Termites: What you didn’t know when it comes to your Real Estate Transaction!

By: Michelle Accetta

Let’s talk about Termites! Exciting right? Well, not really, but there are some important things to know about Termites when it comes to your real estate transaction (as either a buyer or a seller!). 

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First, let’s look at the termite report! Who is responsible for ordering it and what is on it? The person who orders the report depends on the contract. Buyers can specify on their purchase contract to have the seller order and deliver the buyer a termite report. In the contract, the buyer can request that the seller either use a specific termite company or allow the seller to choose the company. If the buyer has not specified anything in the purchase contract about the termite report, it becomes the buyer’s responsibility to have the home inspected by a termite company of their choice within their inspection contingency period outlined on the contract. Termite inspections typically range from $0-$85 depending on the company that is chosen.
 
After the inspection is complete, it is time to look at the actual termite report, more formally called the Wood Destroying Pest and Organisms Inspection Report. As real estate agents, we have learned a thing or two  about what to look for on this report, but we must tell you we are by no means experts on the report or on termites in general. However, due to our experience, there is a fair amount that we do know and we would like to share our insight with you. So, lets get started!
 
The first page of a termite inspection report typically looks like this:
Termite page one .jpg
The top grid outlines a few things buyers and sellers should look for:
  • What type of report is this? Buyers typically are looking for a complete report. 
  • Another important section to note is the “Inspection Tag posted” and “Other Tags Posted” section. When a home is tented or termite work is done on a property, termite companies typically post a piece of paper called a “tag” somewhere in the home. The “tag” is most commonly found in the attic or garage and highlights the type of work done and the date completed. This is important as it is good to know how long it has been since the home was last treated for termites.
  • What type of termites are we dealing with here? Yes, there are more than one type of termites… who knew?! Well, the termite company did of course. They outline on the last line of the grid what type of termites were identified on the property. The goal of the termite work is to rid the home of termites (depending on the scope of the contract detailed with each different termite company). The report will outline how the termite company will remove and repair current damage caused by the termites. Remember, we are not termite experts so it is always best to contact a professional to get more information on each type of termite and the potential extent of damage cause by each kind.
 
Scrolling down… next, you will see the termite company’s interpretations of the subject property – using lines, arrows, circles and codes to identify the areas of termites and potential damage. This picture should be referred back to as one continues to read the report and the depicted “codes” are referenced.
 Termite page one diagram.jpg
 
Getting to the nitty gritty! What exactly is happening with the termites at this property? Well, you won’t find it on the next two pages or so. That is usually boiler plate information on the scope and limitations of the report to protect the termite company. The good stuff doesn’t start till around page 3.
 
Here is where there are a lot of differences from company to company in how they organize the report, so we will talk about what you should be looking for overall. THIS IS THE SECTION TO READ! (We hope the all caps is helping). This will tell you what they found and what they are going to do remedy it. Some things you might see… drilling for subterranean termites, fumigation (yes, a tent is involved), cutting out damaged beams or other wood members and replacing them or filling them with wood filler. There can be an array of actions that termite companies recommend taking in order to eliminate the problem.
Here is a more recent page four just to give you a point of reference about what we are talking about here!
Termite page 4.jpg 
We have some insight as to what to look for here.  Remember,  each report, termite company, and scope of work is different, but there are a few general tips on what to be aware of and what to look out for!
 
  • Section 1 and Section 2. What are they? Section 1 is the current work to be done on the property. Section 2 is any recommended on-going maintenance. It is standard that the seller performs the work recommended in Section 1, while the work in section 2 it taken on by the buyer. The work authorization portion will typically outline the work in section one and two along with the cost, as shown in the picture below. Termite page7.jpg
  • Primary work and secondary work. In some instances the termite company will suggest primary work and secondary work under Section one. In most instances we have seen this occurs when a home needs to be fumigated. The fumigation is typically outlined in the primary work and spot treatment in lieu of fumigation in the secondary work. Both will satisfy completion of the work in section 1. It is important, as a buyer, to outline in a request for repairs whether you would specifically like the primary or secondary work completed, and if Section 1 clearance can be issued by doing either the primary or secondary work.Termite page 6.jpg
  • Spot Treatment. Spot treatment can entail removing or replacing wood that has been affected or damaged by termites on the property. For example, spot treatment may be needed on a portion of the exterior fascia (material that covers the ends of roof rafters). What to be aware of here, is that the termite company will typically remove and replace the piece of wood and prime it back to white, but will not paint it back to its original color. In some instances, if the seller provides the termite company the original paint they might kindly return the spot treatment area to the original color. It is best that the buyer request the treated area be painted in their request for repairs to the seller, or anticipate having to paint at the close of escrow.
  • What was inspected? Does the house have fences? A deck or any other structure on the property? Some inspection reports solely inspect the primary structure, meaning that fences, decks, etc may be overlooked. However, home inspectors could still note termite damage on these structures if they notice it. A buyer can request the seller have the termite company inspect and remedy the termite damage on these other structures by referencing them on their home inspection report, or even having further investigations done by the termite company of those other areas.
  • Roof tiles. Who would have thought that roof tile would be important in the context of this conversation? Well, they are and can become a very large additional cost if overlooked. When a termite company goes to fumigate a property, especially one with roof tiles, tiles can be broken or damaged in the process. As a buyer, it is important to be aware of this and to include this tile repairs in the request for repair with the seller. As a seller, if your buyer has or has not requested, and  you do not want to be held accountable for the tiles, you can have the buyer sign off on an addendum or counter the request for repairs so that you will not be held responsible for any potential roof damage caused by the termite company.
  • Gas Shut off. The gas has to be shut off in order to tent a property for fumigation. This is important to know in the case that one is buying or selling a townhouse. In some cases the gas line to one unit might be connected to the other unit, meaning that if the one being bought or sold has the gas shut off then the neighboring units gas has to be shut off as well. This might become a hurdle as the neighbors have to agree to shutting the gas off when fumigation is occurring (typically for a duration of 3 days). It is best to try to work with the neighbor to accomplish this. Typically the termite company will have a secondary recommendation of spot treatment if fumigation is not possible.
 
That’s just a glimpse of some of the things you should look out for! If you ever have a question you can always calls us too!
 
And one last thing! Keep your termite paperwork!  Each termite inspection report or work completion has a guarantee for the work preformed. Typically a fumigation has a guarantee of 2 years and all other work has a guarantee of 1 year. This means that if termites are found at the property within those time frames the company will come back to remedy the problem (given each individual companies policy).You should check this on the contract or call the termite company and ask.
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It is important to choose agents who know their contracts, are familiar with how to negotiate a deal, and will always work in your best interest (like us!). So call the Weber Accetta Group today if you are interested in buying or selling at 310-387-4693 (Lauren Weber) or 310-293-1883 (Michelle Accetta!

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