You may have hired an inspector to give you an evaluation of your home prior to putting it on the market to sell, and this kind of proactive seller strategy is increasingly popular – especially when sellers want a competitive edge over other listing for sale. Of course the most common type of home inspection is ordered by a buyer, prior to closing, to ensure that they know as much as possible about the condition of the home and can make an informed purchase and insightful purchase offer that is accordingly prices.
In either case, if your home inspector sees visible evidence that could potentially indicate the presence of pests such as wood-boring insects, the inspector will note this in your report with photos, a written description, or both.
Keep in mind that some general home inspectors may also be trained as pest inspectors or have a pest inspector on their team, but pest inspection is a separate and distinct specialty. Even if you have had a general inspection, you will also want to do a separate termite inspection. Pest inspectors charge a reasonable fee to conduct their inspections, and it well worth it to find out whether or not you have a wood-boring insect problem.
There are numerous species of insects that will feast on the wood in your home if they have the opportunity. For that reason you can expect that a home inspector will pay attention to any obvious symptoms of insect infestation or damage, and these observations will show up in the inspection report.
Red Flags and Visible Symptoms
Signs of infestation – either active or prior – include pencil-width round holes in wooden structures, such as porch railings and supports, wooden siding, or structural rafters, beams, or piers. These may have been caused by carpenter bees, which look similar to bumblebees but drill into wood that has not been properly sealed, painted, or treated to make it resistant to insects.
If a wooden surface such as the siding on a home is rotting, dry, and crumbly – and has voids in it that resemble the tunnels that ants make in an anthill like those that children often watch during their science classes – that could be from carpenter ants. These look like most other ants, but devour wood for their sustenance and can cause considerable damage to a home.
The other very common pest is the termite, and most homeowners are fully aware that these little insects can completely decimate a home if they are given a chance to infest it and chew away at the wood without being controlled. Sometimes evidence of past infestation can include dead termites, and when termites live in the soil and travel up across the foundation of a house to nibble at the wood, they leave behind telltale tracks. These look like thin trails made of dried mud that branch out across the foundation stones.
What to Do Next
If your inspection report highlights suspicion of such pest presence, just take note of it and then hire a qualified pest inspector or termite inspector to have a closer look and make a more specific determination.
After the pest professional does an inspection they will either give the home a clean bill of health or will recommend that you treat infested areas that are found. The treatment may be simple and easy, or in the case of a severe infestation it may even necessitate that you have a full-day treatment or even vacate the house so that it can be fumigated. If you have wood-boring insect problems the pest professional will typically advise that a general pest control treatment be done about once a year, as a follow-up, to prevent re-infestation.
A contractor will also be needed to repair or replace any pest-damaged wood, and that project could be minor or extensive, depending upon how much or how little damage has been done by the insects. Call around and get bids from at least three pest inspection companies and repair contractors, select professional and schedule the work, and let them do whatever is necessary to resolve the issue.
If repairs are warranted, the buyer and seller need to decide whether they need to be done prior to closing or whether they can be postponed. They will also need to negotiate regarding any costs related to treatment of infestation and repair of any damaged wood to return it to a condition of proper structural integrity. Normally either the buyer will pay these professional services, or they will give a discount to the seller to offset that expense. A third common option is that both parties agree to split the costs.
If the mortgage company is involved and requires an updated termite certificate that validates that the home has a clean bill of health regarding wood-boring pests, that needs to be taken of by a termite inspector. They will issue a dated certificate to give the mortgage company so you can proceed with closing on the home purchase transaction.