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Did you know that termites don’t sleep? Or that a bedbug infestation can linger even after all your belongings are removed from the home?
When you’re in the throes of buying a home, the last things you want to think about are the creepy crawlies that could be just out of sight.
Many home buyers don’t realize that standard home inspections don’t cover this pesky problem. Most home inspectors don’t check for pests and can’t say much even if they find them. Inspectors can’t diagnose or assess damage or make recommendations unless they have a pest-related certification – making a stand-alone pest inspection extremely helpful.
If you see signs of a pest infestation in a home you’re buying, you should seriously consider scheduling a pest inspection. In fact, you should consider a pest inspection even if the home appears to be pest-free. There may be a hidden infestation wreaking expensive damage behind the scenes.
We’ll share what you need to know about pest inspections and cover the telltale signs of infestations.
What Is a Home Pest Inspection?
A pest inspection focuses on finding pests inside (and outside) a home. Pests can cause significant damage over time. If you suspect there may be pest problems in the home you want to purchase, a pest inspection should be high on your to-do list.
Pest inspectors can tell you if there are pests in the home, the type of pests you have and the severity of an infestation. They will inspect every nook and cranny – including every room, attic, basement and crawl space – to find any evidence of pests.
The goal is to identify the presence of pests and determine how they’re getting inside the home. And a thorough pest inspector will do more than identify existing pest infestations. They’ll also look out for signs of previous infestations and future concerns.
Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will create a report with their findings. The report should be detailed and include pictures that show evidence of current or past infestations. It usually provides recommendations to exterminate identified pests and repair any existing damage.
Most real estate industry professionals agree that pest inspections are usually worth the cost for the peace of mind alone, but there are other clear benefits, too. Given that the extent of pest damage is difficult for the untrained eye to recognize and assess, a professional pest inspection can be the difference between buying a pest-free home and buying a creepy-crawly money pit.
Pest inspection vs. home inspection
Your typical home inspection is a visual examination of all the accessible areas of a home. It’s performed before purchasing a home to get an expert opinion on the property’s condition. The inspection report will list any major problems with the home, including any smaller items that should be repaired or replaced. It is a broad review and does not look deeply at some aspects that might warrant a closer look.
Many home inspectors are not trained to look for evidence of infestations. The typical home inspector may be able to tell you if they see signs of pests, but they likely won’t be able to identify the type of pest it is or estimate the severity of the infestation. That’s where a pest inspection comes in.
A pest inspection is a closer look at a home with a lens aimed at tiny trouble. A certified pest inspector inspects a home to identify and assess any risk posed by specific pests.
Do You Need a Pest Inspection To Buy a House?
Aside from certain loan types or programs, a pest inspection usually isn’t required to purchase a home. However, termite inspections are required in all but 11 states for home buyers who plan to use a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan to purchase a home, with the VA covering the cost of inspections.
If you’re not using a VA loan or buying a home in a state where a VA loan doesn’t require a termite inspection, you’ll pay for the inspection yourself or negotiate for the seller to pay it.
Other types of loans don’t require a pest inspection unless an appraiser finds signs of an infestation. If that’s the case, the lender may require a pest inspection before issuing the loan.
Because pest inspections are typically optional, deciding whether to order one often comes down to cost. (Though some lenders will require a pest inspection during the preapproval stage of a mortgage loan.)
Does a Seller Need a Pest Inspection?
Although a handful of states require a termite inspection before putting a home up for sale, the decision to order a pest inspection is usually up to the seller. If a buyer requests a pest inspection, you can either pay for it or negotiate for the buyer to pay for it.
When you’re selling your home, there are a million things to juggle. If there is no pest inspection requirement in your state to list your home, it’s easy to understand why some homeowners might choose to skip it.
But here’s a pro tip: You should do more than show that your home is in its best possible condition. You should prove that your home is in its best possible condition.
Confidence is a major selling point. It can offer potential buyers peace of mind that your home is free and clear of pests and may even increase your home’s value.
If you decide to order a pest inspection before listing your home, there are a few things you can do to prepare:
- If you can’t attend the inspection, make sure you schedule it when you know someone will be home to let in the inspector.
- Otherwise, you should plan to attend the inspection and give the inspector access to the home.
- Be prepared to answer questions about any previous pest control treatments or damage.
- The home doesn’t need to be staged for a pest inspection. Inspectors expect your home to be lived-in. The house should be clean, but you don’t have to worry if the carpet matches the drapes.
While a pest inspection may seem like an over-the-top concession, if you’re selling in a buyer’s market, this can be an inexpensive yet valuable perk to offer.
What Does a Pest Inspection Cover?
A pest control inspection is a robust visual inspection of a property’s interior and exterior. The inspector will note all identified signs of pests, damage, entry points (where pests are getting in) and conditions that could lead to future infestation.
You should expect your pest inspection to cover:
An infestation search
The primary purpose of a pest inspection is to search for infestations. Different inspectors may be certified for different types of pests. Make sure the inspector you’re hiring can cover everything you’re concerned about. Generally speaking, an inspector will look for common household pests like:
- Wood-destroying organisms/insects (think: aboveground and subterranean termites, carpenter ants and powder post beetles)
- Small mammals/critters (think: rodents and bats)
- Insects (think: bees, wasps, cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs, scorpions and silverfish)
A detailed pest report
Whether or not the inspector finds any evidence of pests or damage, they will generate a detailed report of their findings.
They will identify what they inspected, what they found in each area of the home and whether there are any existing or future concerns. They may also include recommendations for treatment, elimination or prevention.
If an inspector does find evidence of pests or damage, they will also note the severity. This is important because it can help you determine whether you need to take immediate action or can wait to address the issue. And if you’re a buyer, you may decide to negotiate with the seller or pass on the home entirely.
For example, let’s say the inspector finds damage from carpenter bees on the deck. If the damage is superficial and has not reached the support beams yet, you may be able to get away with repairing the damage and taking preventive measures to keep the bees from returning.
On the other hand, if the inspector finds the carpenter bees have caused extensive damage to the support beams of your deck or home, you will need to take immediate action to prevent further damage.
How Much Does a Pest Inspection Cost?
The average cost of a pest control inspection is around $100. The cost may vary depending on the size and age of the home and the type of pests you’re concerned about. Inspections are usually scheduled within days after your offer is accepted.
How Do You Find a Pest Inspector?
If you need a pest inspection, your best resource will be your real estate agent. They can usually recommend an experienced local inspector. If you’re a seller or are buying a home without an agent, you can find an inspector through the National Pest Management Association.
Your real estate agent or pest inspector may be able to recommend a pest control company or remediation expert if dealing with the problems uncovered by the pest inspection falls on your plate.
Don’t Let Pests Infest Your Life and Home
There are very few things all Americans can agree on. But surely we can come together around the idea that it is better to deal with a pest inspection than a pest infestation.
A pest inspection before you buy or sell a home is a small expense that can offer tremendous peace of mind.
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The Short Version
- Most home inspectors don’t check for pests and can’t say much even if they find them
- Pest inspectors can tell you if there are pests in the home, the type of pests you have and the severity of an infestation
- Most real estate industry professionals agree that pest inspections are usually worth the cost for the peace of mind alone, but there are other clear benefits, too
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “VA Home Loans – Local Requirements.” Retrieved July 2022 from https://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/appraiser_cv_local_req.asp
HomeAdvisor. “How Much Is a Pest or Termite Inspection?” Retrieved July 2022 from https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/inspectors-and-appraisers/termite-pest-inspection/