You’ve finally found your ideal home and are on your way to being a homeowner. But before the sale is closed, you will need to clear several hurdles, one of which may be a termite inspection. While only a few states require it—and there is no federal law that mandates a termite inspection when buying a home—you might want to think twice before skipping it.
“Termites are commonly known as ‘silent destroyers’ for good reason,” says Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. “These voracious pests are capable of causing serious damage, threatening the structural integrity of a home while remaining hidden within the walls and foundation of a house.”
Being proactive to protect your asset makes sense—especially when it comes to home infestations or major structural issues.
If you’re still unsure about whether or not you need a termite inspection, here are some solid reasons why you should probably make an appointment with a pest control company.
1. Your lender may require it
When purchasing your home through a mortgage lender, a termite clearance letter—which says that a pest control company inspected the property for termites and has found no evidence of infestation or damage—may be required.
“Termite inspections may be a lender requirement, depending on the region you live in and if the results of your home appraisal or inspection show evidence of infestation or decay,” says Jason Bates, vice president of purchase at the home mortgage lending company American Financing, in Aurora, CO.
Government-backed loans, like Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs loans, commonly require a termite inspection. Fredericks says these loans require a Wood Destroying Insect inspection if it is also customary to the area and mandated by the state or local jurisdiction.
“Since many private lenders take guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development/FHA, lenders in regions across the United States with high levels of termite activity often require a WDI inspection too,” says Fredericks.
He says a WDI inspection includes a careful visual inspection for evidence of any wood-destroying insect, including termites, beetles, carpenter bees, and carpenter ants.
2. Termites may be active even if you don’t see them
Here’s an unnerving fact: Termites can be present for up to five years before the colonies are large enough to cause true damage. Yikes!
“Termites like to do an inside job, they are rarely seen—only when they send out swarmers, which are winged reproductives that will go out and start new colonies,” says Raymond Web, online marketing manager, Take Care Termite & Pest Control in Tracy, CA.
Bates says termite damage typically starts in areas where there is wood-to-ground contact and spreads from there. In time, termites can damage the integrity of the structure and, in extreme cases, can require a complete demolition.
“Termites are active year-round, as colonies sheltering in the foundation or walls of a home are somewhat shielded from the cold temperatures outside,” says Fredericks. “While these intruders can easily stay hidden from homeowners, a professional inspection can help uncover termite activity taking place behind the walls.”
He says it’s a good practice to have a professional termite inspection on your house each year to detect an infestation early.
3. Homeowner insurance usually doesn’t cover it
Should you have a termite issue in your house, your homeowner insurance will most likely not cover termite damage or removal.
“Most homeowner insurance does not cover termite damage unless there is an additional coverage plan or rider, similar to flood insurance,” says Bates.
Fredericks says since most homeowner insurance doesn’t cover it, homeowners should identify termite infestations early, to reduce the likelihood of extensive damage developing.
“The longer termites are actively feeding on and damaging the wood portions of a home, the more extensive and costly the repair process can be,” says Fredericks.
4. Termite damage is expensive
U.S. residents spend an estimated $5 billion annually to control termites and repair termite damage, according to Orkin. A homeowner who discovers termite damage will spend an average of $3,000 to repair the damage.
“Termite treatment varies in cost but can be as much as $20 per linear foot for minor infestation. If a structure has been infested, the cost can be thousands to treat, plus the cost to repair the damage,” says Bates.
Calling an inspector to check your house won’t cost that much money (around $100) and will save you headaches down the line. Fredericks says that although termites are small in size, they live in colonies of up to two million and eat wood to get the cellulose and nutrients within for survival.
“If left unchecked, termites can cause widespread and costly damage over time, which is why annual professional termite inspections are so important,” says Fredericks.