Question- I’ve just made an offer on a home. I’ve bought homes before in Santa Barbara and a pest report was always provided by the seller, but it seems that’s not the case anymore. Should I ask for a pest report? What pests are they looking for and what can be done about them?

Answer-You’re right. Pest control used to be in the contract and sellers generally provided a pest inspection and remediation. In 2014 the California Association of Realtors (CAR) amended the residential purchase agreement to remove this language. Today the buyer must request a pest report and any corrective work noted. The thinking behind this removal makes sense. Every real estate transaction is negotiable. The pest report is an inspection same as the home inspection. A pest report is not required by law.

Should a buyer request a pest report?  Within the inspection time frame, the buyer may perform as many inspections as they want. Pest inspections are not expensive, usually $100 or so. If extensive damage is discovered the buyer can request a credit or to have the damage repaired. I recommend that buyers pay for a pest inspection because it’s useful to have that additional knowledge about the house.

The pest report will have two specific sections. There is section 1 and section 2 work. Section 1 describes active signs of infestation. Section 2 notes conditions that could lead to problems, such as leaky pipes that will eventually cause dry rot.

The inspector draws a diagram of your home and notes any part of the home that has signs of infestations or infections. In our area the most likely culprits will be dry wood termites, subterranean termites and dry rot causing fungus.

An obvious sign of dry wood termites is the fecal pellets. There will be signs of feeding damage, shed wings and small holes. Subterranean termites thrive underground. Their telltale sign is the characteristic mud tube. They use the tubes to gain access to the wood and protect themselves from the open air. Fungus can also do great damage to a home. Signs to look for are mushy and structurally unsound wood.

What is the remediation? Green, non-toxic and environmentally friendly products have been developed with various degrees of success. There’s the heat method, cold method, microwaves, localized spot treatments and more. In my opinion the most effective treatment against dry wood termites is whole-structure treatment. The house is tented, filled with poisonous gas, and all infestations are eliminated. For subterranean termites a combination of methods are used: habitat eradication, moisture elimination and chemical methods destroy the colonies. Dry rot damaged wood must be replaced.

In nature wood destroying pests perform a valuable service. They feed on fallen trees, stumps, and dead or damaged wood and return valuable nutrients to the soil. We just don’t want them to destroy our homes. Our standard contract has changed, but the damage pests do hasn’t, so get the pest report.

Leave a Comment