enlisting a professional
- Learning what's involved in pest control
- Preventing animals from gaining entry
Proper squirrel removal will require patience and expertise. Take steps towards critter control quickly once you've spotted a pest issue.
Identifying the problem
Zachary Smith, president of Smith's Gopher Trapping Service in San José, says infiltration of squirrels, rats, mice, raccoons, skunks, and birds in attics, basements, garages, and crawl spaces is more common than you think.
"This is very problematic because these pests can cause a lot of damage. They can chew on pipes and wires, have babies, and leave a lot of excrement behind," says Smith. Exposed wires, in particular, are cause for major concern, as they put the home at risk of catching fire.
"Spacious attics, away from all the hustle and bustle of the main home, provide the perfect shelter for pests seeking peace, quiet, or a place to raise their young," says Ed Bandurka, wildlife branch manager for Orkin Canada in Mississauga, Ontario. He warns that these animals not only cause structural damage but can also introduce parasites and transmit serious diseases.
"They especially like to infiltrate during colder winter months when they are about to give birth," says Brad Sturgis, founder and real estate investor with Financial Sailor.com in Monterey, California. "In one of my rentals, the tenant didn't even notice until a few weeks later when the baby squirrels were big enough and she heard them running around."
This could be a major impediment when you're planning on selling or renting the residence.
"When you get your home appraised and find that animals are living inside, that points to potential damage. And damage can seriously lower the value of the property," says James Brandon, owner of Hometown Roofing ATX in Austin, Texas.
Recognizing sources of entry
Animals often find easy access into your home through the roof.
"Squirrels know they can get a constant supply of food and shelter near houses. And since they have no trouble scaling buildings, they often enter through vents or openings around roofs," Bandurka says.
Also, roof shingles weaken over the years as they are exposed to the hot sun, hail storms, and wind damage. "This can cause water to seek into the wood and make it rot. When wood rots, it gets soft and animals can dig right through it," says Brandon.
Additionally, the rubber flashing on roof pipes dry up and crack over time, making it easier for pests to break through.
"The fascia, chimney, and siding can be perfect places for animals to get in, too," notes Brandon.
Tree branches that hang over or are too close to a property can be a primary culprit as well, Smith adds.
Enlisting a professional
The experts agree: It's always best to get assistance from a professional to remove squirrels, mice, birds, raccoons, or other unwanted guests from your property. That means contacting and hiring an experienced wildlife control service or calling animal control.
"Removing squirrels yourself puts you at risk of injury and risk of damaging your property," says Sturgis. "There are also humane concerns with removing squirrels yourself, as you could potentially hurt or kill them in the process."
Of course, trying to rid your property of wild animals yourself can also result in a bite or exposure to animal droppings, which can lead to infection or disease.
Here's another good reason to recruit a pro: Catching and removing squirrels is pretty tricky, "especially when you are dealing with a mother and her babies," says Sturgis.
Learning what's involved in pest control
Several steps are involved in removing squirrels or other undesirable animals from your property, according to Smith. Among them:
- Identify what type of animal it is.
- Settle on the best method for removal. "This may involve trapping the animal with a repeater trap or creating a one-way door so the animal leaves and can't get back in," Smith says. If the nest includes baby squirrels or other offspring, they need to be carefully removed "or the parent animal will go nuts and chew a new hole in your structure." Note that traps are often baited with nuts, seeds, or cheese to lure the animal into the cage.
- Determine the access and entry points to choose the best way to close them off. "Rodents can chew through many materials, so whatever method is used to close the hole needs to be very durable as well as aesthetically pleasing."
- Use a professional-grade HEPA vacuum to remove animal droppings.
- Replace any insulation or easily replaceable building materials that have been soiled.
- Fog the space with an approved sanitizer.
If you try to capture the animal yourself, check your local laws for rules on what to do with the animals after they’re trapped.
Also, "continue listening and monitoring for sounds of squirrels for a day or two after removal. If you hear no sounds, you can remove your traps and seal the entryway with metal that can't be chewed through," says Sturgis.
Preventing animals from gaining entry
Whether you've just eradicated squirrels from your home or seek to prohibit them from ever gaining access in the first place, it's important to take proactive measures that will prevent critter access in the future.
"Perform regular exterior inspections, looking for potential entry points and any other contributing factors where squirrels may find an area attractive," says Bandurka.
These factors include overhanging trees touching the roof, neighboring food sources like nut or pine trees, and structural deficiencies that make it easier for squirrels to access.
"Common deficiencies we encounter are rotting wood, shingle damage, roof vent damage, no chimney caps, and poor quality sealing at soffit, wall, and roof areas. Addressing these structural deficiencies can greatly reduce your risk of potential animal access," Bandurka adds.
Sturgis recommends removing bird feeders, garbage cans, and tree branches that are too close to your home, too.
"You can also make your attic unappealing to small guests by installing a strobe light, which will make your attic bright and very unattractive to squirrels looking for a nice dark place to rest," says Sturgis.
Lastly, be sure to have a thorough property inspection done by a professional before listing your home for sale or rental.