Delinda Harrelson

The Flipping Coach

Warning Signals That a Residence May be Infested by Mice or Rats

As a real estate investor investing in historic properties to rehab, the concern that the home may be infested with rats or mice is a real concern. Here are specific signs that will signify that a home has rodent issues.

Mice and rats are drawn to houses to find food, water, and shelter. The reality is that if you are in the market looking to buy a home, you need to be alert to the possibility that a property has an issue with mice or rats. There are some important warning signals that you need to be aware of when it comes to the prospect of a rodent infestation.

Specific Signs of a Residential Rodent Issue

Signs of a rodent issue to be on the lookout for include:

  • Gnaw marks
  • Droppings
  • Urine odor
  • Greasy trails
  • Scratch marks
  • Scratching sounds
  • Squealing sounds
  • Scurrying sounds


A primary reasons why certain animals are classified as rodents is because of their incisors. The incisors of rodents continually grow throughout a mouse or rat’s lifetime. Consequently, these animals need to gnaw of objects in order to keep their incisors in check. In addition, rodents gnaw of the structure of a home itself in order to gain access to a residence in the first instance or to be able to forage about a house in search of food and water. Finally, rodents will gnaw on other objects, particularly packages that contain food.

When it comes to gnawing on the structure of a residence itself, gnaw marks are more commonly found along the exterior walls of a home, near the foundation. In addition, they are likely to be found along the bottom of walls, near the floor. Gnawing may result in holes rodents use for passage. Bear in mind that a mouse can fit through a hole as small as a dime; a rat can get through a hole as small as a quarter.

Rodents are capable of successfully gnawing a wide array of different types of materials. These include:

  • Many types of wood
  • Drywall or sheetrock
  • Brick
  • Plastic
  • Particle board


Mouse and rat droppings, or feces, are also signs that rodents are present in a home. Mouse droppings are small, about the size of a grain of rice. Rat droppings are a bit larger. Both types of droppings are brownish in color, growing a but darker as the age. When the dry out, rodent droppings can be a grayish color.

You typically will not see rodent droppings in some sort of pile. Rather, they may appear in something of a line located in a place where the regularly walk or forage. For example, you may find rodent droppings along the base of a wall.

As an aside, you need to understand that rodent droppings can present a very real health risk. They can carry harmful viruses or bacteria. There are some germs that survive even after rodent droppings dry out. When the do dry out, rodent droppings crumble very easily. When the crumble, the feces can become airborne and are capable of carrying these germs with the dust. If inhaled, a person can contract some of the germs that have the potentially for living in rodent droppings.

Urine Odor

A sign of a more advanced rodent infestation in a residence is a urine odor, perhaps rather faint. When a homeowner has put a residence on the market for sale, the prospect of detecting a rodent urine smell is likely unlikely. Odds are that the homeowner will have taken steps to mask and potentially unpleasant odor in a residence.

Greasy Trails

When rodents are out and about foraging, they tend to leave a greasy looking trail along the pathways they typically traverse. These trails are created to establish a particular rodent’s territorial zone as well as to identify that rodent’s favored course. You might see greasy looking trails inside a home, usually along the walls of a residence. In addition, these trails sometimes can be identified on the grounds outside of a home, including greasy marks that lead up to an exterior wall of a home.

Scratch Marks

Another indication that a residence might have a rodent issue is the presence of what can be rather tiny scratch marks. These might be found on a wall. However, they also might be found on the floor.

Scratching, Squealing, Scurrying Sounds

When mice or rats infest a home, they do make sounds as well. These include scratching, squealing, and scurrying sounds. As is the case with a urine odor, you are not likely to detect these noises when at a home showing or open house.

Rodents primarily are nocturnal animals. They are most active from dusk until about dawn. Because most home showings and open houses are during the day, the odds of hearing rodents in the premises is slim.

Professional Inspection

If you detect the presence of rodents in a home you’re interested in making an offer on, you do need to inquire of the homeowner. A homeowner needs to provide you accurate information in response to such an inquiry, whether or not a specific disclosure of a rodent issue (past or present) needs to be made by a seller. You do need to keep in mind that a homeowner may not actually be aware of a rodent issue if it is of fairly new origin.

You need to obtain an inspection of the premises before you close on a contract for sale. The inspection needs to include an examination of the property for the current or past presence of rodents in the house.

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