First published in March 2015
By BJ Oelschlegel
One of the final things an agent schedules in a residential closing process is the termite inspection. The standard sales contract in North Carolina, in accordance with regulations of the NC Structural Pest Control Committee, has provisions for a termite inspection and report. The purchaser pays for the inspection and report; the seller pays for any extermination services.
Any required structural repairs, as a result of the pest activity, can be negotiated between buyer and seller. The seller can take responsibility for the repairs or not. The buyer can accept the house “as is” or, with extensive damage, can terminate the contract and receive the return of the earnest money deposit.
On Ocracoke, we primarily deal with Eastern Subterranean Termites, Powder Post Beetles and Old House Borers. In nature, the job of the termite is to recycle dead wood. They need moisture and they are sensitive little buggers. Termites build mud shelter tubes to hold the moisture. These tubes protect them from the intense sunlight and wind. To boot, they are social animals.
Termites use their antennae to visit with their neighbors passing in the tubes and to groom each other. This is an important factor when it comes to protective measures. The results of the habitats they create are what the inspectors are looking for.
The evidence of termites would be the actual insect and the mud tubes. Powder Post Beetles and Old House Borers leave different shaped exit holes: the beetles emerge from pencil eraser-sized oval holes and the borers leave ice pick stab holes.
Frass is the fine powder left behind by the beetle, and is the color of fresh cut wood. If the holes are dark with no powder, the insects are inactive.
We can take protective measures. Houses in this area are built on concrete piers or salt treated pilings. Neither is tasty to a termite. Pressure-treated wood will wick moisture, which over time will leach out the protective nature of the piling. Wood that is stored under the house, washed up in the yard or even leaning against the house can either be a tasty meal for a termite or a conduit to their next attack zone.
An above-ground water source, such as a roof leak, is their favorite venue. Tree stumps are a wood supply just dying to be recycled. Obviously removing these food supplies are a good start.
Some chemical treatments for termites are slow acting: the insecticide sticks to the antennae and as the termite visits with its neighbors the treatment gets passed around the colony.
Inspectors are obligated to note on the report any evidence of wood-destroying insects which are in, on or under the structure. There is also a section on the report to note areas that are conducive to termites.
So along with the scheduling of that termite inspection, we also instruct the seller to clean up the yard. According to the inspectors, what they don’t find, they don’t have to report.
BJ Oelschlegel is a broker with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty