San Diego Termites – What Buyers, Sellers and Homeowners Should know

Although termites strike fear into many homeowners, they are a common pest in San Diego. Despite their destructive nature, San Diego termites rarely cause irreparable, catastrophic damage to a home. Most properties I have been involved with as a real estate agent have had some evidence of active termite activity. Exceptions were mostly condos with little or no exposed wood and newer construction homes. If you are buying a home, selling a home, or are simply a homeowner wanting to protect their investment, I think you will find the following information invaluable.

What drywood termites look like with wings. Often seen when they “swarm” and seek out new habitats.

Termites can be found all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica (for obvious reasons). There are thousands of termite species and over 50 in North America. Thankfully, not all termite species dine on houses. San Diego termites can be either subterranean or drywood termites. Subterranean are relatively rare here, and it is infrequent that I see them noted on a termite inspection in San Diego. Drywood termites are the most common wood-munching pest in San Diego.

San Diego Termite Inspection

When is a San Diego Termite inspection a good idea? Most inspections come up either when a seller has a termite inspection done, typically when listing their home for sale. Buyers will also frequently have them done, particularly when a seller has not already had a recent termite inspection. Outside the realm of real estate, it’s a good idea to have a termite inspection done anytime you suspect there might be termites. If you are not on a termite maintenance plan (more on that below), it is wise to still have your home inspected every three to five years or more frequently if you are cautious. Homes with a lot of exposed wood, or are in certain areas favored by termites can be at higher risk.

San Diego Termite Inspection Cost

Since termite companies typically make money on their repairs and fumigation, San Diego’s termite inspection cost is nominal. Some companies will offer inspections free, however, most are somewhere in the vicinity of $100. A good termite company will inspect the exterior, interior, and any accessible crawlspace and attic spaces. The inspector is typically looking for evidence like deteriorated wood, termite pellets/droppings, and termite wings. In the case of subterranean termites, they also look for mud tubes, which are like transport tubes from below ground into the structure.

Spot Treatment vs Fumigation or Tenting

Most San Diego termite inspections will yield some signs of active termites. Signs of active infestation are referred to as “Section 1” items in the report. “Section 2” items are conditions believed to potentially lead to future termite activity. When termite activity is found, there are two general approaches to treatment: 1) spot treatment, also referred to as local treatment and 2) fumigation, also referred to as tenting.

san diego termite fumigation
A home being tented for termites.

If there are minimal signs of termite activity and they appear to be confined to a specific area, termite companies will sometimes recommend locally treating just that area. The termite company will also likely factor in how long it has been since the structure has been fumigated as they evaluate whether to favor spot treatment or fumigation. In the vast majority of cases I see, if ANY termite activity evidence is found, the termite company will typically recommend fumigation.

Fumigation is the “nuclear option” and will kill pretty much anything in the structure. If you want to be extra sure all termites are killed, a tenting/fumigation is the only way I am aware of to do that. Spot or local treatments run the significant risk of missing undiscovered termites elsewhere in the structure.

Wood Repairs

Aside from killing off the pesky termites, there also tends to be a need to repair any significantly damaged wood. These wood repairs are itemized in the termite company’s termite report. Most wood repairs occur on the exterior wood trim of the home. Termites have the easiest access from any exposed wood. On most San Diego homes, that tends to be on the eaves, rafter tails, fascia board, exterior door, and window trim, etc. For more extensive or structural repairs, a termite company may defer to having the homeowner obtains estimates from contractors.

Wood repairs can be estimated as low as in the hundreds and can well exceed $10,000 in some cases. Estimates between $2,000 and $6,000 are common in San Diego, not including fumigation. This leads us to our next topic, the cost of termite fumigation in San Diego.

Cost of Termite Tenting in San Diego

Termite fumigation is a much more involved process than spot treatment and requires some preparation. That prep work includes removing/bagging food, clearing a perimeter around the structure, and making sure you, your family, and your pets are all out of the home for the duration of the process – usually two to four days. For these reasons, it’s best to conduct fumigation related to a home sale when the home will still be vacant.

