Termite letters are documents that are mandated by the state of South Carolina that help protect home buyers. The governing authority is located up at Clemson, which is a popular college town near our northern borders. Whether you are a rival gamecock fan or not, termite letters are still obviously very important when purchasing a property.
Timing is pretty important when obtaining a termite letter. They are only valid for 30 days. The contract is generally negotiated as the seller paying for the termite letter, but it is not uncommon for the buyer to take on this fee. Estimated between $150 and $200, for some buyers it makes sense to control the termite letter. This way they can choose the company, and they can know that they have an unbiased person evaluating.
When they come out, they generally walk through the interior and look for signs of past activity. Termites leave dirt trails behind them as they eat. If you see these in your home, this can be a big problem.
When termite inspectors go underneath the house they are looking at several things:
- They are looking for high moisture conditions.
- They are looking for old termite damage.
- They are looking for wood destroying fungus.
- They are noting any loose scraps of wood that may be piled up underneath or near the house.
- They are evaluating the overall condition for pests, moisture levels, and damage.
Home inspectors are not licensed contractors. When they see an item in question they will make a note on the letter that states it is necessary for a contractor to evaluate. This is referred to as an unclear letter. This unclear letter triggers a necessary process that must occur in order for the contract to be satisfied.
In some cases when a contractor comes out, he finds that repairs are not necessary and then goes on to clear the letter. He does this by writing a letter on his letterhead stating that he is evaluated the property and in his opinion repairs are not required. Even the repairs are not required, we have found that most contractors do in fact require payment for the service as they are opening themselves up for liability by doing this. This is generally a seller expense, and costs between 150 and $200. There are some cases when a seller has negotiated to their last penny upfront, and the buyer may have to bear this expense should a problem arise further along in the process.
We protect our buyer clients by making sure that we have the termite letter well in advance of the closing. In some cases, buyers have elected to remove the termite letter from the contract. We only advise this after they have fully inspected the property, are 100% aware of the condition, and are open to avoiding the bureaucracy that the bank mandates in order to obtain a clear to close.
Again, we do not recommend this frequently… And when it does, we take extra steps to make sure that the buyers are comfortable with this decision. This means discussing the situation with the termite inspector, potentially the home inspector, and also the contractor that is looking at the property for clearance.