Always prepare for the worst…
So you think you’ve located a steal of a deal in your neighborhood…Problem is, how do you know the house is not going to end up being a money pit for your investment dollars? Can you spot the hidden , and not-so-hidden dangers lurking in any property? One of the most common, and most expensive problems results from termite damage. But are you an expert at finding the signs of termite damage? (I didn’t think so…)
Naturally you’ll be utilizing the services of a home inspector to help scope out problems with termites. But let me give you a few beginner’s pointers in knowing how to identify signs of termite infestation. In this way, you may not need to even make a bid on a property if it is in bad shape due to termite damage. Or, you may want to alter your original bid consideration down to a much lower figure. In this way, you won’t waste time and money negotiating a property acquisition, only to have the deal get blown up after a home inspector locates tremendous damage done by termites.
Termites in abandoned houses
I often recommend being well prepared in the eventuality of damage from termites – or other potential hazards not easily seen by the untrained eye. I have noted in prior articles here that “the property investor must be aware of these most basic of environmental hazards that lurk within any potential property deal…especially with abandoned houses. And you’ll need to plan for the potential costs of remediation if needed. Just know that these costs can be extremely expensive to take on when you’re making that seemingly wonderful “steal” of a deal on any abandoned property. And that could mean a major financial disaster for you if you don’t plan accordingly for the worst.”
Foreclosures and termites
I have also warned about the pitfalls inherent when looking to purchase foreclosed (or REO) houses. I have noted that “while REO properties (“real estate owned” bank foreclosures) can appear on the surface to be great deals, make sure you’re aware of potential pitfalls that could mean unexpected gargantuan costs down the road. However, banks that own REO’s tend to be sticklers in the adage “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) when they place their inventory of foreclosed homes for sale on the market – and they require all offers be in “as is” condition. So you’ll be in the dark, quite literally, regarding your house inspection. When buying a foreclosed home, make sure you get a very experienced house inspection company to go over the property in tremendous detail…you’ll have to build in a slush fund for the probability that one or more of these hazards (such as termites) are present. Crunch your offer numbers accordingly…
A good house inspection company will be able to ascertain very quickly the presence of pest infestations. Termites tend to be number one on the potential list. If evidence of past termite infestations is old and not active, and the damage to the house sills have been minimal, or repaired, there shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. But if the damage is active and extensive, calling for sill replacement, this could also pose a potential cost you didn’t expect that could run in the thousands of dollars. Be very wary when confronted with the evidence of termite damage in foreclosed homes.”
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage annually. Just about every property in the U.S is at risk of having termites. So, just how do you identify termites? What do termites look like? You could search for termite pictures. However, here are some signs to look for… Be on the lookout for small flying insects – known as swarmers. They usually fly near windows and leave behind their discarded wings. This typically occurs in the Spring. Apart from spotting termite swarmers in the Spring, another sign of termites is the damage they do to properties. Sometimes it’s easier to find the early damage signs they can create.
Areas to look in…
Consider taking a closer look at the following to locate signs of termites…these include looking at flooring, walls, ceilings, foundations, windows, doors, decking and roofing. You should note that termites can damage laminate flooring and even skirting boards. Affected flooring may blister and sag in certain areas and checking underneath the flooring may help to uncover termite activity. You can also check if floors feel more spongy than usual. In addition, look for unexplained cracks on internal walls. As termites consume cellulose found in timber within walls, the visible cracks could be a sign of termite activity inside. Don’t forget to search out wooden ceilings, beams and rafters in attics – they’re just as much at risk of termite damage as wooden structures located nearer ground level. Look for cracks on ceilings and cornices too.
Foundations and other spots
By far your greatest concern should be around foundations. The type of foundation your property is built on has a big impact on how easy it may be for termites to gain entry in search of food. Although a lot of foundations nowadays are made of concrete – and termites do not eat concrete – they are able to squeeze into any crack within these concrete blocks and from there gain access to floor joists, which are still made out of wood. Homes with crawl spaces appear to be at greater risk of damage as their foundations are still traditionally made out of wood.
In addition, don’t forget to search out windows and doors – signs of termite infestation include their becoming difficult to open, as their tunneling and eating may make the frames irregular. Likewise, decking and wooden fence posts in your garden are at great risk of termites. Long-term damage could lead to collapse. Termite-treated wood or metal posts, can help to avoid this problem. Termites may also damage trees, leading to branches falling off. Additionally, excess moisture in a house due to loose, broken or damp roof tiles can attract termites. Broken roof tiles are a great source of moisture, which will attract termites and allow them access further inside your home. Once inside, termites are able to maneuver through a property easily and attack and eat away at wood components in all locations.
Finally, don’t forget to search for mud tubes on exterior walls. These tubes essentially act as protection for termites and are commonly found near the foundations of a house. Typically subterranean termite species build mud tubes, which also provides moisture. They are made up of soil and termite droppings. Look for mud tubes on exterior or basement walls. They are easy to spot with the naked eye.
photos courtesy of pooboy.com, aceenvironmentalstl.com, thiseclecticlife.com, propertymanager.cobuzzle.com, hdoundationrepair.com