If you are considering buying a home in a state where wood-boring insects are a problem, make sure that the house is free of these pests. Termites and powderpost beetles can cause significant damage to a house structure before being detected. Take the time to have the home inspected before getting serious about making an offer.
Termite Damage Disclosure
States don't require sellers to perform an inspection for termites before putting their home on the market. If a seller has had the home inspected and discovered a termite infestation, they do have to report that to potential buyers. Even if the house had a termite treatment and was re-inspected, this must be disclosed. You can ask to see a wood-destroying organisms inspection report (WDO) or a termite clearance letter stating the house is free of pests.
If there has not been a pest inspection and this is an area where termites and other wood-boring pests are a concern, consider having an inspection done yourself. You can make your offer to buy the home contingent on the inspection coming back negative. Should the inspection show termite or other pest damage, then you can negotiate with the seller to have a termite exterminator come in and get rid of the pests. You'll also want to have them repair any significant damage so you're not stuck with the repairs later.
Signs of Wood-Boring Pests
You can do your own walk-through of the house to look for signs of wood-boring pests. Take a flashlight and a screwdriver with you to help spot these insects:
Powderpost beetles - These are so named because, as they eat their way through a house, they leave a fine powder waste behind them. These beetles lay eggs in the pores of hardwood structures. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way out of the wood and along the surface until they mature. Then they look for places to lay their eggs. You'll find these beetles in hardwood paneling, molding, flooring, and door and window frames. Small holes where the larvae have eaten their way out of the wood and the fine, powder-like material are signs of powderpost beetles.
Termites - These are the most damaging of the wood-boring pests, causing billions of dollars of damage to property throughout the country, note researchers at Texas A & M University. They are non-stop, wood-eating machines that can hollow out large wood structures such as ceiling rafters and floor joists.
Look for small raised areas on the surface of these wood structures. These are signs of the channels the termites have eaten through the wood. Tap on the wood with the handle of the screwdriver and listen for a hollow sound. Push the tip of the screwdriver into the wood to see how much damage has been done. If major structural components of a home have been damaged by termites, it can run into thousands of dollars to repair those areas.
An inspection by a licensed termite control company is the only way to make sure the home is truly pest-free. Once these pests settle into a home, they will cause serious damage that you don't want to be stuck fixing once you've purchased the home.