The cost of termite tenting in San Diego depends mostly on the size of the home and can be impacted by how accessible the structure is, how many stories it has, etc. Estimates between $2,000 to $5,000 are common on homes in San Diego.

How Often Should a Home Be Fumigated?

I have heard various recommendations, but I think a recommendation of tenting every 10 years or so is reasonable. Of course, if evidence of termites is found sooner, then fumigating more frequently can be advisable. In San Diego and throughout California, most of the construction utilizes wood framing due to our earthquakes and related building codes. Fumigating roughly every ten years is a relatively inexpensive way to protect what is likely a very sizable investment. Fumigation that is properly monitored is considered the most effective termite treatment, however, it will not prevent future infestations.

Alternative Termite Treatments

Since termite treatment and fumigation can use some toxic chemicals, many people have sought out less toxic alternatives. Those treatments include heat, microwave, borate solutions, and even electrocution. I have used heat, microwave, and borate treatments in my own home and have found their efficacy to be mixed. Heat treatments can treat a whole house, but in our case, I was not convinced the heat reached all infested areas. Heat treatment also risks damaging plastics, wiring, etc. However, it is a relatively fast, more convenient, and non-toxic approach.

Many companies tout less or non-toxic sprays and treatments, and I simply don’t know enough about them to vouch for their efficacy or lack thereof. In our most recent treatment of our home, we opted for fumigation as I wanted near certainty that any and all termites would be killed off.

How to Avoid Termites

I have overheard technicians at several termite companies say things to the effect of, “Your best termite defense is paint.” The idea is that well-maintained paint serves as a physical barrier to termites entering your home. Homes with less or no exposed wood trim will be less likely to become infested with termites. Crawl space and attic vents should also have effective insect-resistant screens on them to avoid inviting termites into the structure. And, despite their drywood name, termites also require some moisture. Avoiding roof or plumbing leaks and just generally keeping a well-maintained home can help protect you from termites taking up residence.

termite damaged wood
Termites can be very destructive when left untreated.

Termite Maintenance Plans

Some people also hire a termite company to do monthly visits / spot treatments under an ongoing maintenance plan. The decision to do this really depends on your risk tolerance and how careful you want to be. I also am not convinced all monthly programs are really diligent in looking for and treating termite infestations. I have seen multiple instances where a home is on a monthly program, and then suddenly has termite evidence warranting full fumigation and repairs upon a sale occurring (after getting the all-clear on their most recent maintenance visit).

Recommended Termite Company in San Diego

When recommending any provider to a client, my goal is to connect them with a highly reputable provider. Although I have encountered many pest control / termite companies in my years as a real estate agent, I only recommend Hungry Termite to my clients. Whether I am representing buyers or sellers, I have found them to be detail-oriented, ethical, reliable, and a pleasure to work with. If you are hiring a termite company in San Diego, I encourage you to make sure the company is licensed, insured, and has a good reputation.

Selling or Buying a Home in San Diego?

If you are considering buying or selling a home in San Diego and are looking for solid, conscientious advice from an experienced agent, please consider me a resource. I often start working with clients months and sometimes years before they are ready to buy or sell a home. Please reach out to me if you would like to discuss your real estate goals and plans.

marc lyman

About Marc Lyman

Marc Lyman gets results and his proven track record and client reviews leave little doubt. Marc grew up in Silicon Valley and graduated from UC San Diego in 1995 with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. Marc is known for his exemplary marketing, uncompromising ethics, and professionalism. His proactive approach helps ensure smooth transactions, with your interests always first and foremost. Marc's tenacious attitude, strong background in deal-making, and seasoned negotiation skills are tempered with a strategic, personable, and diplomatic approach. Contact Marc to facilitate your real estate success!