You just had a termite inspection and you realize you can’t understand the termite report. What’s worse, apparently they found some issues, and you can’t even figure out where they are in the house. Don’t worry, I’ve got answers and it’s all coming up.
Hi, I’m Warren Oberholser. I’m a realtor in the East Bay Tri-Valley area in Northern California. My goal is to help both buyers and sellers get maximum results for one of their biggest investments, their home.
Whether you’re buying or selling your home, the termite inspection is crucial to have. And in some cases, the termite report will be the determining factor on whether a buyer will submit a repair request to the seller and for how much those repair requests costs will be. Therefore, it is so important that all parties, buyer and seller and their collective agents, understand thoroughly what is on that termite report.
Now, if you’ve never seen a termite report, I’m going to show you the difference between a home inspection and a termite report. I’m going to use the same company for both, which is Specialty Inspections in Pleasanton, California. I’ve already featured the home inspection by Sean Abreu.
When you read a home inspection report, it looks pretty straightforward. I find most home inspection reports are written in a narrative format. The report tends to start as the inspector would walk up to the house, observing and reporting on all items noted. I think this makes it easier for the viewer to follow and understand the material.
However, a termite report is not written the same way. Now, this is because all termite reports in the state of California must follow a specific template or guideline as deemed by their state regulatory agency. So at first glance, it may look a bit confusing to navigate through. The good news is, once you learn how to read and interpret a termite report, they’re all pretty much laid out the same way.
Therefore, to understand what’s in a termite report, and more important, to know how to prevent termites and other issues from occurring, I’m going to interview Mark Kearns from Specialty Inspections. Now please stick around to the end, because I’m going to come back and break down a termite report for you so you understand how each area relates to the home that you’re selling or purchasing.
Okay, let’s get to our termite inspection with Mark Kearns from Specialty Inspections,
Warren Oberholser: Mark, please explain the terminology used in your business and how your inspection is conducted.
Section one means there’s an active infestation or infection. Infestation would be wood destroying insects, termites, beetles. I don’t look for ants and rodent and roaches and things like that. When I say infection, I’m talking about fungus damage, dry rot. When the moisture content in the wood’s about 28%, it starts to decay.
In that inspection, what we do is we draw a diagram with a structure. We prod around looking for decay, possible signs of termites, and go through the house. We run all the plumbing and things like that.
I talked about section one earlier. Section two condition is a condition deemed likely to lead to an infestation or infection. So a section two condition could be something like I might say, you need to paint your house, seal the bathroom floor.
Warren Oberholser : How do you inspect the exterior of the house or structure?
Mark Kearns: Just right at the front left corner of the house, we start to draw a diagram of the structure. We walk around the structure and then come back. On the way back, we start inspecting. So we start prodding around looking for decay in the exterior.
Warren Oberholser : How do you inspect the inside of the structure?
Mark Kearns: Inside, we’re looking for … Typically where there’s water, there’s possibility of damage. So concerns would be bathrooms. We’re looking for any types of staining or roof leaks or things like that that might appear on the interior of the house.
So technique is a stick to your right-hand wall. And when you come across plumbing, you water test it, because that’s a condition that could lead to a problem if you did have a plumbing leak. And go through and outline it on the diagram and put it in the report. It will have a finding and then a recommendation, and then if it’s something that’s a repair that needs to be done, we would issue a cost as well with that repair.
Warren Oberholser: What kind of termites do you find in Northern California?
Mark Kearns: There’s two types of termites in this area, typically: a subterranean termite and a drywood termite. Subterranean termite comes from the soil and their fecal matter is called masticated wood. So when they discharged, there would be the masticated wood, which would look like dirt, basically, mud tubing up the foundation. And a drywood termite, their fecal matter is a pellet. So it’s a granule. The subterranean termites are actually easier to treat, because you just have to treat the soil and you eliminate their moisture source. For drywood termites, it would call for fumigation.
Warren Oberholser: Does your company provide the fumigation service, and what is the warranty on that?
Mark Kearns: Subcontracting company that we use, and most all companies in the Bay Area subcontract. We do a three-year warranty after a fumigation, but there’s really no preventative things that you can do to prevent a drywood termite. It’s really an entry point on the house that they’d get in. In their reproductive stage, all termites swarm. So they fly, they have wings. So if they land on the structure in a position and find a mate, they can burrow in at any point. So technically, they could re-infest your house the day the tent comes off.
Warren Oberholser: Once you’ve concluded your inspections, please explain how you discuss your findings with the buyer or homeowner.
Mark Kearns: We do a walk-through with them and go through every item that would be on the report just to eliminate questions later.
Warren Oberholser: What happens if you see an issue such as water damage and you feel it needs to be explored further?
Mark Kearns: In the report, if we find something like that, we’d recommend a further inspection. So it wouldn’t be done at the same time as the original inspection. We would then outline it and go out with a crew guy, open up walls or whatever we need to do to make things accessible.
