Living in South Florida can be a difficult proposition. We are faced with hot summers, sometimes-cooler winters, hurricanes, tornados, and mosquitoes. We also have a hidden problem that not very many people like to discuss in the open: termites. Termites cause more damage to homes every year than storms and fires combined. In fact over 5 billion dollars annually go to repairs and reconstruction of homes because of the hungry termite. What is not estimated however is the amount of money lost in real estate transactions that leery buyers walked away from with discovery of this subterranean foe.
Not every state requires a termite inspection for the sale or refinancing of a home but except for the state of Alaska it should be a high priority on any buyers to do list. Recently H.U.D. (Housing and Urban Development) suggested that services like termite inspections could be waved unless this was a customary and standard practice in the area of the home being sold. They did this in the last housing boom to speed up the process of loans and real estate transactions. What happened was this ‘suggestion’, which was meant for more northern states or areas with fewer termite incidences, was instead taken as a nation wide rule and banks everywhere stopped requiring vital termite inspections. Areas like Florida or other southern states where termites are a serious problem were suddenly lumped in with this bureaucratic decision and many unsuspecting buyers bought homes with problems. Regardless of any institutions suggestions, having a termite inspection when buying a home is always a prudent idea.
The seller should also be interested in knowing whether or not their home has any issues with this wood destroying insect that need to be dealt with. In today’s market it’s hard enough to find a willing buyer only to have the deal sour when a negative termite inspection comes back. The best time for the seller to have his inspection is long before the buyer calls in theirs. This way should termites, wood rot, dry wood termites or any other wood destroying organism be noted you can handle it way ahead of time and make it a non issue at the time of the sale. Make sure you tell the inspector that you call out for this pre inspection what your intentions are. If not he or she might just be on the look out for subterranean termites and not the many other things that can also be a red flag; after all, it is called a termite inspection. Once you get your inspection results take swift action and fix the areas that need it completely. I’m sure this would be your intention anyways but in real estate there is a thing called ‘full disclosure.’ If you tell someone you took care of the termite problem or damage but it is later discovered you only covered up or went half way, you could have some problems. The best way for a seller to get through this process is to have all the paperwork such as contracts for treatment guarantees and receipts for repairs in a nice tidy folder ready to be viewed at anytime. State the facts and don’t dodge the issue but at the same time you don’t need to feed into peoples fears. Your realtor (if you have one) should be well versed in how to handle these situations so perhaps it is best to let them deal with it.
Buyers might not be so wise to immediately run for the hills should the dreaded word termite come up in negotiations. I have seen many people use this possible deal breaker as a powerful bargaining chip and get an even better deal on the home. Termites eat wood and therefore any structure they are found in is going to have damage but the big question is always how much? It can be very difficult to determine this but at the same time you shouldn’t assume the worst, at least right away. Consulting your termite inspector and asking the right questions can arm you with some very helpful knowledge. Exterminators are not by in large licensed building contractors and most I know shy away from answering definitively just how far the termite damage goes. Without opening the walls to see inside it is very difficult to tell how much damage a structure has. One method I’ve seen used is to use an awl or ice pick and poke through the drywall into each stud at both the top and bottom in the damaged area. The idea is that the awl will easily penetrate the damage stud but not a sound one. This theory may be something you wish to explore but it is not something that I know to be endorsed by the pest control or building industry.
The real estate transaction is a trying time regardless if you’re buying or selling. Having termite history does not have to be a deal breaker. The most important aspect is knowledge, knowing the facts rather than relying on your fears of what this bug MIGHT have done or did in the past may be a big mistake and ruin your opportunity for completing the deal. If you’re a buyer have all of your questions written down and also write down the answers. This way you can refer to them later when things are quiet and see if this purchase still makes sense. Of course you’ll want to weigh your options very carefully and have all your questions answered so that you can make the best decision possible.
The seller needs to have everything spelled out and put on paper and put that information in with the packet that has your appliance warranties, insurance papers and all the documents that go along with the home. Nothing says “I took care of my termites” like a little organization and a nice crisp contract that has the words ‘termite guarantee’ written all over it. If you are cluttered and have your inspection graph wadded up in a drawer and the contract in a shoebox somewhere you won’t garner much trust and when it comes to deal breaking termites you’re going to need every bit you can have.
Home sales happen everyday, albeit far less in the present market and there are very few perfect homes out there. The surplus of homes available is to the buyers’ advantage and sellers already have to lower their prices to compete. Haggling over keeping the washer and dryer or who’ll pay the closing costs is one thing but should termites be found the seller may not be willing to concede anymore and the buyer can easily go to the next house on the list. To avoid this on either side you need to use some forethought and take action. It may be the best deal and the home is everything the buyer wants but this one hurdle is the only thing that stands in the way. Take your time and try to stay logical and remember, homes can be repaired and termites can be killed but a deal gone south is hard to resurrect so you’ve got to have a plan.
Most HOAs in Palm Beach County request that a termite inspection be done before the home is sold. This not only protects the HOA, but it also protects the association as a whole. Since most HOAs consist of homes that are virtually stacked atop each other, when termites are found in one home, more than likely they are in adjacent homes as well.
Always remember that when purchasing a home, one of the most important things is to follow the old saying “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware. Most people are not out to get you, but there is sometimes the idea of if you don’t mention it, maybe they won’t notice. This is especially true in foreclosed, or bank owned homes. In some cases, termites have even been found in homes bought during the foreclosure process. Just be sure to do all your homework before entering into any sale.
If you want to be kept abreast of issues facing individuals living in HOAs in the West Palm Beach area, be sure to subscribe. If you’ve had any issues with your HOA that you’d like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know.
Most of this article was taken from PRLog.org, a free press release service. The expert advice given is from Jerry Schappert The Bug Doctor