Should I Buy a House With Termites?


|10 min read

Termites are colony-based insects that eat wood. Where you find one termite, you are likely to discover countless others. While termites aren’t harmful to humans – they don’t bite or sting – they can eat away at your home to the point where it is structurally unsound. Not only are termite-damaged homes unsafe to live in, but they also lose value, hurting sellers financially. 

While terminates are stressful for sellers, they provide potential opportunities to buyers. Purchasing a terminate-damaged home, or even a house with active termites, comes with various pros and cons.

Keep reading if you are currently asking, “Should I buy a house with termites?” to determine whether this risk is a good option for you.  

Does Termite Damage Decrease Property Value? 

Termite damage has a direct impact on property values. Evidence of termites and damage left behind from these bugs can decrease a home’s resale value by up to 20%.

Naturally, the effect termites have on property values depends on the market. In hot markets with several bidders for each home, termite damage might be overlooked if it means securing an otherwise high-quality home in a desirable neighborhood. 

From a homeowner’s perspective, termites can slow the sale process because these annoying bugs drive away buyers. If a seller is upfront about the damage, they might have fewer showings. If they don’t tell buyers about the termites until they are discovered during the inspection, they could risk losing the sale. In the worst-case scenario, the seller could be accused of fraud for not disclosing the known termite issue in the sale of the house. 

While termites are frustrating for sellers, they present opportunities for buyers. You could potentially buy a desirable home for a fair price if you are willing to accept the termite damage and set aside funds to repair it once you move in. This is an opportunity to immediately increase your home’s value by ridding the property of termites and stabilizing the home.

Signs of a Termite Infestation

As a buyer, you need to familiarize yourself with the signs of termites regardless of whether the seller claims the house is bug-free.

They might not realize they have a termite infestation or they could be trying to hide the presence of termites until the buyer has made an offer. Here are a few warning signs to look for: 

  • Mud tubes on the exterior of the house: some termite species (like subterranean termites) create mud tubes to form a tunnel from their mounds to their food source. Look for these tubes along the foundation of the house, especially if there are any visible cracks in the foundation. 
  • Hollow or brittle wood: termites eat wood from the inside out, which allows them to stay hidden and protected. Check for wood that sounds hollow, feels brittle, or is delicate to the touch – especially if the wood is meant to be sturdy. 
  • Termite droppings, known as frass: the waste that termites create while eating wood is known as frass. It looks like coffee grounds or sawdust that tools where the termites are eating. If you find frass in your home, you might have an infestation. 
  • Discarded termite wings: termites swarm as a colony and fly to a new food source. When they discover a viable source – in this case, your home – they shed their wings and settle in. Look for wings near the entrances of the home, including any doors and windows. 

In most cases, you won’t see the bugs themselves unless the infestation is severe. These insects are good at hiding while they eat away at the home.

Professional home inspectors and pest control technicians know how to spot the presence of termites and evaluate the amount of damage they have caused. 

Do you need a termite inspection when buying or selling a home?

Some buyers can purchase homes without a pest inspection, while others are required to complete this step to get their home loans approved.

If you are buying a house with cash, you can waive the home inspection and pest inspection if you want your offer to be competitive. While this increases the chances of your bid getting accepted and allows you to move in sooner, it also comes with a significant risk.

You might not be aware of the full condition of the house, which means you risk buying a property with foundation issues or a damaged roof. 

If you are buying a house with a mortgage, your lender might require you to get a dedicated termite inspection to confirm the house is in good condition. This is typically a requirement of VA loans and some FHA loans.

Even if your lender doesn’t require this inspection, you might want to call a professional to check for termite activity so you feel confident in your home purchase. Your home inspector should know how to look for termite damage, but calling a termite specialist can confirm the property is free from these pests.

A pest inspector will cost between $100 to $325, depending on your region and the size of your house. Some pest control companies offer free termite inspections to potential customers. Talk to your lender to see if one of these free inspections will suffice.  

Is it safe to live in a house with termite damage?

If the home inspection discovers evidence of termites, you will encounter one of two situations: the property will either have an active termite infestation, or there will be evidence of past termite activity and damage that hasn’t been addressed.

The state of the infestation and the extent of the damage will help you decide whether this is a deal breaker in the purchase process. 

There are multiple reasons why it is not safe to live in a house with termites and terminate damage. Here are a few concerns to be aware of: 

  • The insects themselves are unsanitary, even if you never see them. They will still spread their frass and discarded wings throughout your home. 
  • As the wood is eaten away, your home loses structural support. You could lose key support beams that keep your house in place. 
  • Hallowed-out wood is also more receptive to moisture, which can cause it to warp and wear out. 
  • Mold can grow in the eaten-away wood, which poses severe respiratory threats to you and your family.