Warren Oberholser: What is the most common type of repair your company does?
Mark Kearns: A lot of reframing, fascia boards, side garage door replacements, things like that. Wood siding, if there is wood siding on the exterior of the property.
Warren Oberholser: What preventative measures would you recommend a homeowner do to protect their house?
Mark Kearns: Like you said earlier, painting’s very important. That’s the biggest maintenance on the exterior is painting. And making sure there’s no [inaudible 00:06:42] contacts around the structure, soil piled up too high on the wood siding or things like that.
Warren Oberholser: Do you recommend a termite inspection be performed from time to time to prevent issues from occurring?
Mark Kearns: I think for the general maintenance of the property, you should, every two to three years. Order and have an inspection is a very cheap, inexpensive way to maintain your house, get on top of it. If you let things go too long, of course it’s going to cost you more money.
For any questions from Mark, please reach out to him directly. His contact information is listed below.
Okay, so now I’m going to break down a termite inspection report for you.
When you start with the first page of a termite report, it appears to be a bit brief. However, this page is actually the true business end of the report. Starting at the top, you’ll find very specific information about the property. This is where the property street address is noted. Then as we go through, the date of the inspection will be over here. How many pages of the report, who did it, and in this case it’s Specialty Inspections. Firm registration and report numbers are specific to the termite company. If the report’s going through escrow as far as billing, they’ll have the escrow number here. Ordered by is the person who ordered the report. In this case, it was me, so Warren Oberholser. Property owner and property of interest, generally this reflects the owner on record. This area references contact information.
And as we go down here, it’s going to talk about, is this a limited report? Supplemental report? Is this a re-inspection report? General description, this is a general description of the property, and it just helps to identify the property in the event repairs are performed later.
Inspection tag posted. Part of the California Pest Board regulations is to post a tag. It’s basically a sticker and it goes on the property after it’s been inspected. This sticker usually has the company’s name and the date of the inspection. So in this section, they need to know where the sticker or tag is located. Other tags posted, if the inspector observes any previous tags, it’s noted here as far as the location.
In the middle of the page is an outline or list of what will or will not be inspected and/or any limitations to the inspection. Most companies will have verbiage such as, “An inspection has been made to the structure shown on a diagram in accordance with the Structural Pest Control Act.” This means what’s on the diagram below is the only area that’s been inspected. Now, for this company, the inspection does not include detached porches, steps, or any other structure that’s detached, like an arbor or a fence.
Directly below this statement is a list or a five keys items that notes what’s going to be found in the inspection. Most termite companies have this same thing and they’ll read from left to right, subterranean termites, drywood termites, fungus, dry rot, other findings, further inspections.
Below this statement is a diagram of the property’s foundation and any adjacent structure that is part of the inspection. Now, please understand, this is not to scale, nor is it considered a blueprint of the property. So if a property has multiple levels, it doesn’t specify what floor or level the finding is on.
The next group of pages defines the scope of the inspection, what is covered and what is not, their guarantee and limitation of liability, how they perform repairs, and definition of terms such as section one and section two. It’s a good idea to read through the literature so you have a good understanding of what to expect from their inspection.
At the end of the report will be the findings and recommendations. Each company does it a little different. However, all of them will have a corresponding number or a letter that identifies what’s been found on the front page diagram. Each finding and recommendation will have a designation of either being section one or section two.
Over the years, I’ve read several of these, and I feel pretty confident in my understanding of how they’re written. However, from time to time, I’ll still contact the termite company whenever I need clarification, especially if it’s a company or a new inspector I haven’t worked with yet. You’ll find the vast majority of termite inspectors to be very professional and eager to help.
So by taking your time working through the inspection report as we just did, you’ll feel pretty confident with your understanding of what’s on the report, and hopefully still be excited about purchasing or selling your home.
Find out what to do if you have termites. Understand how to interpreted and understand the termite report. Learn how to prevent termites. Contact:
Mark Kearns: is president and owner of Specialty Inspections. He has been a part of the inspection industry since 1986. He started his own company in 2003. He is a licensed pest control operator, general contractor and holds several additional specialty classifications. Mark Kearns: Termite Inspection SPECIALTY INSPECTIONS 261 Spring St. Pleasanton, CA 94566 (925) [email protected]
I hope you enjoy this article. Please email me any questions you may have. [email protected]
About Warren Oberholser:
Hello…I work with both buyers and sellers in the Tri-Valley area of Northern California. The Tri-Valley is comprised of 6 cities: Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville, and Alamo. To better understand what each city has to offer, I have created a Pros and Cons video and BLOG for each – (Pros & Cons for Pleasanton, Pros & Cons for Livermore, Pros & Cons for Dublin, Pros & Cons for San Ramon, Pros & Cons for Danville and Pros & Cons for Alamo). If you are thinking about purchasing or selling a home, please reach out to me by text, phone, or email. If it is convenient, I can schedule a Zoom chat so we can discuss your home goals. Wishing you all the best on your home journey. Cheers!