Termites. If you are a homeowner, the word alone is enough to cause a headache, but if you are planning to sell your home it may fill you with dread. How can you sell a home with a termite problem?
The good news is that, even though termite infestations and the damage they cause can complicate the path to a sale, you won’t be stuck with your home forever.
In fact, you have two choices. First, you can remedy the problem. And second, you can sell the house as-is in exchange for a lower price.
In either case, you’ll need to disclose the problem and any measures you’ve taken to solve it. Failure to do so could lead to legal trouble down the line.
Here we’ll walk you through how to handle termites, from identifying the problem to negotiating the sale.
Table of Contents:
- 1. What are termites, and what do they do?
- 2. How to Tell if You Have a Termite Problem
- 3. What to Expect from a Termite Inspection
- 4. Getting Rid of the Termites
- 5. Repairing Termite Damage
- 6. Getting a Termite Warranty
- 7. Disclosing Termite Problems
- 8. Negotiating Your Sale
- 9. Another Option: Selling As-Is
- 10. Preventing Termite Damage
1. What are termites, and what do they do?
Termites are small, whitish, ant-like insects that live in colonies. What makes them such a nuisance is their ability to digest cellulose; in other words, they can eat the wood in your house.
And that means these little bugs can cause big problems—to the tune of $5 billion in property damage per year, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
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2. How to Tell if You Have a Termite Problem
Since termites are hard to see, you’re more likely to notice the signs that they leave in your home. The NPMA suggests watching for the following:
- a. Mud tubes on the outside of the house (termites use these to reach their food source).
- b. Soft and hollow-sounding wood.
- c. Darkening or blistering on wood structures.
- d. Paint that is bubbling or uneven.
- e. Piles of droppings resembling sawdust.
- f. Wings dropped on windowsills or near doors.
If you see these signs, it’s time to call for an inspection. Don’t delay; damage will only get worse with time.
Besides termites, other insects may present a risk to your home. For instance, Carpenter Ant’s Queen can live for several years and is often hard to locate. That’s why being proactive in terms of pest control is of utmost importance.
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3. What to Expect from a Termite Inspection
Before your inspector arrives, it’s a good idea to clear out the areas they’ll need to examine:
- a) In the kitchen and bathrooms, remove items stored under the sinks.
- b) In the garage, move stored items a couple feet away from the wall.
- c) In the attic or crawl space, clear the entrance and make sure there’s room for the inspector to work.
- d) Outside, move items away from exterior walls and trim bushes that conceal the walls or foundation.
The inspection can take as long as two hours and will involve a thorough look at the inside and outside of the home, with special attention to places like baseboards, windows, and crawl spaces. Places where plumbing enters the house can provide access for termites, too.
When the inspection is complete, you’ll get a report and a recommendation for handling an existing infestation or preventing a future one.
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4. Getting Rid of the Termites
If you do have a termite infestation, your top priority is getting rid of the pests. While there are some DIY products you can apply, a professional is your best bet to make sure the job is done right.
The treatment plan will vary based on the species, the extent of the infestation, the entry point, and the size of your house. In general, your exterminator is likely to use one or more of these methods:
- a. Soil treatment. The exterminator will dig a trench around the foundation and add a termiticide to the soil, then fill in the trench. This creates a barrier and kills termites as they move from the home to the nest.
- b. Wood treatment. In some cases, a surface treatment will suffice. In others, sprays and foams can be injected into the wood.
- c. Bait systems. Poisoned bait stations will be set up around the home. They can be monitored to ensure that the termites are eliminated.
- d. Tenting methods. For extreme cases, the entire house can be covered with a tent and either fumigated (pumped full of lethal gas; you’ll be out of your home for several days) or heated until the air reaches 150 degrees and the wood reaches 120 degrees (this takes about eight hours).
How much does it cost to get rid of termites? The typical range is $222 to $923, but if a tent method is required, costs can rise to the $2,500 range.
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5. Repairing Termite Damage
Once the termites are gone, it’s time to fix the damage. The cost and effort involved can vary significantly depending on the location and extent of the damage.
For minor repairs, wood hardeners and wood fillers can be a good solution. First the rotted wood must be removed (with a chisel, for example), and then wood hardener or filler can be applied, allowed to dry, and sanded down.
If the damage is more extensive, you may need to replace or add support to the existing wood.
For extreme termite damage, you may need to repair the home’s framing, reinstall insulation, and replace drywall.
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6. Getting a Termite Warranty
When you’re looking to sell, make sure you keep receipts for all services, from inspection to repairs. If you want to instill confidence in a new buyer, you’ll also want to make sure you get a warranty for the work—one that can transfer to the new owner.
In general, exterminators will provide a one-year warranty, which will cover treatments needed during a reinfestation. Ask the service provider whether the warranty includes an inspection. Make sure you save all paperwork related to the warranty to share with the new owners.
7. Disclosing Termite Problems
Now that your home is free of termites and all damage has been repaired, it’s time to sell. Tempted to ignore the termite issue now that you’ve resolved it? Don’t be. Not only is disclosure the respectful thing to do, but it is usually required by law.
Your real estate agent can guide you in filling out a seller disclosure form on which you will indicate the problem, when it occurred, and what you did to remedy it.
If you fail to disclose termite problems, they’re likely to be discovered during an inspection, which could cause your sale to fall through. Or worse, if the buyer discovers the problem after closing, you could be looking at a lawsuit.
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8. Negotiating Your Sale
Once you’ve disclosed the problem and the steps you’ve taken to resolve it, you may feel that your house is as good as new and that its past issues shouldn’t affect the sale price. If you’re lucky, you’ll be right; buyers will feel confident that the problem is in the past, and the warranty will give them confidence that recurring issues won’t be a financial burden.
The truth, though, is that your home is only worth what an actual buyer is willing to pay for it. Like it or not, there is some stigma around the word “termite,” and that means you may have to accept a lower price. Beyond showing your receipts and warranty, you might consider offering to pay for the buyer’s inspection.
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9. Another Option: Selling As-Is
If all of this sounds like too much work, or you need to sell right away, you have another option. You can sell the house as-is, without treating the termites or making the repairs.
Does “as-is” mean you don’t have to disclose the termite problem? No; you still need to share the information you have with the buyer. It just means you don’t have to fix it. Investors and house flippers are likely buyers.
If you sell to an investor, you may not even need to show the house or list it on the MLS, meaning that there’s less work for you to do.
The downside, of course, is that you will sell at a lower price.
Is it worth it? That’s up to you. Ultimately, it comes down to who pays for the treatment and repairs: the buyer or the seller?
In most cases, you’re financially better off making the repairs yourself and getting a better sale price. If a quick sale is critical, though, “as-is” can get the home off your hands fast.
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10. Preventing Termite Damage
The best way to deal with a termite infestation is to prevent it in the first place. Here are a few things the NPMA recommends to keep the pests away:
- a) Eliminate excess moisture in your home and the area around it, and repair leaks.
- b) Repair damage to the exterior of the home (shingles, soffits, etc.).
- c) Replace any loose mortar or damaged weather stripping near the foundation.
- d) Inspect your home regularly for signs of termites.
- e) Store firewood far from the house (at least 20 feet).
Termites are a nuisance, and at times an expensive one. A termite problem can make it harder to find a buyer. But if you treat the infestation, repair the damage, get a warranty, and disclose the problem—and if you’re willing to negotiate a little on price—termites won’t stop you from selling your home.