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Termite Trouble: How to Sell Your Home With These Little Destructive Houseguests

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Termites may only be ¼ of an inch in size, but when it comes to your home, they can be one mighty problem.

These little buggers can corrupt a home’s foundation, walls, ceilings, doors — you name it. Worst of all, unless you live in Alaska, there’s no escaping them. They’re a nuisance to homeowners in 49 out of 50 U.S. states — and they especially love warmer climates.

Termites are a big headache for homeowners and an even bigger one for homeowners who want to sell. Luckily, that doesn’t mean that you’re out of options as a seller.

Whether you’re hosting these unwelcome house guests currently, or your home has a history of termites, there’s hope for selling your property, yet.

In this guide, we’re covering how to spot these unwanted pests, methods for ridding your home of them, tips for tackling repairs, and perhaps most importantly, two ways to successfully sell a home with termite trouble.

Stressed About Selling a Damaged Home?

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Is it hard to sell a house that has had termites?

Termites damage around 600,000 homes in the U.S. each year, while the National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cost Americans $5 billion annually.

“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. But that hasn’t stopped him from transacting over 3,946 real estate deals in his career.

When selling a home that has, or has had termites, there are two common options to choose from. As a homeowner, you can either:

  1. Repair and remedy any termite damage, disclose any known property issues, list the home on the open market, and consider selling the home with a warranty.
  2. Skip all the hoopla of repairs, showings, and listing and sell the home “as is” to a cash buyer.

Many factors like the severity of the termite infestation and level of damage to the home can impact which selling method is the better choice. To learn more, let’s take a closer look at the first option.

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.
  • Eddie Blanco
    Eddie Blanco Real Estate Agent
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    Eddie Blanco
    Eddie Blanco Real Estate Agent at Stratwell
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 24
    • Transactions 4014
    • Average Price Point $212k
    • Single Family Homes 1993

Option 1: Selling your home with termite damage on the open market

Depending on the extent of the termite damage, it’s possible to sell a home like any other house (and even price it for its full market value).

Though “termite damage” can sound scary for buyers, you can take five steps as a seller to calm their concerns:

Pay for a pest inspection

When you’re ready to sell your house, get ahead of the game by scheduling a pre-listing inspection and a pest inspection to survey your overall property. Hiring a pest inspector with the right trained eye will ensure someone properly scours your property for any signs of unwanted critters, which can put you in a better selling position.

“You could identify these issues first, and then you don’t have the buyer identifying them after you’ve negotiated a contract,” advises Blanco. “You get to address these issues before listing the house.”

After the inspection, you’ll receive a report providing the next steps you can take as a homeowner to solve or prevent future pest issues.

To find reputable pest inspectors in your area, ask your Realtor® for recommendations, check reviews on sites like Angie’s List or Yelp, or search the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) online database.

Disclose known issues (even if you’re not required to by law)

A state’s disclosure laws — what information sellers must lawfully disclose to prospective buyers — vary by state. To avoid any legal trouble, follow your state’s disclosure laws carefully and share any information regarding material defects, the condition of the property, and yes, any current activity or history of termites (…even if they’re long gone).

Not to mention it’s always best practice to be upfront and honest and keep your buyer’s trust from the get-go. Chances are, once the buyer has the home inspected, they’ll find out about the infestation or any troublesome areas of the house, anyway.

In the end, “it’s not worth it to try to hide termite issues,” advises Blanco.

Handle the repairs before you list the home on the market

In extreme cases, termites can weaken the wood in your home enough to cause a collapse.

Luckily, however, that’s not the norm. 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.”

If caught within the first year, many homeowners only need to pay extermination fees.

Extermination fees range from $230 to $930, with the average cost for most homeowners landing around $575. Costs vary based on the size of the home, the type of treatment used, and how many times treatment is required. For example, if a home exterminator determines your house requires a high level of treatment, this could mean they’ll tent and fumigate your property, which can ring in at around $2,500.

If the wood in your home is damaged from the infestation, there are two ways to repair it:

  • Completely replace the wood (brownie points if it’s replaced with a termite-resistant material)
  •  Reinforce the damaged wood with new support boards — a less costly option.

If your property has experienced extensive structural damage, you might also need to:

  • Repair framing in your home
  • Reinstall insulation in crawl spaces or the attic
  • Repair and clean small spaces with extensive infestation
  • Replace drywall

Some repairs are minor enough that a simple wood hardener and sealant will do the trick, but if termites have done more significant damage, you’ll need to call in a professional termite repair specialist.

For example, 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.

Depending on the severity of the damage, repairs can range from $500 to $6,000 says HomeAdvisor.

To avoid a worst-case scenario and bypass hefty repair costs, try to put preventative measures in place and spot termites early on (tips on that below).

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.

“I would say [a termite warranty from an exterminator] is equal to, if not more than, the cost of the treatment. That’s money buyers know they’re not going to have to spend,” says Blanco.

Negotiate on price as needed

Along with your termite warranty, providing proof of treatment and doctoring up your house with any necessary repairs will put you in a stronger selling position when listing your home.

Blanco advises how 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.

“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,” recalls Blanco.

Often, the warranty and treatment pay off nearly dollar for dollar at the time of sale.

With 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.

