Homewreckers: Protecting property through termite management

By |  January 24, 2019
PHOTO: DR. GERRY WEGNER, BCE

PHOTO: DR. GERRY WEGNER, BCE

Termites cause more than $5 billion in damage annually in the U.S., according to the National Pest Management Association. Fortunately, pest management professionals (PMPs) do more than control pests. They protect property, too. “We protect the customer’s most valuable asset, and provide a service that relieves the stress of worrying about whether insects are going to destroy their home,” says Randal D. Dawson, ACE, operations director, DC Scientific Pest Control, Tuscaloosa, Ala. “We provide the best protection we can for our customers.”

That’s the primary reason the PMPs who responded to Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) 2019 Termite Management Survey find termite work rewarding. “We are protecting people’s homes and buildings from potentially devastating termite damage,” says John Etheridge, owner, Seashore Pest Control, Huntington Beach, Calif. “A large percentage of personal wealth is tied up in homes, and being entrusted to protect those homes is a privilege.”

Termite damage can be devastating to a homeowner, and no one knows that better than the PMPs who have seen the destruction firsthand. Scott Kight, ACE, Fort Myers Pest Control in North Fort Myers, Fla., says he enjoys termite work because no two homes are exactly alike — and termites don’t attack them the same way every time. “I find it gratifying when I can go into an infested home and control an issue that is literally eating the customer’s house,” Kight admits.

Liquid remains first choice

As in years past, the majority of respondents expect to generate more than half of their termite management revenue from liquid treatments. Bait applications are a distant second, followed by fumigation and borate treatments.

“Termite jobs are very satisfying,” says Kyle Elzey, designated certified operator (DCO) and integrated pest management (IPM) specialist for Pest King Services, Gainesville, Ga. “Sometimes different build types make them challenging. But overall, when termiticide is applied properly and the prep work is performed properly, you have less than a 1 percent fail rate with a liquid application.”

A profitable pest

Daren Horton, ACE, owner of Gecko Pest Control in Marshall, Texas, says termite control has always been one of his favorite services to offer customers.

“The challenges that come with different construction methods, home additions, air ducts in slabs and a world of variables stretch one’s deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills,” he says “I have not found a more satisfying feeling in this business than solving a termite issue that a customer has struggled with for years.”

Indeed, many PMPs favor termite work because it generates solid revenue. “Termite work can be profitable if priced right,” says Dayton Hylton, owner of Dayton’s Pest Control Services in Knoxville, Tenn. “It also builds up a customer base for annual termite warranty renewals.”

Survey results show termites are more prevalent in the southern portion of the United States. Of the PMPs who answered the survey, 46 percent were in the south. “In Georgia, where we are located, it’s not a matter of if you get termites, it’s when you get termites,” Elzey says. “I expect our 2019 termite business to generate more volume in 2019, due to our company growing and our positive reputation in the community.”

A strong economy is key when it comes to termite control because new construction provides work for many PMPs. “With a strong economy and consumer confidence on the rise, we should see growth in new home construction and home purchases,” says Horton. These factors — along with growth through sales, marketing and attrition — should lead to a strong year for termite control.”

PHOTO: PMP JAN. 2019 COVER, DR. GERRY WEGNER, BCE

PHOTO: PMP JAN. 2019 COVER, DR. GERRY WEGNER, BCE

Diedrich Schweers, owner of SWAT Mosquito & Pest Control in Georgetown, S.C., explains growth this year for his company will be thanks in large part to new capabilities he’s offering and a strong economy. “We are seeing people buy, sell and build homes and businesses constantly. Anywhere you look, you can see something being built,” he says. “For pest control companies, this can be good. It allows us to engage more with customers and provide them with services such as termite pre-treatments and wood infestation reports.”

Dawson expects revenue to increase for the same reason. “We expect to grow our termite business in 2019 at a sustainable rate that we can handle and still provide the level of service that our customers expect,” he says. “The improvement in the economy has the construction industry beginning to steadily increase.”

Consumers with more expendable income is another reason for more termite work, he says, and that’s true for many PMPs who took the survey. “By educating current customers and new customers, our retention rate and new customer rate has grown, and will keep growing, due to the customer’s knowledge of why we are protecting their most important investment,” says Levi Reynolds, branch manager for McNeely Pest Control in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Not all termite work is found in the south, of course. Etheridge also expects continued growth of his termite control business. Termite work for his company has increased every year since 1998, when he first got into the business. “New construction is a constant, and property owners are acutely aware that real property values can be dramatically affected by unchecked termite problems,” he says. “We expect to see termite treatment and repair revenues go up by 10 to 15 percent this year.”

The new construction often leads to new customers for savvy PMPs. “Clients are taking advantage of free inspections, which in our industry is really a chance to sell them our services and help educate them,” says Aaron Brunell, manager of Brown Exterminating in Stanardsville, Va. “Termite work should be lucrative for any pest control company.”

Knowledge is key

While termite work is lucrative, it also is labor-intensive because it’s important to have some basic construction knowledge, according to Elzey. “You have to understand building and structures to a certain degree,” he says. “Study the basic construction of common types of homes, such as those with crawlspaces and basements or built on slabs.”

PMPs also can build their businesses on renewals, Elzey says. “Termite treatments are good if they are not underpriced, not under-treated, and renewals are pursued,” says Hylton.

Working with real estate agents and home inspectors is a great way to boost revenue, too. “Don’t let builders and Realtors pressure you into giving termite treatments away,” Hylton warns. Dawson agrees. “Don’t ever cut corners,” he says. “Charge what the service is worth. You can’t fall for the temptation to cut prices just to take business from a competitor for a short-range gain.”

Macy Ruiz, BCE, technical services manager for Rentokil North America in Pineville, N.C., notes that termite control “can be lucrative if you price it correctly. You get the satisfaction of a job well done when you follow up with your client and he replies, ‘Everything is fine, thank you for your help.’”

Indeed, the majority of the PMPs who answered the survey said termite management is lucrative and rewarding. “It is a great business that opens other doors for upselling opportunities in the pest industry,” says Dawson. “If your customers trust you to protect their homes from termites, they should trust you to take care of any of their other pest control needs.”

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