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Termites 101: What every homebuyer should know this spring

(BPT) – It’s a cruel coincidence that the spring’s real-estate buying season corresponds with another far less pleasant one – termite swarming season. When eager homebuyers emerge from winter hibernation to look for their dream homes, winged termites emerge, too, and swarms of them go in search of new places to establish their colonies.

“Termites cause about $5 billion in property damage every year – damage that typically isn’t covered by homeowners’ insurance policies,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). “In spring, swarms emerge in every state except Alaska. Potential homebuyers need to be aware of the risks associated with termite damage, and of the importance of having any home they’re considering inspected for termites and other wood-destroying organisms.”

More than half of Americans (52 percent) have never had their homes inspected for termites, according to an NPMA survey. Yet 38 percent worry about discovering termites in their homes and 33 percent have had termite damage or know someone who has, the survey found.

If you’ll be buying (or selling) a home this spring, the NPMA offers some valuable termite information:

* The average homebuyer and homeowner might have difficulty spotting the evidence of a termite infestation. Termites chew through wood, flooring and other materials behind-the-scenes, so it can take years before the signs of an infestation are visible to the untrained eye. An inspection by a licensed pest professional is the best way to detect an infestation of wood-destroying organisms (WDOs) – especially if you live in a termite-prone area of the country.

* A WDO inspection is different from a simple structural inspection. Buyers may assume that the person who does the pre-purchase home inspection will look for termites while assessing the condition of the home’s physical structure and systems. While some inspectors might spot signs of termite damage, others will not. Buyers should be sure to have their prospective home inspected by a licensed pest professional. The inspection will last about an hour, and the specialist will probe the home from top to bottom to look for telltale signs of termite damage. After the inspection is over, the specialist will report to the buyers what he or she has found, and an estimate of how much it might cost to remediate any termite damage he or she has discovered.

* Different states have varying laws about termite inspections. Some may require one before a home can be sold, while others do not. Check with your realtor about the laws in your state, and keep in mind that many lenders will require a pest inspection be done in addition to a structural inspection – especially if the home you are buying is in a termite-prone area.

* Termite detection, remediation and control are not do-it-yourself tasks. If an inspector finds signs of a termite infestation and damage, you’ll need professionals to remedy the problem. Buyers who discover problems before the sale is final will be better able to negotiate with the seller to take care of the problem. In some states, the law may not allow the sale to be finalized until the damage is addressed, and lenders may refuse to finalize a mortgage for a home with unresolved termite issues.

If the termite inspection shows your new home is pest-free, congratulations! After the sale is finalized, be sure to take steps to protect your home from termites going forward, including having the home inspected for termites at least once every three years, and every year if you live in an area prone to termite infestations. To learn more about termite prevention or to find a licensed pest professional in your area, visit www.pestworld.org, the education website of the NPMA.