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Option 2: Sell your house with termite damage ‘as is’ to a cash buyer

If the cost of treating the home for termites and financing the repairs isn’t in your wheelhouse, or doing so will cost you more than any profit you’ll make from your home sale, you can sell your home “as is” to a cash buyer.

When selling a home “as is,” consider these four important details:

Skip repairs, staging, and showings

When selling a home “as is” to a cash buyer, you’ll typically be able to forgo making any repairs. With all the cash offer options available, you’ll likely never even list it on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

Since you won’t be hosting an open house or having a slew of interested buyers stopping in, you can skip the home prep like cleaning, yard work, and readying the house for buyers.

As-is properties are especially appealing to house flippers or investors who are looking to buy a house before it hits the market.

Remember disclosures

When selling a home “as is,” you’ll still need to disclose any known termite damage — even if it’s not visibly apparent.

“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,” warns Blanco.

Ensure that you clearly share with potential buyers that you intend to skip repairs or treatment for the property. Many buyers will still require a general home inspection. Depending on what the inspector finds, the initial inspection may lead to a more specialized pest inspection for deeper assessment.

Be prepared to take a price discount

If you’d prefer not to repair your home and sell it “as is” with termite damage, be prepared to take a discount on the price.

Many buyers who purchase a home “as is” will offer below market value to allow for forthcoming costs of preparing the property for resale, such as renovations, or, in this scenario, exterminations, and repairs.

Compare a Simple Sale all-cash offer

Selling a home to a cash buyer can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be stressful. Clients who use HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform can easily receive their first, no-obligation cash offer for their home.

To get started, all you have to do is answer a few questions about the condition of your home and your selling timeline. HomeLight will then provide you with a competitive all-cash offer. From there, you can review the offer against a provided estimation of what you might get for your home if sold on the open market. Use this information to make a more informed selling decision.

FAQ: Common questions home sellers have about termite damage

How hard is it to sell a house that has, or has had termites?

If the home has an active and significant termite problem, it will typically be easier to sell the property “as is” rather than on the open market. Many new homeowners won’t want to take on the cost of exterminating the property and repairing any damage.

A property that’s had termites before isn’t as big of a deal to many homeowners. What’s more important is how the owners handled the problem. Buyers won’t be as apprehensive about homes that were promptly exterminated and now have a documented clean bill of health.

Is termite damage a deal-breaker?

A lot depends on the extent of the damage. A first-time homeowner may be wary of the risk and ask for some sort of reassurance on the property, such as contract negotiations including termite treatment and property repairs, or a reduced sale price.

As long as the termite damage hasn’t left the house on the verge of collapse, many house flippers and investors who are looking to renovate a property won’t shy away from a home with termite damage.

How does termite damage affect a home’s appraisal?

A termite infestation with sizable damage will affect the appraisal of your home. Some experts say that it can reduce the sale price of a home by as high as 20%.

Can you save a termite-infested home?

You should always speak with a professional termite inspector to better assess your termite problem.

If the inspector finds the property has been damaged, take it one step at a time. Hold off on any repairs until after the termites are successfully cleared out, then move into repair mode.

A licensed termite repair specialist can help to better determine the extent of damage and how to move forward.

What are early indicators of termites?

Many times you can spot signs of termites before they’ve begun wreaking any real havoc on your home. For example, when they spawn in the spring, you might find wings or small bodies in your home.

Other signs of termites include:

  • Peeling paint
  • Loosened floor tiles
  • Swollen floors or extra creaky floorboards
  • Wings left behind after a termite swarm moves to form a new colony
  • Droppings that resemble sawdust, coffee grounds, salt, or pepper
  • Maze-like patterns in your floorboards, furniture, or walls
  • Damaged, buckling, crumbling wood, or pin-size holes in drywall
  • Mud tube the width of a pencil climbing the foundation of your home
  • Flying termite swarms on or near your property
  • Hollow sounding, or damaged, crumbling wood

Bottom line: You have options when selling a house with termite damage

Termite infestations and termite damage are serious, but also fairly common issues in homes.

If your house has a history of termite damage and you’re looking to sell, follow these steps to help decide which selling option is best for you:

  • Call in a local expert to inspect your home
  • Get a firm quote on how much it will cost to exterminate and repair your home
  • Decide if you’re willing or able to pay for the treatment and repairs before putting your house on the market
  • If not, consider selling your home “as is” to a cash buyer (a good option for severely damaged homes)

If you decide that listing your home on the open market is the way to go, HomeLight’s Agent Match tool can help you find a top-rated real estate agent to get the job done. HomeLight’s agent match analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is the right fit for your selling needs.

If selling your home “as is,” HomeLight’s Simple Sale is a fast, convenient option that can provide you with your first, no-obligation cash offer for your home.

Ultimately, deciding what to do when selling a house with termite damage depends on your situation and selling objectives. If you’re looking for a quick sale so you can move on, it might be best to sell “as is.” However, if you caught the infestation or damage early, the return on investment for treatment and repairs is often worth the effort.

Unsure What to Do With the House?

Start with a free home value estimate from HomeLight. Input your address and answer a few questions about your home, and we’ll provide a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.

Writer Emma Diehl contributed to this story.

Header Image Source: (Hong-Monchai/ Shutterstock)