The House Detective: by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector
Dear Barry: I am a Realtor and recently closed escrow on a bank-owned property. The bank insisted on an “as is” sale, which is customary with foreclosed homes. My buyers hired a home inspector but decided to forego a termite inspection. After moving in, they found termite damage in the kitchen and dining room. We’ve also learned that the listing agent knew about this damage but withheld disclosure because it was an “as-is” deal and because the seller (the bank) was not required to disclose defects. Do you think my buyers have recourse? Karen
Dear Karen: People often misconstrue the term “as is” to mean a release from the requirements of real estate disclosure laws. In the case of lenders who foreclose on delinquent mortgages, there is, in fact, an exclusion from the requirement to disclose. But this exclusion does not excuse Realtors who withhold disclosure of known defects. The requirement to disclose all known defects is an ethical and legal imperative for all real estate agents. Withholding knowledge of a defect, such as termite damage, is not acceptable for an agent, even when the seller of the property is a bank.
In the situation at hand, the listing agent should pay to repair the undisclosed damages. If the agent does not accept that responsibility, the matter should be reported to the state agency that licenses real estate professionals. The complaint, however, should be filed by the buyers, not by another agent.
The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector
Dear Barry: My husband and I disagree over how to treat the termites in our home. For the past 27 years, he has sprayed poison wherever we’ve seen frass particles. I’ve heard that termites must be professionally exterminated, but he says that termites are a permanent problem in our area and that they will always return after extermination. What is your advice? Ninel
Dear Ninel: Here are some vital termite facts to help settle your domestic debate:
1) Termite colonies continually increase in population. The older a termite colony is, the more mouths it has to feed. A five-year-old colony may contain a few thousand termites. A colony that is 27 years old could have a census of millions. Consider how much wood that many termites could eat on a daily basis.
2) Termites live deep within the recesses of the wood members of a structure. They eat tunnels in the wood framing until all that is left of a stud, joist, or rafter is the outer veneer.
3) When termite tunnels become clogged with frass (termite poop), the little “wood-munchers” make small holes to expel these particles from their domain. The frass that you see in your home is a small sample, compared with what could be found in the attic or inside the walls.
4) Insect sprays cannot penetrate into the structural framing members where termites live, eat, and multiply. The only way to eliminate them it to have your home professionally exterminated. Postponing this process ensures the continued consumption of the wood components of your home.