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Real Estate Termite Inspections – Who, When, and Why?

By Chris Williams on March 6, 2013.

Wood damage from termitesIf you’re buying or selling a home, there’s almost certainly a termite inspection in your future. A termite inspection is always recommended for a real estate transaction, but not always required. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, unfortunately termites are a fact of life.

Who pays for the termite inspection?

That all depends on who requests the inspection. Either the buyer, the seller, or the lending institution can request or require a termite inspection. Who pays for it? It’s all negotiable. Even if the buyer requests the termite inspection, he can usually get the seller to pay for it as a sign of good faith. The inspection report goes to the party that ordered the inspection but both the buyer and seller are typically provided with a copy of the termite inspection report at the closing.

As a buyer, you want to protect yourself from the expense and potential damage of a termite infestation in your new home. A buyer will often make the home purchase contingent upon a “clean” Wood-destroying Insect Inspection Report. If termite damage is found, and depending on the extent of the damage, the buyer can choose to either

  1. Buy the home without treatment
  2. Pay for treatment of the home
  3. Negotiate the treatment or sale price with the seller
  4. Cancel the contract and walk away

If you’re planning on selling your home, it makes sense to have a termite inspection done before you have interested buyers. The inspection could reveal termite problems that you didn’t even know about that could affect your home’s sale. If there are no termite issues, then you have that information in writing to show to prospective buyers. If there are termite issues, you have the opportunity to correct them before you put your home up for sale.

Often, it’s not even your decision as to whether or not to have a termite inspection, it’s the bank’s. Your VA or FHA mortgage lender wants to protect his investment in your property. You may not be able to qualify for a loan unless there is a record of a recent termite inspection. The inspection is sometimes waived in regions where there is little or no termite problem. We have plenty of termite pressure in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, so expect a termite inspection if you are entering into a real estate transaction.

A real estate termite inspection checks the structure both inside and outside but is visual and non-disruptive. The inspector is not required to check areas that are blocked or that he cannot access. The report provided will point out any existing damage or infestations of termites and other wood-destroying insects. You should understand what a termite inspection report tells you. It is limited to the condition of the home on the date of the inspection and is not a guarantee against latent, concealed, or future infestations of wood-destroying insects.

If the termite inspector finds evidence of an active termite infestation during his inspection, he cannot “clear” the house and issue a final report until the home has been treated and the termite infestation eliminated. Both VA and FHA financing require treatment if an inspection finds evidence of active termites. You are not obligated to use the same pest control company that conducted the inspection for the treatment.

Keep in mind that a home inspection is not the same thing as a termite inspection and home inspectors are usually not licensed or qualified to conduct termite inspections. See “Services” on our Home page for more information on real estate termite inspections and what you can expect. Our inspectors are trained and licensed to conduct professional termite inspections in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

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