Termite inspections are routinely required for home sale

Posted12/8/2019 6:00 AM

Q. A friend told me the law requires a termite inspection when you sell a home. Now that I'm preparing to put my house on the market, I need to know if this is true. Also, I've heard termite companies use different methods of extermination, so I'm wondering which technique is safest and most effective. What do you suggest?

A. Inspection for termites and other wood-destroying organisms is a common practice in nearly all real estate transactions, not because of any law or ordinance, but because banks and mortgage companies routinely require a termite report as a prerequisite to issuing a loan.


Lenders have a vested interest in the general integrity of the dwellings that secure their mortgages, because they rely on the value of those buildings in the event of foreclosure. It is the influence of these lenders, rather than government regulations, that has made termite inspection a standard of practice when a home is sold.

The pros and cons of various termite extermination methods have been matters of debate within the termite industry. For decades, the standard technique for eliminating dry wood termites has been fumigation. With this method, a building is enshrouded in a tightly sealed tent and then filled with toxic gas. This is generally regarded as the most reliable way to ensure the demise of wood-eating insects within a structure, but not everyone is happy with this approach.

Environmental concerns and other inconveniences associated with fumigation have prompted the advent of imaginative new ways to dispatch termites. These techniques include tenting with hot air, freezing of localized areas with liquid nitrogen, and the use of high voltage electricity, also in localized areas.

The hot air method has enjoyed very little popularity because heat causes expansion of building components, and this can have adverse effects on the general integrity of the building and objects of personal property.

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The problem with the freezing and electric shock methods is that they address specified locations, rather than the entire building. Thus, there is no way to guarantee the eradication of all termites within the structure. Instead, termites are only eliminated in those areas that are treated.

Companies that use these localized methods generally guarantee the thoroughness of their work, but homeowners can only take advantage of such guarantees if they discover additional termites at a later date. Since termites within walls and attics generally go unnoticed for years, homeowners will usually remain unaware of termites that continue to reside in the building. How, then, can the property owner take advantage of the guarantee?

As you can see, all extermination methods have upsides and downsides. However, the prime objective is to eliminate all of the dry wood termites within the building. To date, the most reliable method is fumigation.

Also to be considered are subterranean termites (subs) that live in the ground and enter buildings by constructing earthen tubes within the framing. The primary method for eliminating subs is localized treatment of the soil with specialized poisons.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

© 2019, Action Coast Publishing

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