Purchasing a home only to find out later that it has a severe termite problem is among the most disheartening experiences that can happen to a homeowner. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent this. Many lenders require that home loans are contingent on the house passing a termite inspection. Even if your financing does not include a termite inspection, it's in your best interests to have one done anyway. Referred to as a Wood-Destroying Organisms Report (WDO) among real estate professionals and property lenders, this documents both past and present termite activity. Here's what it entails and how it can protect you from making a grave financial mistake:
The WDO can only be performed by a licensed pest control professional. The inspector will first look for any signs of existing termite activity, such as:
- Telltale tunnels near the home's foundation. Tunnels may also be present in interior wooden walls and flooring.
- Small, pellet-shaped piles of feces.
- Small piles of shed wings that look like fish scales. These occur afters swarming season in the spring.
- Sagging ceilings, floors, and walls are often signs of a heavy termite infestation.
Even if no indications of existing termite colonies are found, a good inspection should also determine the vulnerability of the structure to future infestations. There are several warning signs that may mean that a conditions in or near the home are conducive to the development of termite infestations, including:
- Woodpiles stacked against the house.
- An improperly ventilated attic.
- Plumbing leaks.
- Puddling around the foundation of the home.
- Rotting wood anywhere in or near the home, from floorboards, walls and railings, construction debris in the yard, and old rotted stumps. Porches and decks should be inspected thoroughly as well because these areas provide termites with what they need most to thrive—wood and moisture.
A copy of the WDO report is provided to both the lender and the buyer at the time of closing. Buyers are usually expected to foot the bill for the report, and the in most states, the inspection must be performed within 30 days of the final transfer of property. The inspection provides the buyer with a measure of protection in the event that termites are found in the home in the near future—the seller may be responsible for the costs of termite treatment in the event that they are found. Many states have a 90-day rule while others have shorter time spans. Be sure to contact a local termite control service to find out how it works in your particular state.