Danny Kelly of Pest-Ex on the Gold Coast shares a sobering tale of just how damaging termites can be to a home, and the implications of buying a property without due diligence.
“Termites eat house.”
A news headline seen all to regularly and according to Danny Kelly of Pest-Ex on the Gold Coast, something he has to deal with every other day. More often than not, it’s due to homeowners not having regular inspections or not having a pre-purchase inspection before buying a home. But sometimes, it’s due to poor inspections, often by unqualified and uninsured operators. And in these cases, homeowners often pay the ultimate price – a demolished house.
As an industry, we highlight the risks about buying properties at auction without building and pest inspections from a qualified, licensed and insured professional, but property purchasers continue to ignore the advice.
Mr Kelly was called to investigate some soft flooring found by a new homeowner shortly after moving into a home bought at auction. The owner thought it was just a minor problem.
“When we got there, we assumed he had already had an inspection and the sub-floor couldn’t be accessed. However, we found a trapdoor under lino in the under stairs cupboard and as soon as we got into the sub-floor we found massive Schedorhinotermes activity, including 18 entry points. Climbing out to deliver the bad news was the worst feeling,” Mr Kelly said.
“The homeowner asked what the cost of repair would be, estimating possibly $10,000, but from the look on my face he realised it was going to be much more, and he started to panic. It’s just horrible watching people realise they may be in big financial trouble, certainly a life-changing experience.”
Pest-Ex were hired by the homeowner to carry out a comprehensive treatment using Termidor dust followed by Termidor soil treatment.
“The worst part was that he had asked the real estate agent whether he should have an inspection and was told that he could, but with the level of interest in the home, it would likely sell before he’d receive the inspection results,” Mr Kelly said. “Even his conveyancer gave poor advice, telling him that since he had enough equity in his other home, inspections weren’t really necessary. I’m not sure what that had to do with anything!? But with the pressure put on the buyer by the real estate agent and against his better judgment, he made an unconditional offer and put down the deposit, without getting an inspection first.”
Once treatment was complete, builders assessed the damage and according to Mr Kelly, it was worse than expected, with damage from the sub-floor to the roof trusses. The customer was quoted $100,000 to repair. “He is now deciding whether to gut and rebuild or demolish and start again.”
But this pales into insignificance, Mr Kelly said, compared to the three-year saga he has been involved in, of a Gold Coast property owned by a Sydney investor.
“The property owner had not been having regular inspections, as their home was new and had a physical perimeter termite system in place. However, they had to call in a local pest company some five years ago to treat for active termites which involved spot treatments with bifenthrin. The company continued to provide inspections over the following two years, claiming the property was all clear of termites. Then one day the tenant was in the bath when it suddenly fell through the floor! On investigating, the plumber told the property owner the house was riddled with termites,” Mr Kelly said.
Pest Ex were called in to investigate and treat. “The house was only nine years old at the time. Although it had a physical perimeter system in place, it was on a sloping block with one side having soil above floor level (the termite entry point). A quick look in the sub-floor did not reveal any noticeable damage, but on thorough inspection and tapping each timber, it was apparent the house was completely eaten out. Coptos had taken everything but the veneer.”
Given the nature of the block and construction, Mr Kelly explained, Pest-Ex chose Ensystex baits to eradicate the colony. “At the same time, due to the state of the construction, the tenants had to vacate the property and the owners commenced legal action against the initial pest control operator. Despite a two-year court battle, the owners were unable to get any compensation out of the unlicensed and uninsured operator.”
“It gets worse for the homeowner. The house had to be demolished, but the bank wouldn’t lend them the money as they were only intending to replace the original property. Without any increased value, the property would have been significantly overcapitalised. The property is now for sale as a vacant block and the owners will probably lose about $300,000 on the property as well as the $200,000 or so spent on court costs. The husband and wife are absolutely beside themselves, it really has ruined their lives. A very sad tale,” Mr Kelly said.
“I love my job, but giving homeowners the news their home is ruined never gets easier. We are dealing with these horror stories all the time.”