Creepy Crawlies and Buying a House

Home Inspections Explained Series (Part 3)

When your offer to purchase a house is accepted, if you're like most people, you immediately start thinking of how you will personalize your new home:  paint, floor coverings, furniture and blinds.  You don't think about your potential new roommates:  termites and other wood-boring insects that could be literally eating the house out from under you.  This is why spending a couple hundred dollars on a pest inspection may make a lot of sense. Your lender may require a Wood Destroying Pest Inspection Report to release your financing, as well.

What are termites?

Termites are half-inch long insects that are closely related to cockroaches.  Similar to bees, they have colonies with reproductive royalty (both kings and queens), soldiers and workers.  Loosely translated from Latin, "termite" means "woodworm."  They are found on every continent except Antarctica.  Their diet is exclusively dead plant material.  They provide an important food source for many creatures, from spiders to bears to humans.  They construct and live in nests under or near the ground.

Termites are good at hiding, and they are often hard to detect until the damage they have caused becomes quite severe.

How Does an Inspector Find Termites

A qualified pest inspector will interview the homeowner to determine if there are any conditions that make termite infestation more likely (previous infestations, damp, cracks, etc.)  Then, she will look for signs of a termite colony in the outside of your home. After that, a thorough inspection of the home's interior will take place.  The inspector will use a special tool that uses sound waves to locate hollowed-out wood areas, paying special attention to door frames, wood trim and cabinetry.  The attic comes next to ensure that the rafters are all pest-free.  The inspector will carefully check your house from basement/crawl space to rafters to make sure that you don't have any uninvited guests.

Some inspectors will only inspect the interior of the home if the exterior of the home suggests problems.  If you want to receive an interior home inspection, make sure your inspector knows this ahead of time.

Many pest inspectors recommend conducting a wood-boring pest inspection on an annual basis.

What Other Insects Will an Inspector Identify?

Powder post beetles, carpenter ants, and carpenter bees will also identified, as they can also create problems with the structural integrity of the home.  The inspection is not designed to identify nuisance pests like mice, spiders and Asian beetles.  If the inspection does reveal the presence of these pests, a home seller would likely not agree to pay for extermination.  Further, the presence of these pests would likely not provide grounds to terminate the purchase contract, unless the pests had caused unmitigated structural or mechanical damage to the home (e.g. mice chewing through wires, as identified on the electrical portion of the home inspection.)

Help!  The Inspector Found Termites!

First, prepare to get dirty and have the inspector show you the evidence of infestation. Inspectors are trained to see things that you wouldn't see, but the problems should be obvious when they point them out.

Next, you will have to contract with an exterminator to kill the pests.  This may involve drilling through concrete or trenching the soil to distribute the insecticide where it is needed. The cost for extermination is often $1,000-$3,000.  Depending on the severity of the damage, you may need to make structural repairs to the home, as well.  A trusted real estate professional can help you navigate the issues and solve the problems.

*This is the third article in a series about home inspections.  If you're just tuning in, please go back and read the posts on Orangeburg pipes and Radon gas.  Stay tuned for more home inspection content!

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