Should You Use Termite Traps?

If you're buying a home, you should think about termites. They're a frequently overlooked, but very real problem when it comes to making a house purchase. And just getting an inspection might not protect you. Here are a few steps you should go through before buying to make sure you don't have termites in your brand new living space, including how and when to use termite traps.

Termites aren't just limited to the south. They may be more numerous there, but there are plenty of these creatures in other locations. Subterranean termites are native to the entire United States. They're hard to find, live far below ground, and infest another two million structures every year, costing more than two billion dollars a year. Termite damage isn't usually covered by insurance, either, which is why a good inspection and use of termite traps is so important.

On top of that, termites that used to just be regional threats are now spreading elsewhere, due primarily to more traffic between states. There are a lot of different kinds of termites that can survive for a little while without soil to live in - usually long enough to infest somewhere new. You might think you're protected by a building inspection, or even a standard termite inspection, but you might not be.

Many building inspector contracts are written so that the inspector's liability is limits if something is found. The contract isn't a guarantee - it's just something to help you find out about the home, and it might not be conclusive. Unless you pay an additional fee, you won't be able to pin the inspector down on the termite issue. If you find an infestation, there's a good chance it'll be your problem, unless you can prove the inspector knew there were termites and lied about it.

So, what can you do? You can look into your state laws and ask your inspector to use specific, formal reports that are more detailed than the usual one. This is your right under many state laws, and it can help you learn whether or not there are termites. If you're having a specific termite infestation check done, make sure that it's more than just a look around the house. Termites are good at hiding, and only the use of quality termite traps can help you find them in some cases. They're attracted to the wood in the trap, and may come out for that, even though they can't be spotted by a quick visual inspection.

You should also look for signs of trouble on your own. Make sure you know what the signs of termite infestation are, and look things over in detail. Ask the seller up front whether or not there have been any treatments done or evidence of termites in the past. If they lie to you, you have the ability to file a suit later. Specific questions are much better than general ones, which the seller can claim to have misinterpreted. Don't let the desire for the home blind you from using termite traps, getting a good inspection, and finding out what's been done in the past.

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By Frank Reece. Page last modified Nov. 10, 2008.

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