Whether it is occupied year-round or only in the summer months, pest control experts know that every home can benefit from pest management services. Unfortunately, many vacation homeowners do not understand the need for having regular pest service at a home they do not occupy 365 days a year. As a result, emergency service calls abound in the late spring and early summer months as owners discover infestations that have been building for weeks or even months. Especially for bed bug removal in vacation homes — more than 50 percent of homes in Pride Pest Services’s market of the New Jersey shore do not have full-time occupants. The question PMPs should ask: How do we tap into the vacation homeowner market?
First, vacation homeowners need to understand the need to have ongoing pest control services in a home they do not occupy year-round. Assuming they can address any problems at the beginning of the season, many homeowners “winterize” their vacation property during their last visit in the fall and do not think about it again until they “open” it again in the spring. They do not realize the risk they are taking by largely ignoring the insect or rodent population that may take up residence in their vacation home while they are away. Simple education is often enough to help these homeowners draw the conclusion that year-round pest service is vital to their home’s health.
In order to maintain vacation homed year round, PMPs need to service homes during winter months — when they are empty. Servicing unoccupied homes presents a unique challenge as the PMP assumes liability for entering homes without the homeowner present. This additional liability may require added insurance, background screenings of employees and accountability measures. However, many homeowners are willing to enter contracts that allow access to their homes, especially exterior areas, when they are not there.
Homeowners need to be educated and understand insect behavior and damage potential. Seeing how easy it is to acquire bed bugs, even in high-end homes, or discovering the damage carpenter ants can do to the underlying structure of a building, is often enough to help homeowners see how vital insect control is.
Offering service calls in between regularly scheduled applications gives homeowners peace of mind. Pest management services are vital to homeowners, but even best efforts sometimes do not account for infestations that go undetected for a prolonged period of time. Offering free service calls in between regularly scheduled applications gives homeowners a sense of overall satisfaction. Most homeowners do not use this added benefit when they occupy the home full-time, especially when applications are pre-scheduled. It is even more rare that a vacation homeowner will call for service before a regularly scheduled application. The few cases where they are required are worth the levels of customer satisfaction, favorable reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.
In the end, the ability to thrive in the area depends on how well PMPs market services to vacation homeowners. Helping this segment of homeowners understand the benefit of year-round pest control, servicing unoccupied homes, teaching about insect behavior and offering between-service applications, can change the way the vacation homeowners think about insect eradication.
The author, John Desider is founder and CEO of Pride Pest Service, Oceanport, N.J. pridepestservice.com