What you need to know about termite disclosures and home buyingJanuary 22, 2021
Buying a home can be a long and exhausting process. By the time your offer is accepted, you’re probably ready to be done and let your realtor handle the closing process. But, there’s one more critical step left: home inspections. In our state, home inspections are incredibly important. A professional inspection can give you a heads-up about roofing issues, HVAC problems, and—perhaps most importantly—the property’s history with termites.
In this article, we’ll review why termites are such a major threat to homes, what homebuyers need to know about our state’s termite disclosures, and why hiring an experienced home inspector is always the right call when buying or selling a home.
Never try to deal with or treat a termite infestation all by yourself. If you’re not sure what to do, please call your local extermination company. If you happen to live in Arizona, please call a termite exterminator in Phoenix.
What you need to know when buying a home
Under state law, homeowners must disclose if the property has a past history with termites and whether or not the infestation was treated. At first glance, this disclosure law might appear to offer sufficient protection to you as a buyer.
However, there’s several holes in this disclosure policy. First, the homeowner is only required to disclose what they know at the time of sale. They do not have to have their home inspected for termites prior to listing, nor can they be held responsible for what they should have known. In other words, it’s possible that a homeowner’s ignorance of an ongoing termite issue could lead to you buying a home with termites.
If the homeowner does indicate the property has a past history with termites and termite damage, don’t just assume that the infestation was dealt with and that the damage was repaired. Termites are notorious for reinfesting homes, and some homeowners elect to just deal with the current infestation without taking steps to protect the property down the road.
All of this is to say that our termite disclosure law is no substitute for a professional home inspection. As a buyer, the ball is in your court. You need to vet your potential investment and get an independent third party to assess whether or not there has been termite activity and, if so, what damage was done.
Termites pose a major problem
From a property damage perspective, termites should be thought of as a natural disaster. Every year in the U.S., termite infestations lead to more property damage costs than blizzards, thunderstorms, floods, and earthquakes combined. They are the leading cause of property damage in our state, as well as many others.
There are three types of homes: those that have had termites, those that will get termites, and those that have termites right now. In the long life of a wood-framed home, a termite infestation is almost inevitable. One of the most common species, the desert subterranean termite, forms mud tubes on the foundation to climb into the structure. Left undisturbed and untreated, they can cause significant damage over the course of just a few years.
Termites are a costly pest to exterminate. Not only do you need to remove the current infestation, but homeowners need to remain vigilant and invest in preventative treatment to prevent re-infestation. If the termites caused structural damage, it might require thousands—or tens of thousands—of dollars in repairs.
Schedule a professional home inspection
All home sales are a form of negotiation. The seller sets the asking price and the product. As a buyer, you need to thoroughly assess that product to ensure that it both meets your needs and is worth the seller’s asking price. Home inspections are a critical part of the sale process because they ensure information symmetry between the two parties. Armed with the report from a thorough home inspection, you’ll know every current defect the property has, and may use that to negotiate terms or—in some cases—walk away from the table.
For example, if your home inspector reveals significant and unresolved termite damage to the home’s structure, you and your realtor can return to the seller and either ask that they make repairs prior to closing or lower the price to compensate you for the needed repairs. Had you skipped the home inspection, either to cut costs or save time, you would have moved forward to closing without that renegotiation. The cost of dealing with any damage—or treating an active infestation—would be on you the minute you get the keys.
Not all home inspections are cut from the same cloth. Only work with an experienced and certified property inspector. Look for inspectors who provide detailed, written reports with photographs. This will help you discuss defects with your realtor and the seller.
Finally, it’s important to note that real estate inspections aren’t just a tool for buyers. If you’re planning on selling your home, a real estate inspection is a great way to identify critical issues ahead of listing. By dealing with those problems now, you can ensure a smooth and quick home sale at your desired asking price.
Make the right investment
Buying a home can be an overwhelming experience—especially for first-time homebuyers. For many people, it’s one of the largest investments they’ll ever make. The state of the property impacts not only your health and happiness, but its future value and equity. Before you close on a home, you need to have all the cards on the table and know its past history—especially with termites. Hire a home inspector.