WDO Inspections: A Guide to Wood Destroying Organism Inspections

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Termites can be harmful to a home, but they’re not the only wood destroying organism (WDO) that can cause issues. That’s why WDO inspections are required by many banks, lenders and guarantors.

Buying and selling a home are important times when WDO inspection may provide insights that could identify issues and ensure a home maintains its value.

By utilizing the information in this handy guide, you can avoid many of the issues that homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents encounter. And when you have an increased understanding of the subject, you can make better decisions regarding WDO inspections.

What Are Wood Destroying Organisms?

When people hear the word ‘wood destroying organism,’ most of them immediately think of termites. This is a great first guess – especially since termites damage over 600,000 American homes yearly. In reality, these tiny bugs fall into a subgroup of WDOs known as wood destroying insects. They share this title with carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, carpenter ants and other pests.

When performing a WDO inspection, though, experts look for more than just these insects. Wood decay, evidence of past infestations, damage to wooden structures, evidence of past treatments and favorable conditions for infestations are all potential issues the inspector will look for. Any of these signs can indicate the presence of these organisms.

When wood is protected from insects and moisture, it can literally last for centuries. If it’s not safeguarded, however, it can do serious damage to a home. Termite damage alone costs an average of $3,300 to repair. Wood destroying organisms are much more than a common inconvenience.

Do I Need a WDO Inspection?

There are several instances when bringing in a wood destroying organism assessor would be beneficial. In some instances, however, doing so is mandatory. Many states require a WDO report prior to selling a home. Even if they don’t, though, most banks, guarantors and mortgage companies will mandate such a report to ensure they’re making a sound investment.

If your loan is coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for instance, an FHA inspection isn’t the only requirement necessary to close on the loan. This may seem like a hassle, but it ensures that homebuyers don’t end up paying thousands of dollars on repairs down the road.

Even if you’re not buying or selling a home, a WDO inspection may be beneficial. If these organisms go unchecked, it can cause serious issues that require extensive repair and take a huge chunk out of your home’s value. If you notice any of the following issues, it may be time to call a WDO expert:

  • Developing mold in home.
  • Whitish-yellowing tinge on wood.
  • Wood that feels spongy or “gives” with pressure.
  • Soil in wood cracks and crevices.
  • Any areas of rot.

While these are far from serving as an exhaustive list of issues, they are some of the most common signs that wood destroying organisms are present. Reacting to these problems immediately is vital. If you’re in the market to purchase a home, you shouldn’t have to be on the lookout for these signs if a proper WDO inspection is performed.

Unfortunately, it’s not always as straightforward as this. It’s the seller’s responsibility to have an inspection performed, but if they’re not legally required to, they may be hesitant to do so. In some cases, prospective buyers end up paying for the inspection themselves. It’s important to discuss terms with the seller or real estate agent to ensure this doesn’t become a problem.

What WDO Inspectors Look For

There are several signs of wood destroying organisms that anyone could easily identify. When a WDO inspector is on the job, however, their analysis is far more in-depth. Not all potential issues or evidence of previous damage is visible with the naked eye. That’s why these assessors go through extensive training prior to being licensed to perform such an inspection.

Your WDO inspector will consider all the following issues:

Exterior Inspection

  • Any sign of termite activity.
  • Termite shelter tubes.
  • Flying termites.
  • Termite droppings, etc.
  • Conditions conducive to WDOs.
  • Dead tree stumps near home.
  • Wood closely adjacent to ground.
  • Tree branches touching or overhanging home.
  • Leaky downspouts/gutters.
  • Improper grading.
  • Evidence of any wood destroying insects.

Interior Inspection

  • Interior inspection is physical and visual.
  • Special attention paid to WDO-prone areas.
  • Basement and garage at particular risk.
  • Door and window frames are also prone to infestation.
  • Probing, tapping and listening for termites in susceptible wood.
  • Living or dead termites and evidence of their presence.
  • Conducive conditions for WDOs (e.g. high moisture levels).
  • Damaged wood.

WDO inspectors typically use specialized tools during the process. If they find evidence of an infestation, they’ll mention this in their report along with treatment estimates and recommendations for remediation. Evidence of prior infestations will also be noted. If proper treatment and repair was performed for a past WDO issue, it’s unlikely to reflect negatively in the report.

This inspection often takes between 30 minutes and an hour, but larger structures can take even longer. Homes with extensive damage could also lengthen the process. The important thing to remember if you’re the buyer is that the WDO inspector works for you.

Even if the real estate agent or seller is covering the inspection price, it’s you who will have to deal with any expensive repairs related to these organisms. This means you should never let anyone try to rush your WDO professional through an inspection. Being thorough in these situations is more important than being expedient.

How to Make WDO Inspections Go Smoothly

If you’re a real estate agent, you’ve no doubt dealt with WDO inspections in the past. While these can go very smoothly, situations often arise that make the process feel like just another headache. Whether you’re representing the buyer or seller, there are a several things that can simplify this process and avoid any potential issues.

Know Who’s Paying from the Start

We’ve already touched base on the fact that some sellers may not want to pay for a WDO inspection. Fortunately for many agents, this isn’t an option in many states if the seller wants to remain on the right side of the law. Regardless, you need to know who’s paying for the inspection before even contacting a professional.

Go with Real Professionals

You likely have a variety of options when choosing a WDO inspector. As with most things in life, though, not all these assessors are created equally. It’s important to choose an established and reputable company to perform the inspection. This can help you avoid a myriad of potential issues both during and after the process.

Get Complete Access Beforehand

Even real estate agents don’t always have full access to their clients’ homes. When is the last time you ventured into the rafters or squeezed into a crawlspace? While you may not need access to these areas in most instances, you will before a WDO inspection takes place.

This is a job that must be done thoroughly since these organisms can show up anywhere. It's not a situation where a half measure will work. Even missing one area during an inspection could result in an inaccurate report.

Let Them Do Their Job

Many real estate agents opt to attend WDO inspections. This is a good practice and shows clients that their agents actually care. When doing so, however, you need to stay within your lane. It’s not your job to point out potential issues, and doing so could even leave you open to litigation.

If a homebuyer takes you to court over issues that weren’t caught during an inspection, for instance, the judge may wonder why you pointed out some issues but not others. This is why doing your job and not trying to help the WDO inspector is necessary.

If you go with a reputable company, the chance of litigation should be small. The moral of the story is that everyone should focus on their own jobs.

Make Sure There’s Enough Time

Real estate agents have busy schedules. In fact, nearly half work more than 40 hours each week. This is still no excuse for not allotting enough time for a proper WDO inspection. While they typically take an hour or less, this isn't always the case. Speak with the inspector about how long the process will take based on square footage, but then add an extra 30 minutes just in case issues or delays occur.

Get the WDO Inspection Right

WDO inspections are imperative in protecting homes from damage, and if you’re on the market to sell, there’s a good chance they’re mandatory. Understanding this process and getting it right the first time will make life easier for everyone involved. At WIN Home Inspection, our experts have both the training and experience to ensure you get an accurate report from the start.

For more information, or if you need guidance regarding a WDO inspection, reach out to a WIN Home Inspection expert near you by clicking here. You can also talk to a professional by calling (800) 309-6753.