Challenges: Labor, Pricing, Liability

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February 8, 2021

A perennial challenge made harder during the pandemic was finding employees. PMPs in follow-up interviews said generous unemployment benefits encouraged some people to not seek work.

“Our revenue was up. It could have been a whole lot better if we would have been full on employees,” said Weldon Hurt, Pest Patrol, who was short workers.

Another issue was pricing. According to the 2021 PCT Termite Control Market survey, the average price of a typical post-construction termite job was $974; a pre-construction job was $629. Prices in 2020 increased slightly from 2019 but were still lower than what PMPs charged on average in 2018.

“You have some companies; their business plan is to do volume. They get out there and they low ball everybody,” said Jamie Steffey, Gateway Pest Control.

Kevin Mills, president of Mills Pest Management in Burbank, Calif., raised prices for drywood termite control when the cost of fumigant increased. The move was “long overdue,” said Mills. “When you look back, fumigators have kept their pricing the same for the past 20 years or so, until recently.”

He said PMPs have long feared that higher prices will push customers to lower-priced competitors, but he found customers are growing “more concerned with receiving good customer service, quality work and a solid warranty versus cheap pricing.” Online lead generation and social media platforms have helped with this. “A good reputation goes a long way,” he said.

Spray foam insulation posed another challenge. The PCT survey found 52 percent of PMPs had encountered the insulation with some frequency while performing termite inspections, and 51 percent felt its use in structures had increased liability for the pest control industry.

“It’s almost impossible to find termites or inspect properly with that stuff on the walls,” said Steffey. “We make sure we document that we can’t inspect that area” to limit liability, he said.

When attics contain spray foam insulation, the aeration process for a drywood tent fumigation takes longer. As a result, these jobs now take five days instead of three, said Jim Swayne, Safer Home Services.