Don’t judge a termite by its ¼ of an inch size—these destructive little pests like to hang out in big groups and wreak more havoc on a home than a teenage house party. Not to mention they’re virtually everywhere: termites live in 49 out of 50 U.S. states (it’s too cold for them in Alaska…everyone else, watch out!), and there’s no less than 2,000 known termite species in the world.
Does your home sale even stand a chance if termites have launched a strategic attack against you?
“Just about every house in South Florida has some previous evidence or live infestation of termites,” says Eddie Blanco, a top-selling Hialeah, Florida agent. That hasn’t stopped him from transacting over 1,900 real estate deals in his career.
So when selling a house with termite damage, there is hope yet! You’ve got a couple of options depending on the severity of the infestation:
- Disclose known issues, make repairs to remedy any termite damage, and sell your house on the open market with a warranty.
- Skip the negotiations and repairs—instead, sell your house “as is” to a cash buyer.
Let’s cover both routes and how to best proceed, shall we?
How to spot termites before they take over: The importance of early detection
The National Pest Management Association estimates that termite damage costs Americans $5 billion annually. If you don’t catch termite issues early, or put preventive measures in place, your house (and wallet) could be in trouble.
In many instances, you’ll see evidence of the termites themselves before you find the damage they’ve done. When they spawn in the spring, you might find wings or small bodies in your home.
Alternatively, the damage you spot could be “anything from some basic tunnels that they carve into the wood that you can see, to small pinholes,” says Blanco. Mud tubes that go between the soil and wood of your home are a sign that destructive subterranean termites have taken up shop in your residence, and they can eat away at your property’s structure.
So if you have the slightest suspicion that something could be amiss—don’t ignore it.
If left completely untreated, termites can weaken the wood in your home enough to cause collapse in extreme cases. But with early detection, you can spend under $1,000 for treatment and save your home from these pesky little insects.
Option 1: Selling your home with termite damage on the open market
Depending on the extent of the termite damage to your home, it’s possible to sell it on the open market like any other house (and even price it for its full fair market value), provided you take the proper steps to disclose known issues, make necessary repairs, and offer a warranty. While the phrase “termite damage” can be scary for buyers, you can take steps as a seller to allay their concerns with a few standard procedures:
1. Pay for a pest inspection.
If you suspect there’s even a hint of termite damage in your home, it’s wise to shell out for a pest inspection.
“You could identify these issues first, and then you don’t have the buyer identifying them after you’ve negotiated a contract,” says Blanco.“You get to address these issues prior to listing the house.”
You might already be considering a pre-listing inspection for your home, but a pest inspection is a different process altogether. Even though you can crawl around the foundation of your house with a flashlight, you should hire a professional to do it.
It’s hard to spot early signs of infestation with an untrained eye, but a pest inspector will go over the exterior of your home to check for any signs of unwanted critters. At the end of the inspection, they’ll also provide a report including next steps you can take as a homeowner to solve or prevent pest issues.
Find a good pest inspector and ask the right questions—and you’ll likely be in a stronger position as a seller after the fact.
2. Disclose known issues (even if you’re not required to by law).
Whether legally required or not (depending on which state you live in), you should disclose termite damage. Regardless of the legality, letting buyers know about pest issues upfront saves you from a potential lawsuit down the line. “It’s not worth it to try to hide termite issues,” says Blanco. Instead, be upfront about the extent of the damage to potential buyers, as well as what you’ve done to combat it.
3. Deal with the repairs before you take the home to market.
When caught within a year, termite damage doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average for the cost of termite treatment is $525, and most treatments will fall between the range of $217-$868.
More involved processes, including tenting and full scale fumigation, can run between $1,200 to $2,500 or more in extreme circumstances.
Beyond treatment, you might have some damage to your home that requires immediate attention.
According to national pest experts at Orkin, “It is rare but possible for some termite species to damage a house beyond repair, if the infestation is left untreated for many years.”
It would be nearly impossible for a homeowner to let an infestation get to an untreatable point—the signs of damage would be prevalent, even to the untrained eye. Keep your eyes open for these signs of termite trouble:
- Blistering or dark spots on wooden flooring.
Changes in the floor can indicate a termite infestation in your flooring. In some instances, this blistering can resemble water damage.
- Hollow wood.
If you knock on a wooden structure in your home, and it sounds hollow when it shouldn’t be, termites might be chewing through your walls or structures.
After termites swarm or move to form a new colony, they’ll shed their wings. You’d find these around access points in your home.
Subterranean termites come up from underground, and they’re likely to form small tube structures as they emerge and converge on a food source, aka, your home. These mud tubes, about the width of a pencil, can be found outside your home.
Termites are notoriously clean little pests, and they’ll discard their droppings outside of where they’re doing damage. Keep an eye out for droppings; “you’ll see the little pellets that are little brown circle droppings,” says Blanco. These droppings can resemble sawdust, or even coffee grounds, say national pest control service Terminix.
