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Disgusting. Our stomachs turn when we see bugs in our home, and it’s no wonder. An infestation of any kind of insect makes anyone want to run away from a home. You don’t have to get rid of the bugs in order to sell termite-damaged houses or property, but you do have to know how to address the problem with potential buyers.
There are three things you need to do in order to sell a home with termites:
- You must disclose termite damage or infestations to potential buyers
- Termite damage can lower the value of a home or cause a real estate sale to fall through if it’s not addressed
- Treating termite damage isn’t as costly as most people think
This is a top line to let you know how termites affect your ability to sell your Florida home, but there’s a lot more to understand before you put your house with termites on the market.
The first thing to get a handle on is how termite damage happens in Florida. Understanding what it looks like, how termites are treated, and why your home might be at risk for termites will let you make smart decisions about how you proceed with a home sale.
Termite damage is like a natural disaster
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Every year, homes are destroyed by tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. With each of these natural disasters, there are federal funds dedicated to helping homeowners recover and recoup the value of their homes.
Though there is a stigma against termite infested homes that’s different from other natural disasters, in reality termite damage is no different.
The average cost of treatment for termite damage is around three thousand dollars. This is because termite treatment isn’t overly expensive if it’s caught early. It’s incredibly important for homeowners to be on the lookout for damage to their homes that could indicate termites.
Subterranean termites, which are the most common type of termites in the United States, cause 90% of termites damage in this country. These bugs that come from under the ground aren’t something that a homeowner can prevent, just like natural disasters aren’t something a homeowner can prevent.
Are termites common in Florida?
Termites are found all over the United States. That being said, Florida is home to four of the top ten metropolitan areas for termite infestation. These are Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, and Tampa, Florida. In fact, termites are most commonly found in the Southeast in general.
Florida is the number one state for termite damage in the United States. Other states in the top ten include Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Note that all of these states are in the South except for California.
The information about where termites are most commonly found comes not only from animal organizations like the National Wildlife Fund, but also from businesses that deal in termite extermination. Companies like Terminix and Groundworks deal with termite damage, and they focus their services on places where termites are commonly found.
Why are termites prevalent in FL?
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Why are termites more common in Florida than other parts of the country? The weather.
Florida has high levels of humidity and mild winters. This means that subterranean termites, again the most common type of termites, aren’t killed off by cold winter temperatures. In places like Michigan and Minnesota, termites are killed off by frigid temperatures.
The Southwest and central Midwest are less likely to be home to termites, as their climate is more arid. Termites must have moisture in order to survive. The upper Midwest is at low risk for termites.
At 25 degrees Fahrenheit, termites die within an hour of exposure. This is just a few degrees below freezing. Florida rarely gets this cold above ground, and it certainly doesn’t get that cold below ground, where subterranean termites live. For this reason, termites can be found year round in Florida.
Southern Florida is at high risk
The University of Florida has done a great deal of research into termite damage in the Panhandle State. According to a study released by researchers, in two decades more than half of homes in South Florida will be at risk for termite damage.
This number is huge and slightly frightening, but there is some hope. Homeowners in this area of Florida should be on the lookout for termite damage. Regular inspections by a pest control expert, either every year or every other year, are a worthwhile investment for homeowners. Catching termite damage early is integral to preventing further damage and saving a lot of money.
Southern Florida is also prone to hurricane damage and flooding, so this is definitely another factor to juggle for homeowners. Termite damage can sometimes look like water damage, so it might be dismissed in a Florida home. Being vigilant is essential for homeowners in Florida in order to prevent termites and address damage.
Termites vs. termite damage
The biggest issue with termites is the damage to homes and foundations that they cause when they are unnoticed. Killing the termites isn’t the issue that homeowners are really grappling with – the real problem is that they eat away at foundations and wooden structures within the home.
Once the termites have been exterminated, the big expense comes from making home repairs to address the termite damage that has been caused before they were detected.
