Should I Buy A Home Without Termite Certification?
6/8/2019 - Dan Caballero
It used to be that when you purchased a home, you could be assured that it was checked and cleared for termites and other wood-destroying organisms (WDO’s). But that is not the case anymore.
How It Used To Be
In the real estate contract, there was a section where the sellers typically agreed to have a WDO inspection and report completed and they agreed to correct all ‘Section 1’ items found on the report. Section 1 items are findings that show evidence of active infestation or infection and the damage caused by such. So, termites, termite damage, and dry rot or fungus damage which was found was to be corrected by the seller prior to the close of escrow. Section 1 items are bad news and should be corrected or the problems could turn into a nightmare. These items are not covered by insurance.
A few years ago, the California Association of Realtors decided to remove the termite (wood-destroying organism) inspection and report from the real estate contract. They felt that it impelled sellers to agree to correct problems that they probably were not aware of and did not have a ‘known price’ to repair. This was because in most cases the termite inspection was not ordered until after the home was sold. This created an ‘unknown’ repair amount. I have to say, smart and experienced realtors called for inspections, prior to putting the home on the market. This way they ‘know’ what the costs (if any) for termite repairs will be before they negotiate a selling price. Common sense… right?
Regardless, the situation now is that the WDO inspection is now handled like the home inspection. Typically, buyers have both the home and termite inspector out to provide them with inspections and reports. Once all the reports are reviewed by the buyer(s), they and their agent submit a request for repairs. Buyers now request. for repairs to be completed, but they may not be agreed to by the seller. Depending on the market (buyer or seller market), some or all the repairs may get completed based on what is negotiated. Often, buyers are convinced to accept a 'credit' instead of having the Section 1 repairs completed.
While this does make it easier for sellers, it often creates a burden on the buyers to try to get the work completed after they move in, if it gets done at all. Many times it does not get done and the termites or rot continue to damage the home.
Some buyers become overwhelmed with the mass of paperwork they have to look at when buying a home and may not even know that the termite work was not done. I’ve spoken to many buyers who assumed that all termite work was done, when in fact it was not done and only a credit was issued. So, they find out the hard way that they are living in an infested, infected or damaged home.
Worse yet, some WDO problems, if not cared for promptly, can result in thousands of dollars of additional damage. In one case I saw a few patio cover shade bars that were rotten and left in place, subsequently destroy a french door system that was just beneath the patio cover. The fungus spores had spread from rain and wind to the door which was in need of painting and now the rot had created so much damage in a little over a year that the doors had to be replaced costing the owners thousands of dollars. I’m pretty sure they didn’t think that ‘credit’ they got was worth it. The shade bars should’ve been replaced as it would have saved them all the additional expense.
What Should You Do?
If you are a buyer, have your potential new home inspected and request that all section 1 (active infestations, infections, and related damage) be corrected prior to moving in. After all, it's not your fault that the home was not maintained in a proper and timely manner. Make sure you get a ‘clearance’ or ‘certification’. This is a statement on the inspection report(s) or completion notice (if work was done) that certifies that the property is free and clear of active wood-destroying organism problems in visible and accessible areas. If you accept a completion notice for work that was done without that certification then likely only some of the Section 1 items were completed. Which means potentially damaging issues are still present in the home.
If you are a seller, have your home inspected before it goes on the market. The cost of a termite inspection is nominal. If your home needs repairs, at least you will know how much it will cost, then you can negotiate properly knowing what it may cost if you need to get the work done in order to sell the home.
If you are in the process of selling or purchasing a home, contact CVA Exterminators to order your inspection!