Termites are a pretty common threat to houses in our area. They must like the swampy climate. The DC housing stock is on average pretty old, and it seems to me that at least every other house I have sold showed some traces of a prior encounter with termites. That's why most lenders require a pest inspection before final loan approval.
The good news is that most termite problems are pretty easy to treat. Long-lasting chemical drills, or more eco-friendly Sentricon monitoring stations, or structural repairs of beams or sill plates or whatever else was eaten all keep the pest away or keep the home's integrity.
The bad news is, it takes a little awareness, and some home owners either don't care or don't notice. Especially when a house hasn't been on the market in a long time, things can really get bad.
Last year, I sold a grand, almost 100-year-old Spanish-style stucco house that needed complete renovation. Also, there was extensive, visible termite damage in the basement and floors -- all old, nothing fresh and it probably had been treated a long time ago, after decades of neglect. Not a problem, since the house was getting rehabed, anyhow. Or so it seemed.
Exactly how bad it was only became clear a couple of weeks ago when the contractors exposed the dining room walls. They were shocked to see that the vertical framing and support under and around the window were almost completely gone. The large window, that had been replaced in the 1950s or 60s, was merely held in place by the exterior stucco! Today, I went to the house to marvel at this (check out the corner post to the right that's missing it's lower part):
It pretty much looked like that all over the first floor. If a cheap builder had snatched up the place--which is in a prime NW DC location--and flipped it after some sparkly cosmetic updates, it probably would have simply collapsed at some point. Not very funny, right?
© 2012, Catarina Bannier