Buyers & Sellers, Contributor Article, Free

Get second opinion on $7K termite bill

Are two different treatments really necessary?

Q: I am selling a house and have gotten a termite inspection by a company recommended by the real estate agent. The recommendation was to tent the house and treat it with (a brand of insecticide). The cost for the subterranean termite treatment is $1,250; for the drywood termites it cost $2,600. The drywood termites are only in a corner by the water heater and under the porch by the water heater. Is the tenting for both types of termites? Why two different prices?

In addition, there are various fungus and dry-rot repairs, to the tune of $3,000 more. The termite company requires that it does the work or it will not give a completion notice. I could get a handyman to do it for much less. I want to get another estimate, but the real estate agent says we may be opening another can of worms, as the inspections are recorded.

It seems as if the termite company has us over a barrel and can charge whatever it wants since a competitive inspection is unlikely.

A: Your real estate agent is dead wrong. The termite company does not have you over a barrel. Get a competitive inspection and another bid. You’ll be out another inspection fee, but that’s all.

Standard practice these days is to get a structural and pest control inspection before listing your property so you know the likely cost of repairs. Our favorite way to deal with this is to negotiate a credit on the sale and let the buyer deal with the work. You get a closing and they get to control the work. Everyone wins.

When Kevin sold his Alameda, Calif., house, the offer was contingent on a clear pest-control report. Kevin was the listing agent. The buyer’s agent had a pest-control contractor she liked. The guy pulled up in an extra-long pickup he used to trailer his ski boat. Uh-oh!

At the end of the inspection he came up with about $5,000 worth of work, including $2,600 to tent the house and do some dry-rot repair. After doing a little investigation, Kevin found the dry-rot repair was minimal and partially unnecessary, and the fumigation could be subcontracted at a cost of about $800. Kevin did the rot repair himself for a few hundred bucks, had the home reinspected by the reputable pest control operator he used, who cleared the work. He refused to do the fumigation. Ultimately, the deal closed and the buyers did the fumigation before they moved in.

It’s likely that your house needs two types of treatment, hence the separate prices.

Premise 75 is one type of termiticide (insecticide for termites) injected into the ground along the foundation to create a chemical barrier against subterranean termite infestation. The chemical, and other similar insecticides, should be handled only by trained, licensed personnel. You can view a full description of the uses and dangers of this insecticide online at:

Tenting or fumigation kills drywood termites and other wood-destroying pests, such as powderpost beetles. The process consists of placing tarps over the entire house and pumping in poison gas to kill every living thing in the house. The gas permeates everywhere, including pillows, mattresses, food and furniture.

For this reason, we strongly recommend — if fumigation is required — to have it done after you move out. To get a good idea of what you’re in for, visit

Be aware that fumigation kills the bugs currently infesting the house but it does not prevent them from returning.

In California, termite inspections call out two areas of repair. Section I repairs deal with areas where active infestation is apparent. Beetles, termites and dry rot fall into this category. Section II work deals with conditions likely to lead to damage in the future. An example is dirt graded to within 6 inches of a foundation.

Only do the section I repairs.

Don’t use a handyman to do the dry-rot repairs. If all the work is in plain sight, use a licensed, insured and bonded general contractor. These professionals are more likely to be able to work with the termite company and achieve the ultimate goal — a clearance. Carefully inspect the contract and try to get a fixed bid. Sometimes hidden damage will be uncovered, which can cost more.







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