Every day that termites are in the home, they’re eating away at integral parts of the house. It’s not just the direct damage that termites cause that’s a problem. Termite damage often leads to water damage, which can be a huge expense as well.
Across the United States, termite damage causes billions of dollars of damage every year. It’s no wonder that people buying a home want to be sure that they don’t have termites.
Subterranean termites do more damage
Termites live in swarms or colonies. These collectives of insects are centralized around a queen, and they need to be able to have room to grow into large groups of termites.
Above ground species of termites, like drywood termites, simply don’t have enough space to grow into colonies that are large enough to do a lot of damage to a home. Above ground, termites are more likely to be noticed by humans and exterminated, to be eaten by predators, and to succumb to dry conditions, excessive heat, or excessive cold.
All of these limit the ability of termites to survive above ground.
Underground, there’s much more room for termites to grow into large groups of bugs. Subterranean termites have a broader ability to damage homes thanks to the scale of their colonies. When they burrow up from the ground, they are less likely to be noticed by a homeowner until damage has been done.
Subterranean termites are also capable of migrating to nearby homes. If you’re trying to sell your house and you know that your neighbors have had previous termites, you should inform potential buyers. It’s worth asking neighbors about potential termite issues as well.
Disclosing termite damage
It’s required by law that you disclose termite damage to potential buyers in Florida. Here are some signs of termite infestation that you should share with people interested in buying your home:
- Flying swarms of insects on or near your property
- mud tubes on your home’s foundation
- Mounds of wings, which often look like fish scales
- Drywall that looks like it’s “melting”
- Discolored paint on walls or finishes
- Paint that looks water damaged
- Pinprick holes in drywall
- Misshapen wooden floors
- sagging laminate flooring or buckling floor tiles
- Loud squeaks in floors or stairs
- Crumbling wood anywhere on the home
- Patterns of maze-like damage in any wood
- Small piles of dust
All of these are indications that you could potentially have a termite problem. It’s not worth it to ignore any of these potential signs of termites, as a good home inspection will reveal them anyway.
Sometimes, an inspector won’t see these issues unless they go into the crawl space to see if the home is termite free. Property damage isn’t always visible to the naked eye. An entire colony could be living right under the house, leaving damaged wood and sheet wings in its path.
Though interested buyers might not know to ask for a termite inspection, and a house with termite damage might not have visible damage, it’s still required for sellers to disclose termites.
It might not be termites
Fortunately, addressing termite damage is not always a huge deal. In fact, often an inspection will find that those signs weren’t for termites at all. Winged ants, water leaks, natural aging of wood structures, or other kinds of insects can all cause similar signs to termites.
The first step is always to call a certified pest control company to check out your property and verify whether you even have termites. It’s highly possible that you don’t. What is not productive is to put off the inspection out of fear.
It’s always better to confront the potential issue head on. This way, you can make the right decision for how to address potential problems.
Addressing termite damage before a home sale
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If you choose to sell the home with termite damage, you’ll either have the choice to sell the house as-is to a cash buyer, or to work on making repairs before selling the home in a traditional home sale.
Deciding to fix the damage yourself will be costly and it will take a significant amount of time, depending on how extensive the damage is. However, with repairs and pest control treatment, you might well get that higher price for the home.
To fix termite damage, you might need to employ a general contractor in addition to a termite specialist. It’s all about how much damage there is. If your home has extensive damage, particularly to the foundation or to foundational pieces of the structure, that work could be expensive and drag on for months.
Using a termite warranty
One thing to keep in mind is that you might have a termite warranty that will cover termite treatment. It’s well worth checking out if this is the case with your builder or your home insurance company.
You could end up not having to pay anything out of pocket to address a termite infestation if you have a warranty.
When you sell the home with a termite history, let prospective buyers know that you’ve had termite treatments. If you have had treatment of the home before, the pest control company should cover future termite infestations for a specific amount of time through a termite warranty, usually a year.
Focus on the bottom line
Though selling a home with termites can be distressing, it’s never a good idea to let your emotions run away with you.
