Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pest inspections protect home buyers and sellers from hidden hazards.

When you’re buying or selling a house, there are many disclosures, inspections and safeguards in place to protect both the buyer and seller. But perhaps none is more important than the termite inspection, also called a pest inspection.  In fact, making sure the house you are buying (or selling) is free from harmful critters, water hazards, and other wood-destroying pests of mass destruction is so crucial that most lenders mandate you have to sign off on your pest report before they’ll issue a mortgage.

Why all the caution?
Termites, dry rot, and the other hazards they’re looking for in a pest inspection can cause irreparable damage to your home. The damage is often hidden below subfloors, structural beams, or inside the wood that makes up your home, making detection nearly impossible until it’s late. Left unchecked, these issues can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage or, in extreme cases, even make the home unlivable. Even more scary, moisture problems can be a breeding ground for toxic mold and pest infestations, both of which could harm your family.

Can you keep termites away forever?
And it’s impossible to completely protect your home from these conditions, only keep an eye on them and have your home inspected at intervals. That’s why pest inspectors always say there are only two types of homes: those that have termites, and homes that will have termites.

Is a pest inspection required by law?
California state law actually does not require a pest control inspection report with the sale of property. However, the mortgage lender almost always wants to see a pest report and certification that certain items have been cleared.

Why are mortgage lenders interested in your pest inspection?
Banks want to diminish their risk and protect their investment, so they only want to lend money on a property that isn’t in danger of rotting away and falling over!

Mortgage lenders and pest reports usually differentiate between two categories of information: Section 1 items and Section 2 items. Section 1 documents active infestations and damage, while Section 2 outlines the conditions that could lead to further Section 1 damage. Some types of loans, like FHA and VA, do require Section 2 items are addressed, too, before they’ll sign off on the loan.

Who is qualified to conduct a pest inspection?
In California, pest inspection companies need to be licensed and in good standing with the Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB).

You can contact the SPCB at:
Or call 1-800-737-8188
Or 916-561 8708 in Sacramento

Of course or buyers and sellers have used many pest inspection companies, so contact us if you’d like some recommendations.

What exactly is a pest inspection?
A pest inspection is a comprehensive visual inspection of the subject property that’s looking for evidence of termites and other pests, as well as water damage, rot, and conditions that manifest in infestations. The inspector will look outside, inside, in crawl spaces, attics, and areas that are accessible, but not normally accessed. Of course they can’t see behind walls, under carpet, and in concrete slabs, etc. but inspectors are adept at working around these inaccessible areas and still detecting evidence of problems.

A pest inspection usually runs about 45 minutes to 1½ hours depending on the property and what they find. Inspectors don’t normally go through out buildings like sheds and pool houses unless specifically requested.

What is the pest report?
After they conduct the pest inspection, the termite company will put together a detailed report with all of their findings. The report will break down both Section 1 and Section 2 items that were discovered. These are documented in writing and also in the form of a diagram of the house and the areas of concern.

The second part of the report is an estimate to repair the Section 1 and Section 2 items. The seller (who usually pays for Section 1 pest work) is under no legal obligation to use the pest company to perform this work just because the company did the report. They can have a licensed contractor do the repairs needed and then call the pest company to come back and inspect, clearing Section 1 pest work and issuing an amendment to the report so the real estate transaction and mortgage can commence.

Once inspected, the pest company must deliver this report to the person who ordered it within 10 days, though it is usually openly shared with the other agents and parties to the real estate transaction. These reports are kept on file with the pest company for three years.

What are they looking for in pest inspections?
Inspectors are looking for damage and signs of an active termite infestation along with many other hazards, including other wood-destroying organisms, fungus (dry-rot), and holes in the wood. They’ll take note of signs that pests were once there even if they don’t appear to be still active, dead insects and termite tubes. Inspectors also thoroughly investigate places where water is leaking, dripping, standing, and especially where earth meets any wood, all breeding grounds for future problems.

What are the most common wood-destroying organisms?
Subterranean termites are the most common variety of termites and the ones that can cause some of the worst damage to a home. They build their nest in the ground and travel via mud tubes to get food. They can enter a structure through cracks, expansion joints, hollow bricks or concrete blocks around plumbing and in any opening as small as 1/32 of an inch, but they’re most prevalent anywhere that bare wood touches soil, especially if it’s wet.

There are other kinds of termites, like dry-wood termites that don’t nest in the ground but have wings and fly right into wood structures. You’ll often find these above ground level like in window frames, door frames, and the wood trim on the outside of your house.

Wood boring beetles are probably the second-biggest pest hazard to your home. They bore into the wood and leave numerous slots or holes and debris where they entered the wood. These beetles can attack the substructure like subfloors, joists, and piers, so they’re particularly dangerous.

Damp-wood termites, carpenter ants, wasps, bees, and rodents are other critters that pest inspectors may point out.

Dry rot is another blight to the wood structure, but the name is somewhat misleading because it’s actually a fungus that’s caused by excessive moisture, not dry at all. When wood is consistently getting wet, the fungus grows and spreads into the fibers of the wood, rotting and softening it, and eventually causing structural damage. The fungus that causes dry rot needs oxygen, water, and a food source (cellulose - or wood) to survive, so in the absence of protracted moisture it cannot live.









19 comments:

  1. True!! Well written article. You know I bought a home last year without hiring termite inspection services for that home. I have lost my money in deal, as the whole house was effected by wood destroying pests.

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  8. This is some really important information for anyone looking at buying or selling a home (or, for that matter, anyone perfectly happy with their home who hasn't had their home inspected recently). I agree that the best way to make sure your home is pest free and safe for sale is to have a professional inspection done. I really liked your point about keeping termites away forever, because plenty of people I know think "Well, I didn't have termites three years ago, I must still not have termites" which is simply not true. Thanks so much for writing!

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