What if the house you want to buy has termite damage?

Sold with family low res.jpg

You’ve identified your dream home and you’ve done the sensible thing and obtained a building and pest inspection. But what if the inspection finds a problem ­– some building defect or the presence of termites (white ants)?

Buyers tend to deal with building defects very logically – what’s the problem and how much does it cost to fix? However, when it comes to the presence of termites or termite damage, buyers tend to panic and become irrational, mainly through a lack of knowledge and will often pull out of the sale.

However, with a bit of understanding you can decide whether the issues in the pest report can be fixed and how much it will cost. Then, if you decide to proceed, you are in a great position to negotiate on price.

Here’s what you need to know…

Understanding your pest inspection report

Your pre-purchase pest inspection focuses on timber pests; termites, borers and wood decay. It is a visible inspection report, which means inspectors cannot move items during the inspection or access areas that are blocked off. Some sellers will definitely try to hide termite activity or damage, so if the report identifies areas which could not be accessed or suggests a more complete invasive inspection, it is certainly worth making the request to the seller.

Sometime sellers will block access to areas of concern with stored goods - as it is a visual inspection, inspectors are now allowed to move stored goods

Sometime sellers will block access to areas of concern with stored goods - as it is a visual inspection, inspectors are now allowed to move stored goods

The inspection focuses on three main areas

  • Whether timber pests are active in the building or surrounding property

  • Is there any pest damage to the building or surrounding property

  • Are there any conditions that may make the building more likely to suffer a timber pest attack in the future

What if there are active termites?

If there are active termites or borers, the seller will need to get them treated. However, it is important they get a comprehensive treatment carried out by a reputable company. Often a seller will get a “quick spray” to kill the termites that can be seen. However, this won’t eliminate the problem and the termites will be back.

Eliminating termites from a building can take between 2 weeks and several months and a complete termite treatment also requires a termite management system to be put in place to prevent future attacks.

If you’re interested in making an offer subject to a termite treatment, insist on a comprehensive treatment to Australian Standards and make sure you see all document and guarantees for the treatment and view the pest company’s documentation including their licenses and insurance.

If there are active termites they need to be treated to Australian Standards and you should request that a termite managements system (such as a termiticide soil treatment) be installed

If there are active termites they need to be treated to Australian Standards and you should request that a termite managements system (such as a termiticide soil treatment) be installed

What if there is termite damage?

The risk of termite attack is as high as 1 in 3 in some areas of Australia, so it would not be surprising for an inspection to uncover some level of damage, especially in older homes.

There is no way of knowing how old termite damage is, it simply demonstrates the home has been / is at risk of termite attack.

If there has been a treatment in the past or there is a termite management system in place to protect the property, there should be an information sticker in the electricity metre box. However, unless the owner has some warranty paperwork, there is no guarantee as to the quality of the treatment. A such, we would always recommend that a termite management system be installed after purchase. Potentially you could negotiate this off the price.

In most cases of timber damage, it is recommended that a builder / structural engineer inspect the damage to determine the extent of the damage and the cost to fix.

What if there are conditions that are conducive to termite attack?

If there are conditions around the building that will make it more attractive to termites (such as increased moisture), the chances of a termite attack in the future increase significantly. Depending on the nature of the issue, some will cost very little to fix (such as a leaking outdoor tap), whereas others may be more expensive (such as poor sub-floor drainage). It is certainly worth getting quotes to remedy these issues, to use in any price negotiations.

Poor drainage in sub-floors is a common conducive condition that needs to be fixed

Poor drainage in sub-floors is a common conducive condition that needs to be fixed

Knowledge is power

Reading a pest inspection report can sometimes seem a bit scary with a long list of issues. But this is good news, whether the issues worry you enough to pull out or give you the knowledge to negotiate a better price (especially as other buyers will have been scared off), the pest inspection has done its job – it has allowed you to make an informed decision. Money well spent!

A comprehensive pest inspection from Gold Coast Pest Services is 15+ pages long and we always try and include as many photos as possible. We always welcome our clients on site whilst we carry out the inspection so we can highlight any issues first hand.

If you need a comprehensive pest inspection from experienced, insured, professional inspections, give us a call at Gold Coast Pest Services

Note: The advice in this blog is general in nature and you should refer to the details in the inspection report for your property and / or speak to your inspector, for guidance on how to proceed in your situation.

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