Your Termite Report and You!

Know what’s “bugging” you!

First of all let me clear up a very important misconception here: It’s not just a “termite report”. While termites are certainly one of the little rascals exposed in a “termite inspection”, there are many other potentially damaging issues identified therein. For this reason the correct term for this inspection is typically exemplified by a title something like “Wood Destroying Pest and Organism Inspection”.

You see, termites are not the only wood destroying varmits you need to be concerned with when it comes to keeping your home “healthy”. Other threats may include (to name just a few) various other insects, fungus, mold, mildew, dry rot, leaky plumbing, leaking shower pans, etc. When a professional pest inspector is hired to evaluate a building, that person will be looking primarily for any potential threats to its structural integrity.

A pest inspection will typically identify problems areas in one of at least four categories:

  1. Active infestation of a wood destroying pest or organism.
  2. A condition likely to lead to active infestation of a wood destroying pest or organism.
  3. An area inaccessible for inspection, with further inspection recommended.
  4. Items which are not currently harmful but which are meant for disclosure purposes only.

Active infestation is somewhat self-explanatory. This typically refers to the infestation (primarily of wood structural members) by either an insect or a biological agent. Insect infestation is noticeable in forms ranging from small pellets found on floors or window sills in the case of termites, to obvious holes bored into wood members by certain beetles. Evidence of biological infestation often includes a patchy either dark- or light-colored “mold” or “mildew” which may also be accompanied by a distinct odor.

Inaccessible areas for inspection can include attic spaces, subfloor areas, a deck with no crawl space, or even areas with too many personal effects stored adjacent to them. These issues are of particular concern when you sell your home, because a buyer may have a contractual right to request such an area be made accessible and inspected. The industry standard used to determine who will pay for the cost of accessing these areas usually depends upon the ultimate outcome. If an infestation is discovered, the seller must pay. Consequently, if no infestation is found, the buyer must bear the cost.

A common example of an item usually identified as an item for “disclosure only” would be an exterior wall in contact with soil at a level which could cause possible moisture intrusion (such as a house built into a hillside). In this example there is no practical solution, and as long as no moisture intrusion is evident on adjacent interior walls, the pest inspector will frequently recommend that a buyer or homeowner condut further investigation(s).

Unfortunately most homeowners wait until they have accepted an offer from a buyer to purchase their property before ever having a pest inspection. Subsequently the vast majority of people may only think about this issue every 5 to 15 years! Since a variety of infestations may occur at any time, for numerous reasons, it’s a good idea to have one every 2 – 3 years. It makes great sense to know what, if anything, is gnawing away at one of your most significant investments.

If you wait to have a pest inspection until your property is under contract with a potential buyer, you are putting yourself at a tremendous risk. First of all you may agree during negotiations to remedy problems which you don’t yet know exist, based upon the findings in the inspection. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, you may suddenly find yourself paying a premium to a contractor for a quick remedy to avoid even more costly delays in the closing time.

Don’t let this happen to you! My advice is to have a pest inspection on a regular basis. At the very least, have an inspection prior to listing your property for sale so you know what you’re dealing with. Imagine the money and grief you can save yourseffl Also be very clear in your negotiations with any buyer what items you are willing to remedy, and at what cost. It is not uncommon for sellers to limit the amount they will pay to repair pest damage to a certain dollar figure.

It’s always best to ask a real estate professional for a referral to a reputable pest inspector. You may also want to research reliable contractors for any remedial work to be done, since pest inspection companies may not always bid their recommended repairs competitively. If your intention is to sell your home in “as is” condition, with no pest corrective work to be done at all, then you can inform a prospective buyer upfront and save valuable time for you both. This is truly an example of the old saying regarding the cost of education in comparison to the cost of being unaware!