April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Ants Go Marching One by One

I once conducted a meeting between a builder and my client, hammering out the details of a new home to be built on a property owned by the builder. The conversation moved from windows to tile allowances and, eventually, to everyone’s favorite, the kitchen. After all the back and forth it seemed that we were a handshake away from consummating the deal. That’s when my buyer made one final request. A request that she exclaimed was of utmost importance and actually one of the main reasons she was willing to leave her current home and start from the ground up. She turned to the builder and said, “I need to have written into the contract that there won’t be any bugs inside my new home!” The builder didn’t say anything at first and then asked her to repeat what she had just said and she did. Eyes wide open the builder responded, “That’s what I thought you said … what exactly does that mean?”

My buyer laid out her vision for a bug free home as follows: No small spider webs in the corners of the ceilings, no moths in the closets, no hopper crickets (spider crickets) in the basement, no mosquitoes, no flies and, of course, absolutely, under no circumstances should an ant be able to get into the house.

The only remotely similar conversation/experience that I could conjure in my mind to compare this to were the countless termite inspections I had witnessed over the years, particularly when the poking and checking in the basement began. “Big Jim” would take this abnormally long flat head screwdriver and drive it hard into the beams of the home close to the foundation. If the screw driver bounced right off the beam, we would breathe a sigh of relief. The sound we dreaded to hear was the dull crunch of the screwdriver entering the beam and revealing a hollowed out center. “Termite tubes!” he would announce. They had eaten right through the beam. Termites are a real problem, not one that I classify as a “fear of bugs” problem, as a homeowner most likely never sees them in the house. They are usually behind the walls in the wooden structure of the home, eating away slowly but surely and you may never know they are there. An exterminator usually treats the surrounding soil and leaves traps with poison. For the most part it is a manageable problem with the help of a readily available professional.

But what to do about this other kind of “fear of bugs” problem?

I wasn’t sure how to help in this situation. Was it possible to build a house where bugs could have no chance of entering? Maybe at a government laboratory with layers of precautions and hazard suits, but how else could someone expect a truly bug free home?

The builder looked at her with a straight face and said, “But they were here first. These ants have been here since the beginning of time and if they aren’t going to be here in your backyard where would you like them to be? You are actually building right in their home.” Then he smiled at her and said, “I could build you something nice in the North Pole. Right near the Permafrost … then there won’t be any bugs, guaranteed!”

Of course there are the usual precautions, like sealing the edges of your home, moving all shrubs and trees away from the foundation and setting up a yearly contract with a pest company, but above all, prepare yourself mentally. The next time you see that ant, remember: It’s their home too!


Nechama Polak is the broker of record and owner of V and N Group LLC, located at 1401 Palisade Ave in Teaneck. [email protected] 201 826 8809.

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