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You did it. You found your dream home! It’s got a great layout, great backyard and, oh yeah, it’s got termites. Deal breaker? Not necessarily. Weigh the options.

One major factor that can help you determine whether to move forward with the purchase is exactly where the damage is located. It may be all right for a buyer to purchase a home with termite damage as long as it’s not in the floor joists or any of the main supports of the home. The damage is considered minimal if it’s primarily on the surface of wood structures. Any deeper and you may have a seriously costly problem on your hands.

Termite-ravaged homes will usually come with a significant discount, which can appeal to first-time buyers who are often looking for a bargain. But even they should think long and hard before purchasing a termite-damaged home. Why? First-time buyers typically have very little savings to tackle a major structural issue, because they are spending most of their money on the down payment.

Home buyers should consider getting a termite inspection before they purchase a home.  In New England there is an old saying about termites and homes: “a home has, had, or will have termites.” So even if your new home doesn’t yet have termites, it probably will in the future.

If you’re buying a home in Massachusetts, the owner of the home may not even know if the home has termites, so it won’t necessarily be in the seller’s disclosure. The home inspection may reveal signs that termites are present, or you may have seen signs yourself.   If your home inspector sees some signs of either active termites or termite damage, then a termite inspection should be done. To make sure, hire a qualified termite control specialist to inspect the home. Traditional home inspectors are not specifically trained to recognize the presence of termite activity or structural damage caused by termites. If the inspection shows that termites are active, you don’t need to abandon the idea of purchasing the home. Instead you should request that the seller have it fixed.  Most sellers will be willing to have it treated and set up an annual plan or they may also negotiate the home price if termite damage is found.  This is something you should discuss with the buyer’s realtor.

Conversely, if you’re thinking of selling your home and you notice some evidence of either active termites or past termite damage, don’t wait until a buyer is interested to get a termite inspection. Getting an inspection now will allow you to address the problem and fix it so that it doesn’t become an issue at the time of the sale. Before making any repairs, work with your termite control specialist to ensure all active termite colonies have been controlled. The best time for you to have a termite inspection and proactively treat is long before the buyers decide to get an inspection of their own.

For buyers, even if the termite inspection comes back negative and you purchase the home, you should still take measures to prevent future infestations. Termites love wood, and they also love moisture. Remove any wet or decaying wood elements in around your home. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are cleaned out so water can channel away from the home. Remove all tree stumps and wood from home improvement projects. Don’t pile fire wood next to the house. The best way to store fire wood is on a wire rack away from the house. Wood mulch also should not touch the house. Keep it back five inches or more and sloped away from the house. It’s also a good idea to have your home inspected once a year to keep on top of it. Early diagnosis will control termites and prevent more expensive repairs in the future.

Buying, selling or owning your home requires a termite inspection. Suspect a problem? Call a termite professional. Prevention costs way less than treatment!