Termites and Moisture Damage: Not "If" but When

I have heard more real estate agents use this phrase than I can remember when referring to whether a house will get a termite infestation.  North Carolina is a beautiful state from the coast to the mountains.  She has rivers and streams, rolling hills, pine trees, and termites.  Our state has an abundance of termite’s two favorite things, wood and water. 

Termites

Termites and other wood destroying insects do thousands of dollars in damage to buildings and houses annually.  That’s why it’s important to order a termite inspection when you buy a house, even when your lender doesn’t require one.  It should be a high priority - a necessity if you will - so you don’t walk into a structurally damaged property requiring thousands of dollars in repairs which could have been prevented by an inspection that costs only $50 to $100. 

After an inspection is completed, a report will be generated on a standard form and sent to the agent or attorney closing the loan.  On this form, there are different blocks that can be checked.  Section 4 is what we like to see because it means there is no evidence of a termite infestation, present or past. 

Hopefully the seller has a pest control company under contract for wood destroying insects, sometimes called a termite bond, which can be transferred to the new buyer according to the company’s terms and annual fee.  I would strongly suggest a buyer continue a termite contract if possible.  This will keep the company checking your house annually or quarterly depending on the pest control used and more importantly if there is an active infestation treatment will be applied without a charge to you other than your annual fee. 

Some companies even agree to repair damage if necessary within certain limits so it is important to read over the contract provided.  There is usually an expiration of the bond and you may have to retreat the property in order to keep your pest control company under contract.  Whether a bond is available or not, I recommend having someone check your home annually for wood destroying insects, even if you had a clean report at closing.

Many times we see the first section checked which indicates either there was a previous infestation which now appears to be inactive or a box is checked indicating there is a current infestation and whether or not preventive measures were taken.  The majority of lenders are going to require a treatment to be performed if active termites are found as well as a structural letter from a licensed contractor stating the house is structurally sound, even if the evidence of infestation is presently inactive.  Even if your lender does not require a structural letter, I would highly recommend getting one unless you have other evidence indicating the affected areas are structurally sound.

Moisture

During the inspection, if the house has a crawl space, a moisture reading will be taken.  This is important for a couple of reasons.  High moisture can rot the foundation and cause mold or attract termites.  If the moisture level is high enough, the termites do not have to go back to the nest to absorb water so they can continually eat your home.  A vapor barrier may be needed in order to bring the moisture level down. 

In the comments section of the report, there may be an indication if the inspector noticed any wood debris in the crawl space or areas that would be conducive to termites.  It goes without saying that you do not want to store wood or have wood debris under your house.  This is just an appetizer for wood destroying insects with your home being the main course.  Areas conducive to termites might be listed as wood to ground contact if you have a deck.  Sometimes an indication may be made on the report if the lumber appears to be treated.

If you are going to buy a home investing your hard earned money, I strongly recommend you get a termite inspection.  It is one of the most important inspections and for the reasonable cost of obtaining one makes good economic sense.

Published by Christopher T. Salyer on November 9, 2015