What You Need to Know About Pest Inspections

pest inspector at work while a woman homeowner looks on
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A pest inspection is a crucial step when buying or selling a home. That's also true when it comes to maintaining the home you may already own. Pest inspectors often search for insects that cause wood damage; they might also look for pests that can be a threat or nuisance in general. Many people never give a second thought to pest inspections until a problem arises, or until they are buying or selling a home.

There are some common concerns that can plague homeowners and homebuyers alike, such as figuring out who pays for the inspection, who to hire, and how to exterminate any pests that are found. The cost and labor of having your home inspected are well worth the peace of mind you'll have. You can rest assured knowing you've prevented structural damage down the road or a problem in the home-buying process.

Key Takeaways

  • In most cases, buyers will pay for pest inspections if the seller hasn't already had one. The rules may differ; it depends on where the home is and the parties involved in the transaction.
  • If any issues were identified in a pest report, hiring a separate pest control company for the extermination process can offer a second opinion.
  • Tenting entire houses may or may not be a part of the process, depending on how serious the infestation is.
  • Pest inspectors should have some idea of how much wood has been damaged. This can help you plan for restoration projects afterward.

Why Should You Hire a Professional?

Many pests, including termites, are nearly invisible. The damage they do to a home often remains unseen until it's severe; this can cause structural damage. Professional licensed pest inspectors are trained to distinguish between mounds of dirt and scraps from chewing wood that swarms of termites leave behind. The piles look alike to untrained eyes. This serves as an example of the kind of expert advice needed when finding out whether a home has an infestation.

Note

Pest inspectors often target wood-boring invaders such as termites, powder post beetles, and carpenter ants. All of these can cause damage to a building. But they also look for pests that trouble the inhabitants, such as cockroaches, wasps, bees, fleas, or any other unwanted creature.

What to Expect During an Inspection

Professional inspectors are thorough in searching for signs of infestation. They will examine both the interior and exterior of a house, including foundations, rafters, and areas around windows and rooflines. If they find a soft spot or other signs of infestation, they use a specialized probing device to poke a hole in the wood.

This is a normal part of an inspection and should not upset homeowners. If an inspector can easily poke a hole in the wood, that simply serves as evidence of a far greater problem.

What Are Pest Reports?

Pest reports identify areas of concern. They also list a pest company's recommendations to cure any problems, such as repairing decaying wood.

Some reports identify areas for further investigation. This could include inaccessible spots that might require, for instance, ripping tile from a shower wall. Or, it could be something such as digging a trench to wiggle further under a house in a tight crawl space.

Tip

Ask neighbors for referrals and do thorough background checks on any inspectors or exterminators you hire. If an inspector finds damage from an infestation, it may be a good idea to hire a separate company to handle the extermination. This deters inspectors from overstating a problem in order to secure further work.

Inspectors will take photos of any problems they identify. This can help illustrate the issue and the evidence leading to their conclusions.

Who Pays for Pest Inspections?

Whether or not a pest inspection is required depends on state and local requirements. Be sure to verify what is necessary where you live. Home lenders may also require it as part of their loan approval process; you should also check with all parties involved. Even if an inspection is not required, it's a better-safe-than-sorry situation. There are plenty of good reasons to pay for one whether you are the buyer or the seller.

Sellers may want to pay for an inspection to assure buyers that the home is free from infestation. It's also a good idea to pay for one if it is an older home that needs other repairs or upgrades.

In most cases, buyers should pay for an inspection any time sellers have not already done so. This is even more true if a home is older or looks like decaying wood may be an issue. It's simply best to have a professional check for pests and make the results a contingency of any offer.

Warning

Most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover termite damage. If it's not listed outright on your policy, it may be considered long-term damage from pests. This often falls into the "neglect" category—another way of saying the owner is at fault.

How Do Companies Exterminate Pests?

Many of the products used by pest companies today can work without a tenting process. This is often the case as long as the infested areas are adequately identified. These chemicals used are touted as environmentally safe and less harmful than pesticides of the past. But you are still advised to take precautions until a certain length of time has passed. Your exterminator will have all the details.

Warning

Though tenting a home is no longer the sole option for eliminating pests, it is still commonly used. It involves just what you would expect—a huge, circus-type tent placed over the entire house and then filled with chemicals that kill pests. These chemicals are toxic, so owners vacate the home when the tenting process is being performed.

Decaying parts of the wood will be removed to remediate dry rot. This involves tearing out overhangs, parts of roof extensions, window sills, support beams for patios, joists under a house, or wood siding. Sometimes a company will only remove any portions of the wood that have suffered the most damage. Be sure to ask how much they are removing and replacing so you can prepare for any restoration work.

As a resident, you may need to make arrangements to stay elsewhere while the work is being done. You may also need to participate in the process by sealing food items, bagging linens, or even arranging with your utility company to shut off the gas for a period of time. It all depends on the type of pest and treatment process. Your inspector can answer any questions.