If your goal is to sell your home for the best possible price, they you might do well to forego repairs and just sell the house as-is to either a cash buyer or to a traditional buyer. Either way, you’ll be able to get out from under the home without having to pour a ton of cash into the property.
Building the buyer’s trust
Whether you want a quick sale or to get rid of burdensome houses with a traditional home buyer, speak upfront and frankly about any significant termite damage you’ve had to have repaired.
Many extermination companies will install mesh screenings or spray as preventative measures to keep significant damage from happening to a home. A house with termites doesn’t mean home buyers won’t be interested in it. It only means that you need to have the house treated and to be upfront about termite infestation problems.
Traditional home buyers may be willing to wait a few weeks while a house with termites is fixed, or they may be willing to take on the house for a price reduction. Necessary repairs could take time, but buyers are often willing to pay more money rather than having to deal with the termite infestation themselves.
The key to building the buyer’s trust and staying out of legal trouble is to engage with outside contractors. This includes the home inspector and pest control companies. It’s suspicious if a seller tries to forego an inspection or pressures a buyer into taking the house fast.
Working with house flippers
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Termite activity or even untreated termite problems are the wheelhouse for house flippers or a real estate investor. These alternatives to traditional home buyers are willing to work with you if you’re selling a house with a termite colony.
An investment firm might be willing to take on the home as is without the seller having to deal with termite removal. In fact, they know that the open market can be challenging if you’re trying to sell a house for full market value when there are termite tunnels or a termite swarm on the property.
Even if structural repairs are needed, investors offer real estate solutions that will sell a house fast. Then, they’ll take on the burden of treating termites once they have possession.
The sale can go fast or slow
What all of this is getting at is that selling a house with termites can either go very fast, or it can go super slow. This is because there’s a timeline attached to termite treatment. A termite problem must be addressed quickly.
Slow home sale
If you decide to treat the structural damage and the termites yourself, then selling a house is going to go slow. You’ll have time to list it on the multiple listing service, sending it out into the open market.
All through this time, you’ll be working with a termite company to stop the termites from creating more damage, as well as addressing the damage with a general contractor or other home repair expert.
Fast home sale
Repair costs will be taken out of the home price if you decide to sell a house as is with termite damage. Fair market value for a home that has a termite problem must include all of those costs in order to be fair.
A home investor will present a cash offer to get the home into their hands quickly, because they need to get in there and address termite damage ASAP to prevent further problems and recoup as much of their investment as possible.
In this case, disclosing a termite inspection that found problems will actually speed up the sale rather than slowing it down. It’s important to sell a house super fast when there are termites involved if you aren’t going to fix the problem yourself.
Interested buyers for a house with termite damage that hasn’t been treated will know about this. They’ll want to get started with termite treatments fast. A cash offer could have a home sold and closing costs paid within a week or two. This will allow the new owner to get started on treating termites before they continue causing damage.
Keep records of everything
Throughout the process, you’ll want to keep records of everything. Whether you’re selling a house with termite damage as is or doing the repairs yourself before you sell, by keeping accurate records along the way, you’ll be able to disclose all that you need to disclose to the buyer.
This goes for pest inspection reports, repair costs and proof of treatment, to home inspections and interactions you have with the local municipality.
Whether you’re selling your home as is or on the open market with a real estate agent, that clear record keeping is going to be a lifesaver. Keep all of the paperwork in a binder, and don’t forget to include receipts.
Think of what you would want from a seller if you were buying a house with termite damage, and then be sure that you offer that to any buyer. This is another way of building trust, and it’s also the right thing to do.
Selling your home with termite damage
What homeowners can do is to keep a close watch for termite indicators, to have their homes treated to prevent termites, and to be candid with potential buyers about past or current infestations.
Despite being tiny compared to humans, bugs have a history of making people run in the other direction. An infestation of any kind of six legged insect is alarming to homeowners, but termites are especially reviled because of the permanent damage they do to a home. Though it seems daunting, it is realistic to sell a termite damaged home