If you are in the process of buying a house—congratulations! Whether this is your very first home or you are simply relocating, buying a home is an exciting process. What’s less exciting, however, is moving into your new home and discovering that it has structural damage caused by termites and or other wood destroying insects like carpenter ants. Before you move into your new home, it’s important to have a home inspector perform a termite inspection so you avoid any unforeseen costs or damages.
How Termites Can Damage a Home
Termites can cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, and are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring, and even wallpaper. While it would take a single termite roughly 3,100 years to eat the wood in a 1,000-square-foot home, termites never exist alone. In fact, termite colonies can range from a few thousand individuals to several million, depending on their species. Several colonies can also live together on one acre of land—meaning millions of termites could have access to your home at any time.
The areas of a home that are most vulnerable to termite damage are slab foundations, areas where wood touches dirt, and inaccessible crawl spaces. Prospective homeowners should keep these things in mind when looking to buy a house, and should consult with their lenders and real estate agents to determine if the home is a good fit for them.
Getting a Termite Inspection Before Buying Your Home
The repairs from termite damage can cost thousands of dollars, depending upon how much wood they have eaten, how long the colony has existed in the home, and where the damaged wood is located in the house. Unfortunately, however, necessary termite repairs often cost more than the original building did. That’s why it’s so important to get a termite inspection before you finalize, close on the contract, and move into the home. In many places, a termite inspection is often required in order to complete a real estate transaction, and some mortgages, such as FHA and VA loans, could be conditional depending on the amount of repairs needed.
A termite inspection is different from a standard home inspection in that the termite inspector assesses the condition of the physical structure of a home, from the roof to the foundation. Termite inspections, when performed by a professional, typically last about an hour. During the inspection, a termite specialist will inspect and probe the home from the attic to the basement for signs of termite damage. Evidence of termite damage can include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings, areas that appear to be affected by slight water damage, and visible mazes within walls or furniture. Termite infestations can also produce an odor similar to mildew or mold.
After completing the inspection, the specialist will issue a termite inspection report and detail any infestations found, along with a cost estimate to exterminate the termites.
Treating a Termite Infestation
After a termite inspector provides a cost estimate for eradicating termites, the pest control company will need to come in and complete a termite treatment. This process often involves fumigation or spraying insecticide to destroy the termite colony. Once the treatment is complete, the homeowner will need to assess damages and likely work with a contractor to fix them. Unfortunately, these costs can add up, too, since it often involves extensive demolition and replacing structural supports.