How to Survive Termite Problems in a Rental Property

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I have a very easy and simple solution to dealing with properties that have termites: Don’t buy them. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. I come across far too many (new) investors who wanted their first deal so badly they didn’t’ get an inspection or they were too cheap to actually get a good inspector and instead hired a family friend to do the job. (You get what you pay for.)

That leads me to one of the most important rules of purchasing a rental property. Always get a home inspection.And always hire a good home inspector. If you don’t know one then go to your local REIA meeting and find out who others use. And when he charges $300 for the inspection don’t balk at the cost. It may very well be the best $300 you ever spent.

For instance, a few years ago I was considering doing a deal on a row house in Baltimore City. I’d already done a deal in the neighborhood and was talking to neighbors to see if anyone else was interested in selling. (By the way, I just gave you a clue of what to do when you buy a place in an area, talk to neighbors and try to buy more.)


One fellow I talked with said he was having financial troubles and needed to sell the house ASAP. I ran the numbers and they were tight, but doable. However, when I saw the inside of the house and had the home inspection I knew there was no way I could make the deal work.

Besides the dozens of repairs needed, the house had over $10,000 worth of termite damage, if not more. The “tubes” from the termites were running all through the wood support beams and the termite dust was all over the basement.

When I told the guy I couldn’t buy the house he looked devastated…

But seemed to know he had a termite problem, but didn’t have the money to take care of it. In fact, just the other day I was again in Baltimore City looking at another property that had termite problems, because as I was inspecting it I could see the termite dust which had fallen all over the washer.

Now of course, there are many remedies to getting rid of termites, but a lot of times they just keep coming back and back. I know one landlord who’s always got a termite inspector coming out to his place because he can’t seem to get rid of them.

So, I’ll go back to my original advice. To avoid the hassles of termites, always get a home inspection and avoid properties with termite damage. (And yes, I realize there will be times when the numbers work on a house and it’s a “home run” deal so it’s worth it, but those are few and far between.)

Photo: Chris Baranski

About Author

Jason R. Hanson is the founder of National Real Estate Investor Month and the author of “How to Build a Real Estate Empire”. Jason specializes in purchasing properties “subject-to” and has purchased millions of dollars worth of property using none of his own cash or credit.


  1. I agree that an active termite infestation can kill a deal. However, I have also picked up great buys because I was willing to remedy the termite problem when the average buyer was scared away.

    New investors should definitely work with an inspector as well as a good termite company. If you can diagnose the extent of the problem up front, having the ability to correct the damage and prevent future activity may give you an edge over other potential buyers.

    • Long-time lurker, first time poster.

      I agree Ken, I made the “newbee” mistake of buying my first property without getting a termite inspection. 2 years later a little bit of a termite problem cropped up and I got a termite company out there to treat. I consider myself lucky that it wasn’t that bad and could have been a lot worse. Bottom line is: definitely get a good inspection and termite inspection as well. The termite inspection is free so why not!

      Oh and by the way, I paid $1350 for the treatment and got a free inspection at the end of the first year. The renewal for the second year is about $260…hmm should I pay for the renewal…..

  2. It is a wise advice at the first place to not to buy a house which has had a termite attack. However, what if the wood is attacked by termite after we buy it? First tell me what steps to take in order to keep away from the termites? Second, if somehow we see the signs of termites in the house, how to stop them from growing?

  3. Jack, I’ve had that very thing happen to me. We have a house we bought about 7 or 8 years ago. Got a regular inspection as well as a termite inspection (as we always always always do–not exceptions), but termite inspection was clean. Tenant moved out a few months ago, and we’re about to renovate the house (desparately needs it). Discovered that the INTERIOR walls of the house are totally infested (and ruined) by termites (of course, some structural members are damaged too).

    The only thing you can do is call out a reputable termite extermination firm. They’ll do a full assessment and let you know what is wrong with the house–the extent of the damage, as well as what you need to do to make your house less attractive to termites. In my case, it was a landscaping/drainage issue in the backyard, as well as a couple of pieces of wood touching the ground in the crawlspace.

    Sometimes, all they’ll need to do is treat the property. In my case, they had to do that, as well as install numerous bait stations around the perimeter of the property. They’ll monitor those every 3 months from here to eternity. Hopefully, soon, there will be no evidence of the termites having eating anything in the baiting stations. It was expensive–about $1800 for the termite service, plus $150 every year.

    But the repairs will be worse. Because of the damage, I have to gut the house–it’s the only way to fully assess the extent of the damage and make sure everything is repaired properly. So that means taking it to the studs. Fun. Cha-ching!

  4. We moved into a house that was required to be pre-treated for termites before we moved in and came with a prepaid termite warranty. Within 6 months of living there, we found signs of termites outside along the step wall and burrow holes in our dry wall. The pre-paid termite warranty was great. We gave the company a call and someone was out within 2 days treating the area and placing baiting systems around the home. If you don’t have a warranty, I would recommend one. If you live in AZ, it’s not a matter of if, but when you’ll get termites.

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