Picture this: You’ve found the home of your dreams, made an offer, and it was accepted—but during the home inspection you discover that the house has termite damage. Termites! This will very likely leave you feeling both concerned and disgusted.
If you’re a buyer, any infestation is disheartening. But should it be a deal killer? If you find yourself in this predicament, here are some things to consider.
Where is the damage located?
One major factor that can help you determine whether to move forward with the purchase is exactly where the damage is located. Trey McCallie,principal broker at Urban Toolbox Real Estate in Lexington, KY, suggests that a buyer can purchase a home with termite damage as long as it’s not in the floor joists or any of the main supports of the home.
The damage is considered minimal if it’s primarily on the surface of wood structures. Any deeper and you may have a seriously costly problem on your hands.
Are you a first-time home buyer?
Termite-ravaged homes will usually come with a significant discount, which can appeal to newbies, who are often looking for a bargain. But McCallie says first-time home buyers should think long and hard before purchasing a home with termite damage. Why?
“First-time homebuyers typically have very little savings to tackle a major structural issue, because they are spending most of their money on the down payment,” he says.
Are the causes of the infestation fixed?
Besides fixing the damage, buyers need to ensure that the seller has fixed the parts of the home that led to the infestation.
“For example, termites see wood in direct contact to the soil—like siding, stairs, or door frames—as a food source, an entryway into the home, and also as shelter,” says Jeff Fisher, a real estate agent at PropertySimple in Scottsdale, AZ.
He says that moisture near the home’s foundation, in the form of clogged gutters, broken downspouts, or overflowing AC condensation lines, which can all result in water pooling near the home’s foundation, should also be eliminated. “Overgrown vegetation, firewood, and other wood stored near the foundation can also attract termites and should be addressed.”
Can the damage be eradicated?
Most damage, when found, can be treated and fixed. It is possible for more caustic species like the Formosan termite to damage a house beyond repair if it remains untreated for many years, but situations like this are very rare, according to Orkin pest control company.
“The majority of termite infestations can be treated by a pest control company, giving you assurance that the infestation will be eliminated and that the home will be protected against future termite infestations,” says Charlie Jones, EVP of Operations with Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta, GA.
If the termite damage in your potential home is extensive, Jones says you should consider having a structural inspection performed by a licensed contractor to determine if the damage is cosmetic (Sheetrock scarring, pinholes in walls, minor baseboard damage) or structural. If the damage is affecting the house’s structure, it will be more expensive.
How are your bargaining skills?
A termite infestation turning up during a home inspection might seem like a bummer, but it can be used as a major bargaining chip to help you knock down the price of the home.
Randy Mintz, a real estate agent at R.E. Shilow Realty Investors in Baltimore, says that if a buyer is already under contract, it is in the seller’s interest to work out a deal, allowing the buyer to use the discovery of the termite damage as leverage to get a better price.
“Generally speaking, I would advise a client to go ahead and buy a house with some termite damage, but to use it to their advantage as a negotiating tool,” he says.