Buying a home is probably the most expensive investment you will make in a lifetime so it makes sense to find out before you make your decision if the property has any defects especially termite activity.
Subterranean termites are the most destructive timber pest in the world, causing more damage to homes and commercial properties than fires, storms and earthquakes combined. Indeed, every year, termites cause billions of dollars damage, in Australia and overseas.
Here is a 10 point checklist of things you need to know about Pest Inspections.
1. RECOGNIZING TERMITE ACTIVITY
The most obvious signs are tell-tale brownish mud shelter tubes termites build for protection, other tell tale signs are sagging floors or doors, loose trim, cracked paint or plaster, also termites are attracted to the warmth of electrical fittings behind walls and they will chew through the electrical insulation causing power failures.
This is just a guide, only a professional Pest Inspection will reveal if there is, or has been termite activity.
2. WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD A PEST INSPECTOR BRING?
Typically a long handle probe/tapping device, moisture meter, thermal image camera, torch, ladder, binoculars, compass, knife and magnifying glass as well as a range of more sophisticated equipment.
3. WHAT SHOULD BE INSPECTED?
All accessible timbers underneath the house and under the roof, inside and outside the building and surrounds, garden, fences, trees, stumps and any other timber structures and trees on the property.
Plus the effectiveness of any visible and accessible termite barriers.
4. WHAT DO PEST INSPECTORS LOOK FOR?
Early signs of termite infestation, susceptibility of the property to termite infestation, termite nests, woodborers which can also cause structural damage over time, also wood rot, and any existing or prior termite activity and damage.
Please remember a Pest inspection is a visual inspection – it is only what the eye can see at that point of time. Anything hidden will not be picked up.
5. WHAT TYPE OF TERMITE DAMAGE MAY BE REVEALED?
This can include structural damage to floor bearers, floor joists, stumps, wall frames, and damage to a building’s roof structure.
Termites not only eat away structural timbers (frames, walls, roof or floor) they are also known to chomp their way through everything else including furniture, fabrics, clothing and many other materials.
With houses on Bearers and joists – if activity is present there is a high probability the termites are coming from a tree contained in the property or from neighboring properties and that tree/s will need to be treated and/or removed depending on condition.
6. IF TERMITES ARE FOUND WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Chemical treatment is really the only option, however, companies now use synthetic pyrethroids which are based on pyrethrin a natural product and the sprays have either low odour or are odourless, non-toxic and safe for the elderly, children and pets.
With these non-toxic products there is no need to vacate or empty cupboards, they dry within 1 hour and do not leave a stain.
If the floor is concrete, the Pest company will drill holes about 30cm apart all around the slab and then inject termite poison to kill the termites under the Concrete and the nest if possible.
7. ARE ALL INSPECTION COMPANIES THE SAME?
As in every industry there are reputable companies who provide a very professional and thorough service and provide the Australian Standard Pest report.
But some pest inspection companies may not provide truly independent advice, especially those who may also be looking to sell actual termite treatments.
Beware of using a pest inspection company the vendor or their real estate agent recommends as they may have a conflict of interest in giving their advice.
Pest Inspectors are regulated by Fair Trading NSW and we recommend you engage the services of a licenced company, who carry out inspections in accordance with current Australian Standards and hold indemnity insurance for your protection.
8. REQUIREMENTS OF THE BUILDING AND PEST INSPECTOR
Under the Civil Law (Sale of Residential Property) Act 2003 building and pest inspectors are required to lodge certain details with the Territory pertaining to pest and building inspections undertaken.
The Act states that very specific information will be given to the Territory for inclusion in a publicly available register, refer to Fair Trading website for full details …
9. PEST INSPECTION REPORTS
The Australian Standard for timber pest inspections of buildings is the standard to which reports must be prepared. The Act provides guidance for pest inspectors about the level of detail required in a report, refer Fair Trading website for full details …
10. HOW MUCH DOES AN INSPECTION COST?
This depends on the size of the home/property, they can range between $300-$500 and upwards. Always get a quote before you go ahead.
It is estimated one in five homes in Australia is treated for termite damage at some stage of its life.
Not just timber houses are at risk, but also brick and steel-framed ones.
It makes sense to get a professional Building & Pest Inspection before you buy a property and once you become an owner ensure you have annual check-ups.
Through my experience – a lot of homes while being built or renovated, Builders have left off cuts of timber on the sub floor under the home and this is a common attraction for termites to enter the home.
What should happen here is for the Vendor to remove this timber waste from under the home prior to Settlement as a special condition in the Contract.
At Neutral Bay approximately 10 years ago a chair brought second hand from a garage sale had termites present, the chair was placed inside an apartment with timber floors and the rest was history.
Please be careful with furniture that is second hand or purchased from overseas.
I recently heard this story, it underscores the value of a Pest inspection before your buy:
“The prospective purchaser made an offer on a property and it was accepted, but the building and pest inspection revealed evidence of current termite damage in a tree stump, and previous termite damage in the garage ceiling.
The building report also noted some evidence of water leaking in one of the bathrooms.
A phone conversation with the building and pest inspectors confirmed that the issues weren’t too much of a concern, and were in fact quite common of buildings of that age.
As a result of the reports, however, the prospective buyer was able to negotiate a full termite treatment plan, removal of the infected tree stump and repairs to the bathroom, including a brand new toilet and cistern.
In total, work to the value of $4,000 was carried out on the property, with the bill picked up by the vendor!”