Termites aren’t the only pests to fear when it comes time to perform the dreaded wood destroying organism inspection. Sometimes, the real damage can come from an inexperienced or unprofessional contractor whose work – or lack thereof – can hamper the escrow process, harm your reputation, or both.
Donna Baker, a Realtor in Monrovia, California, found herself paying $5,000 in out-of-pocket for repairs when an inspection failed to spot and treat an area of infestation revealed months later when the new home owners were doing remodeling. “I’ve had really bad experiences with two termite companies,” she told a local newspaper. “…If I know a company is bad, I’d suggest to the home buyer to request their own.”
Other real estate professionals have reported lengthy delays in scheduling treatment or repairs, fly-by-night operations going south, failure to perform repairs as agreed, damage caused by termite treatment, and last-minute discovery of gross infestation that can make or break a sale.
“The termite inspection is an important part of any escrow transaction,” said David Taylor, technical and safety director for Antimite Termite and Pest Control, a fully licensed pest control company doing business in Southern California since 1941. “It’s important to take care of things early on – even before the inspection takes place – to ensure that you have all your bases covered.”
Taylor advises any real estate agent to ask the following questions before ordering any type of termite treatment:
- ARE YOU LICENSED AND BONDED? Seek out reputable companies, preferably those endorsed by both buyer and seller.
- CAN YOU SHOW ME WHAT YOU FOUND? Ask to inspect the infestation and repairs yourself, if possible. Consider getting a second inspection from another company.
- WHAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG? Spell out liability issues ahead of time in terms of damage caused from the treatment process. Determine ahead of time the type of damage to be covered by the pest control company, and whether the buyer or seller will cover the rest.
- WHAT DOES THE PRICE INCLUDE? Get an itemized list of recommended treatment options and associated costs to avoid any hidden fees. Don’t be afraid to second-guess on behalf of your client.
- WHEN CAN YOU START, AND HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? Be thorough in preparing a contract to specify and schedule all work to be done and within a certain time frame.
- IS YOUR WORK GUARANTEED? Find out how long it will take to eradicate the termites, and whether treatments will help to guard against any future infestations. Ask whether the work comes with any follow-up inspections and/or treatments, and if the contract allows for any warranty service.
“A lot of problems can be avoided by asking the right questions up front,” Taylor said. “Don’t ever hire a contractor that is not licensed and bonded, and insist on getting professional references before committing to a job.”
Lastly, Taylor advised, be sure to spell out obligations for after the home has sold.
“Don’t be afraid to ask about work guarantees and follow-up inspections,” he said. “These will help not only to avoid potential disputes in the future, but will provide everyone with the peace of mind knowing that any unforeseen surprises will be covered or addressed.”