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How Termites Can Affect Buying or Selling a Home

etting a Termite Inspection When You Buy or Sell a HomeTermites are common here in New England, and can cause serious problems if they get into the home. Termites can get into wooden furniture, compromise the structure of your home, and can even chew through siding. Once they’ve established a colony you will have to get a professional termite control specialist to remove them. Home buyers should consider getting a termite inspection before they purchase a home.  In New England there is an old saying about termites with homes: “a home has, has had, or will have termites.”   It points to the fact that termites are rather common.

If you’re buying a home in Massachusetts, the owner of the home may not even know if the home has termites, so it won’t necessarily be in the seller’s disclosure. The home inspection may reveal signs that termites are present, or you may have seen signs yourself.   If your home inspector sees some signs of either active termites or termite damage, then a termite inspection should be done. To make sure, hire a qualified termite control specialist to inspect the home. Traditional home inspectors are not specifically trained to recognize the presence of termite activity or structural damage caused by termites. If the inspection shows that termites are active, you don’t need to abandon the idea of purchasing the home. Instead you should request that the seller have it fixed.  Most sellers will be willing to have it treated and set up an annual plan or they may also negotiate the home price if termite damage is found.  This is something you should discuss with your buyer’s agent.

The cost of a termite inspection is usually anywhere from $100-$250, depending on the service but it is well worth the price and could save you thousands of dollars in repair costs down the line.  The treatment itself can cost $1,000 to $2,000.  If there is damage to areas such as structural posts or beams that could cost a lot more and a licensed carpenter should be consulted for those repairs.

Home Sellers May Want to Get a Termite Inspection

If you’re thinking of selling your home and you notice some evidence of either active termites or past termite damage, don’t wait until a buyer is interested to get a termite inspection. Getting an inspection now will allow you to address the problem and fix it so that it doesn’t become an issue at the time of the sale. Before making any repairs, work with your termite control specialist to ensure all active termite colonies have been controlled. Get estimates from several companies to compare costs and methods of control. The best time for you to have a termite inspection and treatments is long before the buyer decides to get an inspection of his or her own.

If you didn’t notice any termite damage until a buyer has an inspection done and the buyer requests you get it treated and have any damage repaired, it is usually best just to do it.  If you don’t and the buyer walks away then you have to disclose it to future buyers and every buyer will be concerned about it.  If you can afford it you are much better off just taking care of it and keeping the sale moving forward.

What are the Signs that a Home has Termites?

There are several tell-tale signs that a home has termites. Look for mud tunnels that run up the side of the foundation or on support beams. These tubes will look like lines of dried mud. Termites travel through these tubes to and from the colony. Another sign you may have termites is seeing a pile of discarded wings in windowsills or near the home. Termites swarm in the spring and shed their wings. If you see these in or near the home you may have termites. Termites eat wood from the inside out, so you won’t see signs of them just by looking at a support beam or section of wood in your house. Tap the wood to listen if it makes a hollow sound which may indicate damage. Termites often leave droppings that resemble sawdust piles. These droppings may indicate any nearby wood is infested with termites.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, if you see these signs, get a termite inspection to get it in writing.

Preventing Termite Infestation Once You Buy the Home

For buyers, even if the termite inspection comes back negative and you purchase the home, you should still take measures to prevent future infestations. Termites love wood, and they also love moisture. Remove any wet or decaying wood elements in around your home. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are cleaned out so water can channel away from the home. Remove all tree stumps and wood from home improvement projects. Don’t pile fire wood next to the house. The best way to store fire wood is on a wire rack away from the house. Wood mulch also should not touch the house. Keep it back 5 inches or more. Make sure the mulch is sloped away from the house. It’s also a good idea to have your home inspected once a year to keep on top of it. Early diagnosis will control termites and prevent more expensive repairs in the future.


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