No one wants to buy a house that’s riddled with termites. So, a termite inspection — technically an inspection for damage by any kind of wood-destroying organisms — is usually done at some point during the course of a home sale.
Loosely referred to as a termite inspection, an inspection for wood pests covers such organisms as dry rot, fungus, wood-boring beetles, carpenter ants — to name a few — in addition to termites. Who pays to repair the damage varies, often depending on market conditions.
For example, during soft markets that favor buyers, sellers are usually more willing to pay for pest repairs than they are when houses sell quickly. However, in a hot seller’s market, buyers are more likely to overlook these defects and buy properties in their “as is” condition, without asking the sellers to pay for repairs.
Even if a seller doesn’t have to do pest repairs in order to sell, there are times when it makes sense to do so. Buyers look favorably on a house that has little, if any, pest damage. It’s one less thing for buyers to worry about after moving in. A pest report with little or no damage is a big draw.
Although it’s not custom everywhere, it’s wise for sellers to have their homes inspected for wood pests before selling. Actually, it’s a good idea for homeowners to have their homes inspected every few years, even if they’re not planning to sell, so that problems can be dealt with before they become major.
In some areas, sellers don’t pay to have their homes inspected for wood pests until they have accepted an offer from a buyer. This approach can be problematic. If the pest inspection reveals more damage than anticipated, the contract could end up in renegotiation. And, if you can’t come to terms with the buyers, the listing will be back on the market.
There’s another advantage to having a wood pest inspection done before the marketing begins. Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to have all the work done, it might enhance the marketability of the home to have selected items done.
For example, let’s say the bathroom floor not only looks bad, but there is dry rot underneath it. The pest report calls for removing the old floor, repairing the damage and installing a new floor. If you do this work before you put your home on the market, you not only eliminate one of the items on the pest report, but your home will probably look more attractive to prospective buyers.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: As nice as it is to move into a house that needs no work, there are benefits to having the buyers oversee corrective work. The sellers are on their way out of the property. They could be involved in a job transfer or a divorce, and have little time to devote to making sure the job is done correctly. The buyer has a vested interest in making sure the job is done right.
It may be advantageous for the buyers to take responsibility for wood pest repairs if they plan to make improvements to the property. For instance, a buyer could factor deck repair costs into the price and accept a dry-rotted deck in its present condition, without asking the sellers to make repairs. That is, if the condition is not an urgent concern. This way, the buyers can redesign the deck to meet their own specifications.
THE CLOSING: Buyers who agree to take on the pest work can either factor that in to the price or ask the seller to credit money to them at escrow. Check with your mortgage representative to determine the best way to structure the transaction taking your financial situation into account.
Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.