Termites can literally eat you out of house and home. They chomp thru wood twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, causing an estimated $5 billion in property damage every year.
So it can be an expensive and scary revelation to hear an exterminator tell you your home has termite damage. But are some exterminators trying to scare you into buying a pest control program you might not really need?
Watch The Termite Test Here
To find out we rigged a suburban Dallas home with over a dozen hidden cameras. Then we had two pest-control experts, who own extermination businesses in Texas, inspect our home inside and out. Their verdict: no termites here.
“Everything looks good, everything looks dry. There are no signs of current or past termite activity,” said Marty Keane a board certified entomologist, who also teaches exterminators how to recognize and treat termite conditions.
Inside our house, she watched from another room as 15 different companies showed up to check if we had termites.
Most of the exterminators found no termite problems, and didn’t charge us a dime.
But some exterminators told us an entirely different story and boy was it costly.
The Orkin man is one of the most recognizable names in pest control. In their commercials they often use the slogan: “Termites want in. Orkin keeps them out!”
So what would the Orkin man say after inspecting our house? “It’s a very heavy infestation area,” the Orkin man told Guerrero while pointing to a map on his i-Pad.
While he didn't find any active termites, the Orkin man said that doesn't mean we're safe at all.
“What would be my risk if I didn’t act now? Guerrero asked.
“It’s probably 100% you're gonna get termites. It’s just a matter of when,” the Orkin man replied.
Responded Guerrero: “100 percent? You're going to guarantee I'm going to have termites if I don’t sign up for this plan?"
“I don’t know about this plan, but yeah,” answered the Orkin man.
Later he said the chance we'd get termites was only 70, 80 or 90%.
He also told us there was moisture damage in the home’s crawlspace; conditions he says are a prime attraction for termites.
But Marty Keane disagrees. “I see no signs of moisture damage,” she said.
So what was Orkin's price?
“It's $3,076.00, plus tax,” the Orkin man told Guerrero.
He wanted to sell us a three year protection plan for three thousand dollars.
Guerrero asked him: “Even though you didn’t find termites, you suggest I buy this package to protect the home…and it will cost over $3,000.00?
“Right,” he said.
Then it was time for our crew to walk into the kitchen and tell the Orkin man who we really are.
“I have to tell you that I'm Lisa Guerrero with Inside Edition.”
“Oh, hi,” said the surprised Orkin man.
“As a home owner it’s scary to have someone come in and say you don’t have any termites, but unless you spend $3,000.00 there is a 100% chance that you're going to get termites.
“Well I think there is, but like I said I pulled it back. I said that it could be 70 or 80 or 90%. Over time all of these houses will have termites,” answered the Orkin man.
“But don’t you think that you're trying to give a homeowner a hard sale here?” replied Guerrero.
“No,” he said.
In a statement a spokesperson for Orkin said: 'We believe our inspectors treatment recommendations were sound [and] there was no intent to mislead…We also require some of the most extensive training in the industry, and based on your feedback, we will require some retraining for this inspector. [We] strive for 100% customer satisfaction and are constantly striving to improve [our] training protocols.'
But an exterminator who showed up from a company called Premier Termite and Pest Control took the prize for giving us the most dire analysis.
After checking the home the exterminator told Guerrero: “You have areas over here that have signs of termite damage.”
“You saw evidence of termite damage?” asked Guerrero.
“Damage, yes. Under the house,” he answered.
“What does the damage look like?” Guerrero asked.
“Channels. Termites channel thru wood,” he explained.
Watching on a monitor from another room, Keane said: “I'm very shocked by the things that he's saying.
So what was it going to cost us?
“You can do a termite prevention for $950.00,” he said.
And when Guerrero balked at the price, the Premier exterminator used a classic scare tactic to try to close the deal.
“Bottom line,” he said, “you'll pay a little now or a lot later. Its not if you get them living in Texas, its when.”
When Guerrero told him who she really was, he stood his ground: “So you stand by the fact you think there's termite damage underneath this house?” she asked.
“Yes I do,” he replied.
But when Guerrero pressed him further, he didn’t stick around long.
“Are you trying to take advantage of homeowners who don’t know whether or not they have termites?” asked Guerrero.
But the Premier technician didn’t respond, walked out to his car and drove off.
The owner of Premier later told us he believes his exterminator was correct to recommend us a preventative termite treatment plan.
So what should you do if you’re worried about termites?
“There's no reason to panic if you get termites,” said Keane.
Keane advises to always get more than one estimate, because even if you discover you have termites she says they're not going to destroy your home overnight. She also says don’t let anyone try to pressure you into making an immediate decision, and cautions to check out the exterminators background first to make sure you hire a reputable, licensed company.
For signs of a termite infestation and more tips on how to prevent the pests, as well as how to find reputable licensed exterminators in your area, visit the National Pest Management Association’s website: http://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/termites/