Termites are found, to some extent, throughout the United States. However, they are more common in some areas than in others. If you're thinking of buying a home in an area where termites are common, there are a few steps you'll want to take before you make an offer. Taking proper precautions, after all, can keep you from accidentally purchasing a home with extensive termite damage or an active infestation.
Ask the neighbors if they've had problems with termites.
Subterranean termites, which are the most popular type in many areas, live in colonies below ground. They tunnel from structure to structure, feeding on wood as they go. If the neighbors on either side of a home have had trouble with termites, the home is likely to also have termite problems.
Speaking to the neighbors may seem strange, but years ago before so much information about real estate was available online, potential home buyers used to do this regularly. Just knock on the neighbor's door at an appropriate time of time, such as mid-morning on a weekend or early evening during the week, and introduce yourself. Say you're thinking of buying a home in the area and were wondering if they'd had any termite problems. Most people will be more than happy to tell you about issues they've had. If they're not, just move on to the other neighbors.
Look for signs of termite damage.
Termites generally come up from the ground, so they tend to first cause damage to structures along the base of the home and in the basement. Take a look at any wood along the home's foundation. If it has a rough, uneven appearance, it has probably been chewed by termites. Look for the same appearance on any wood in your basement. Other signs of a termite infestation include:
- Piles of frass, or termite excrement, along baseboards. Frass is black in color and looks similar to coarsely ground pepper.
- Thin lines of mud running down walls. Known as mud tubes, these are left by termites as they crawl up from below the ground.
- Piles of fallen wings near window and cracks where termites may enter the home. Termites shed their wings, and they can accumulate quite quickly.
If you notice any signs of termite damage, you have a decision to make. You can either take this one step further and have an exterminator investigate the extent of the damage, or you can walk away from the home.
Have the home looked over by an exterminator.
If you really like the home but it seems to have signs of termite damage, schedule an appointment with an exterminator. They can let you know what it will take to remove the termites from the home and may refer you to a contractor who can give you an estimate for repairing the damage.
Once you know how much it will cost to rid the home of termites, you can make an offer on the home if you choose. Offer the homeowner less than the asking price so that you have the funds to cover the extermination and repairs.
Another option is to make an offer contingent upon the home being treated for termites by the current owners. The owners are likely to have a hard time selling a home with termites, so they may agree to this arrangement. Basically, you'll be under contract to buy the home -- but only after the homeowners have it treated and an exterminator deems it free from termites. If the treatment falls through, you're under no obligation to buy.
To learn more about termite elimination, speak with a pest control company in your area.