Some repairs are minor enough that a simple wood hardener and sealant will do the trick. If your infestation is significant enough to warrant additional repairs, you’ll either need to replace the sections of wood damaged by termites, or tack on wooden support next to the damaged wood, according to the experts from Orkin.
Another simple and affordable option is to add support wood to damaged sections. If the structural integrity of the home is compromised, the required repairs can get more complicated. If your property has experienced extensive structural damage, you might need to:
- Repair framing in your home
- Reinstall insulation in crawl spaces or the attic
- Repair and clean small spaces of extensive infestation
- Replace drywall
These services can range from $500 to upwards of $6,000, according to HomeAdvisor, depending on the severity of the damage to your home.
Remember that before you dive in with a contractor on repairs, you’ll need to eliminate the infestation for good (make sure to get a clean bill of health from a professional pest inspector).
4. Offer a warranty to bring peace of mind to potential buyers.
Termite repairs and treatment typically come with a year-long warranty that can transfer to the buyer at the time of purchase. This warranty, while it acknowledges a history of termites in the home, helps with the sale and shows potential buyers that the home has been well-maintained.
The investment in termite treatment and a warranty to guarantee your house is in the clear is well worth it, Blanco reasons: “I would say [a termite warranty from an exterminator] is equal to if not more than the cost of the treatment. That’s money buyer knows they’re not going to have to spend.”
5. Negotiate on price as needed.
Proof of treatment and repairs, hand in hand with a termite warranty, puts you in a strong position when it comes to the sale of your home.
Some buyers might try to negotiate price based on the extent of the damage, but it’s rare to see a buyer step away from a property based on termites alone, says Blanco.
“I’ve never seen a home sale fail because of the amount of termite damage. The damage isn’t so significant that it hinders the actual transaction.”
Oftentimes, the warranty and treatment pay off nearly dollar for dollar at the time of sale.
In the case of a minor infestation, or easily treatable damage, disclosing termites to potential buyers isn’t a kiss of death. Instead, extensive documentation of the issue and repairs, including proof of treatment and warranty can make you look prepared as a seller, giving buyers the reassurance they need.
Option 2: Selling your house with termite damage ‘as is’ to a cash buyer
If the cost of treatment and repairs cuts too much to your earnings on your property, or you don’t have the cash reserves to pay for inspections and make repairs upfront, you might opt to sell your home “as is” to a cash buyer.
Whether the calculated return on investment for termite treatment and repairs isn’t enough or you’re looking for a quick sale, selling your home for cash is different than a traditional home sale.
Let’s review each step of the process.
1. Skip stagings and showings.
Selling a home “as is” requires less home preparation than a traditional sale. In most cases, you’ll never list your home on the MLS. This type of sale will appeal to a smaller audience, mostly flippers or investors, who prefer to buy houses before they hit the market.
2. Don’t forget your disclosures.
Even with an “as is” sale, you’ll need to disclose any known termite damage on your home. Although you can express your intent to skip repairs or treatment, the buyer will in many cases require a general home inspection, which could lead to a more specialized pest inspection.
Tempted to keep what you know to yourself, especially if the damage isn’t immediately apparent? Bad idea. Remember the legal necessity to disclose, warns Blanco: “Any material fact that’s not readily visible but can affect the value of the property, which by definition, is termites, needs to be disclosed.”
3. Be prepared to take a price discount.
If you’d prefer not to repair your home and sell it “as is” with termite damage, you have to be prepared to take a discount on the price—and the price chop will likely be more than just the estimated cost of repairs.
4. Start with Simple Sale.
Selling a home to a cash buyer can be daunting, but HomeLight’s streamlines the process with Simple Sale. Just answer a few quick questions about the state of your home and timeline, and we’ll introduce you to a network of interested cash buyers in as little as 48 hours.
You’ll get to review competitive offers against an estimation of what you could get for your house if you sold it the conventional way on the open market—then make a decision from there.
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Repair it for a fee or let it be? How to decide the best route for selling a house with termite damage
Termite infestations and termite damage are serious but fairly common issues in homes. If you’re considering putting your house on the market with a history of termite damage, don’t despair.
Get an expert in to check out your home and get a quote for the cost of the damage. For many homes, if termites are caught within a year, the damage is minimal, and the treatment is worth it before putting your home on the market.
If damage to your home is more severe, you do have the option of selling your home “as is” for cash. This oftentimes means a faster sale, but will very likely mean you won’t get market value for it.
Ultimately, deciding what to do when selling a house with termite damage is a personal choice. If you’re looking for a quick sale, and the damage is extensive, it might be best to sell as is. However, if you caught an infestation or damage early, the return on investment for treatment and repairs is often worth the hassle.
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