Red flags in termite report

Know which items must be repaired before selling

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 20, 2011

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Know which items must be repaired before selling

Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

A recent column on structural and pest inspections brought these no-holds-barred comments from a reader in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael:

"Having bought and sold several homes, I have found that termite companies get you coming and going.

"Once they have written up a problem, they will tell you that they -- and only they -- must issue the clearance. If you opt to have someone else do the work, you will still need the termite company to reinspect and clear the work. Another fee is billed for that.

"If you get a second termite company to do an inspection, you are now responsible for clearing what they find, and what the other company found, even if bogus. Then, if you use the termite company to do the repairs, they come out, tear out the old stuff and disappear for weeks, fouling up your closing.

"I am sure there are strictly ethical termite companies out there, but I haven't found one yet."

While we understand her frustration, we don't agree with many of her comments. Lke all businesses, some termite companies are better than others.

Most real estate purchase contracts require a clearance. A second termite inspection, if you choose to get one, is simply a check on the first inspection. The second inspector is being asked to verify the findings of the first. Repair of bogus findings is not required.

Selling a home is a stressful experience that can bring huge surprises costing thousands of dollars. That does not mean termite companies are unethical or scam artists, but it does mean they are in the driver's seat when it comes to required repairs.

A little knowledge about the process goes a long way. Here are our "pearls of wisdom" on dealing with termite inspections:

There are two parts to a structural and pest control inspection called Section I and Section II.

To quote from a recent inspection report on a home in Hayward, Calif., "Section I contains items where there is evidence of active infestation, infection or conditions that have resulted in or from active infestation or infection." These must be corrected in order for the company to provide a clearance.

In this case, the inspector found evidence of dry-wood termite infestation and fungus/dry rot in rafter tails. He recommended fumigation and replacement/repair of the rafter tails.

The report said, "Section II items are conditions deemed likely to lead to infestation or infection but where no visible evidence of such was found."

The inspector found that there was some damage to the kitchen floor vinyl and the siding needed painting. These items do not require repair for a clearance.

Be there when the inspection takes place, and walk and crawl with the inspector. Ask questions and have him or her show you the evidence of damage or the conditions that are likely to lead to damage. Do this and you will understand the items called out in the report.

The inspector will do a lot of poking at the wood members. It should be evident where problems are because the probe (screwdriver or ice pick) easily sinks into punky wood. Beetle-infested wood leaves holes. Subterranean termites leave mud tunnels from the ground to the wood members. Dry-wood termites leave pellets (excrement) where they've been.

Curled bathroom vinyl or loose shower tiles can mean water damage to framing members.

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