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VOL. 35 | NO. 29 | Friday, July 22, 2011




Who ya gonna call (first)? Termite ‘controller’

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Termites. The word strikes fear in the minds of homebuyers, ripping their hearts and setting their souls aquiver.

They sit anxiously in closings awaiting the delivery of the feared and revered “termite letter.” Upon its arrival, the closing attorney peruses the familiar verbiage and informs the buyers of the findings if the exterminator. If the letter is “clear,” i.e., there was no evidence of active infestation, the buyers breathe a sigh of relief and the closing continues.

If, however, there was evidence of active infestation, the closing attorney will send for the defibrillator as cardiac arrest will quickly ensue. As the buyers writhe and moan in agony over the diagnosis, they begin the process of determining whether or not they are desirous of purchasing the now stigmatized home.

The fact is buyers should want the termite letter to reflect that the inspector actually found termites because most real estate contracts require treatment if there are termites or other wood destroying insects present. A clear termite letter means that no termites chose to rear their ugly heads, set their cute little wings in motion and fly into the face of the representative from the pest control company. There are, in fact, termites present every property in town.

USDA figures show there are about 25 termite colonies per acre in this area. Therefore, on a half-acre lot, there exists the probability that there are 12 colonies with upwards to 1 million termites or eggs per colony. That equates to approximately 12 million termites on an average lot in Davidson County.

Now for the good news. Termites are not an endangered species. They can be killed. The companies that rid properties of termites are called pest control companies. A termite is an insect that can lead a charge into a home and consume most of the lumber in said home within a matter of hours. To label said insect as a pest is a bit of an understatement. Fleas are pests. Termites are more on the axis of evil level.

These pest control people were formerly known as exterminators, for that is their trade. They have weapons of mass destruction and make no bones about it. They care not what Germany and France think of the situation. The French would more than likely sweep the termite carcasses into a bowl, throw a little melted chocolate on them and serve them as dessert.

Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, termite letters were merely a formality. The contract called for a clear letter, and the pest control companies were quick to oblige. Only in rare occasions were termites observed. Today, the opposite is true. If a house is not under a treatment plan, nine times out of ten, termites are present

Anyone who buys a house should contact a termite control company immediately after closing. It should be the first call, even before changing the utililities. Cable television is worthless if the television is buried under a heap of sawdust and termite drippings. The power of a swarm of termites is awesome. They can destroy the framing of a room in a house in a few hours. They are a stealthy lot, chomping veraciously on their meals in inaudible fashion. Their mothers have taught them good manners. They eat quietly with their mouths closed and never speak with food in their mouths.

Before entering into a contract with a pest control company, the consumer should be ensured that the company would be responsible for repairs should the treatment fail. In some contracts, the company agrees only to re-treat (not retreat) the property if the termites invade, but is not liable for repairing the damage done during the assault. The consumer should enter into an agreement only with a company that will repair the devastation left in the termitic wake.

There are various types of treatment. The EPA outlawed DDT, a chemical that took all the sport out of extermination. DDT treatment is like fishing with dynamite. Everything dies, termites, rats, snakes, dogs, small children and the elderly. Biochemical warfare before it came into vogue. There is an environmentally friendly chemical that can differentiate between termites and mammals.

For alternatives, call your local exterminator, er, pest control company.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Pilkerton and is the author of Come Together; The Business Wisdom of the Beatles. He can be reached at Richard @richardcourtney.com.

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