alone should not undermine purchase
Real Estate Adviser,
I recently had an inspection done on a home I want to buy. During the inspection, it was found that termites had damaged about four feet of the main support beam. Is this a good enough reason to back out of the deal?
It depends on how badly you want the house, how thoroughly the repair work is done and what your sales contract states.
For starters, opinions vary on the termite issue.
Some home professionals say you should run, not walk away from such
a house, if possible, because there might be other termite damage
or infestation that's not yet apparent and that it may take expensive
invasive testing (opening walls, ceilings, etc.) to know for sure.
Others say such damage is quite common and that full
replacement of the main beam -- which may run upward of $2,000 --
along with other preventive termite treatment should suffice.
But, there are too many unknown facts that make it
difficult for me to make a definitive call on whether you should
bail out. For example, was the damage divulged to you in the seller
disclosure statement? If not, then you have an out. What type of
language addressed structural issues or damage repairs in the contract?
This could also dictate your course of action.
In the vast majority of cases, sellers are obligated
to fix such damage or at least provide a liberal cash credit at
closing to cover the necessary work. In the latter case, you
would at least control the quality of the repair work. The owners,
after all, might not necessarily hire the best contractor if they
gravitate to the lowest bid. (Lenders, by the way, will require
an acceptable termite letter before they can release funds.)
If the current owner does the work, then it needs
to be reinspected by someone representing you. In the case of a
main beam, you may be best served by bringing in a structural engineer
to look at the work -- and the balance of the house. A rotting main
beam can compromise a home's structural integrity and cause sagging
or damage to other stress-bearing points in a house.
In most parts of the country, termites are a fact
of life and their presence is felt, to some degree, by a high percentage
of homeowners. Species vary from region to region and some are more
aggressive and harder to eradicate than others, which could be an
important factor in your decision. Find out which kind you're dealing
But regardless of what you do, termites may return
to the house. Treatment companies can't guarantee the little buggers
won't work their way through the ground again and enter a different
vulnerable area. And remember that you will have to disclose all
termite treatments when it comes time for you to resell the place,
which might narrow your buying universe a little. If all this doesn't
scare you, you really want that house and your contractor or engineer
says it's structurally sound, then, hey, go for it.
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