Even if a house receives termite treatment, the existing termite damage might cause additional problems in the future. Moisture, mold, and weakened support beams can make your house unsafe to live in. If none of the damage has been addressed or remediated, you could end up with a money pit as you try to rebuild the structure of your home.  

Termite Treatment Costs

If you are interested in a termite-damaged home, consider the full cost of repairs and mitigation to restore the property to structural soundness.

The termite home inspector should review the extent of the damage and you can estimate the costs to repair it. Set a budget for what you are willing to pay to fix the issue and determine whether the costs are higher or lower than you expect. This can guide your decision to buy a house with termite damage or not. 

Angi estimates that it costs between $250 and $37,500 to address termite damage. That is a huge variance. While the average homeowner pays around $3,000 to address termite problems, some people will pay more than $50,000 depending on the size of the home and the severity of the damage.

The cost estimate will cover the price of removing the termites, addressing structural damage, replacing eaten-away wood, and potentially even replacing walls and paint. The earlier you catch and address the termites, the less you will have to pay.

Even after you rid your house of termites, budget for pest inspector appointments and regular treatment against bugs. Most pest companies offer annual plans with monthly payment options. This will protect your home from future infestations after you work so hard to remove the termites. 

Pros of Buying a House With Termites

Despite the risk of buying a house with termites, there are multiple benefits of moving forward with a home purchase even if a property has termite damage. Here are a few reasons why you might decide to do so. 

  • There’s less competition for the home you want. Other buyers might avoid properties with termite damage so you can find houses in desirable areas to tour. 
  • You can pay less for the property. Sellers should account for the impact the termites have on their property values. You might enjoy a smaller mortgage and use the savings to address the termite issues. 
  • You can immediately increase the resale value. Fixing termite damage and eradicating these insects can make the house desirable again. When you move, the house is more likely to sell for a higher price. 
  • You can enjoy transparency in the purchase process. It is better to buy a home that has known termite damage instead of purchasing a property that seems fine but is actually swarming with insects. 

Additionally, you have complete control over the quality of repairs when you buy a home with termites. Sellers might try the cheapest remediation options to pass inspection and move quickly, which means they might not be the best. You can make sure the repairs are high quality and will last for years. 

Cons of Buying a House With Termites 

Buyers face several risks when purchasing a house with termites. Not only is the structure affected, but this decision could hurt your finances in the long run. Here are a few drawbacks to keep in mind. 

  • You might not realize how much damage the termites caused. Even after a professional inspection, you might discover additional problems that increase your repair costs. 
  • Your lender might not approve the loan. Some banks and credit unions won’t issue loans on properties with extensive damage. You might need to negotiate with the seller to address the termite issues before closing. 
  • The termites could delay your move-in date. If you decide to repair the property before moving in, you might need to stay in temporary housing for a few months. Any delays by your licensed contractor could push back your move-in timeline.   
  • You might have a hard time selling in the future. Sellers have to disclose termite history. While you can highlight your repairs and preventative maintenance as an asset to the home, some buyers might be wary of anything mentioning termites.  

Buying a home with termites could be more work than you are ready for. Even if you are ready to make repairs or think the work is minor, unexpected issues could increase your project costs and extend the remediation timeline. 

Decide if Termite Damage is a Deal Breaker

If you fall in love with a house that has a termite problem, you might still decide to buy it. First, get a clear picture of the extent of the damage and if the homeowner has taken steps to address it. Determine whether there is an active infestation or simply a history of termites. Most houses have at least some termite presence, but a responsible homeowner will work with a pest professional to remove them as soon as they are discovered. 

Next, decide whether you are okay with buying a house with a termite problem. The inspection report will tell you whether extensive repairs are needed or if you only need to resolve a few issues. Finally, make an offer. Submit a bid based on the value of the property that is adjusted for the damage. You can also renegotiate an offer if the seller already accepted your bid. 

You don’t have to be a termite expert to determine whether a house is safe to buy or a good investment. An experienced real estate agent can help. A quality Realtor can guide you through the purchase process and review the termite reports and damage with you. They can also help you walk away from the deal if you don’t feel safe buying the house. 

Turn to FastExpert to find a Realtor to represent you. They can help you find a house in good condition that is free of mold, structural damage, and other issues.

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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