Hawaii Randy's Real Estate Opinions: The Termite House

The Termite House

 Some time ago I represented a husband and wife on the purchase of a home, we have fondly nicknamed the "Termite House".  It was commonly believed that the only thing keeping it from collapsing was the termites holding hands.

I met my buyers one Saturday while sitting in my office.  They pre-qualified with one of my favorite loan officers who just happened to be visiting my office at the time. 

An important point that will make more sense later is that English is a second language for the buyers.  Because of that I was more cautious than normal to be sure they completely understood each step of the process.

After closing the office we went out to look at eight of their favorite picks.  While on the way back to the office the husband mentioned another home that he had seen at the bottom of Snake Hill (right below my office).  We pulled up to the front of the vacant home just after dark.  I called the listing agent to see if we could go in. She gave me the specs and lock box code and we entered the home.

What we saw next was truly amazing.  This home was a patchwork of addition after addition after addition.  The home was huge.  It was also old and what many area agents would call vintage; 45 years old and all original.

This home also had one feature that not many buyers would like.  TERMITES!  Boy did it have termites.  I reached up and could put my finger right through a beam.  It was completely hollow.

The wife looked horrified!  I looked over to the husband and he was salivating. The smile on his face said it all.  He was in love.  He was already planning the repairs and upgrades.  He was mapping out who got which room.

He said the words his wife prayed she would never hear.  Let's go back to the office and make an offer.  We fired off an extremely low offer, which was quickly accepted by the sellers.

 The husband was so excited he could hardly contain himself.  The wife by now was also starting to show enthusiasm.  During the home inspection it was determined that every beam in the home needed to be replaced.  The damage was even more extensive than previously thought.  After reviewing the inspectors report, my clients came back with the expected decision.  We'll take it!  They were in love.

Now I left out the most important part of this story.  My buyer planned to do most of the work himself.  I was extremely concerned.  I have some construction experience and know how dangerous replacing those beams can be.

At each meeting I questioned him about his ability to do the repairs and expressed concerns for his safety.  He was so positive, yet I was so worried.  I do not want to sell a home to get someone hurt.  The sale went smooth.  It was the fastest closing I have had where a loan was involved.

Four days after closing I visited the new home owners.  He and three of his friends had ripped out all of the cabinets, removed the fixtures and scrapped the floors down to the concrete.  In four days they had basically completed the demolition.  They also had all of the beams cut and lined up on the floors.  He had rented several ceiling jacks and they were stacked up ready to go.

I continued to feel real uneasy about their safety and again questioned him about replacing the beams.  He said he had it all under control.  I was very worried this home may get someone hurt.

Two days later I turned on the radio as I was getting ready to go to the office.    I then heard the report that made my heart stop.  

" _ _ _ _ _o Valley home collapsed yesterday on a homeowner who was doing remodeling".  I didn't catch the complete name of the neighborhood.

Was that Waipio Valley?  Oh God!  

I scanned the dial trying to get another news report.  I turned on the TV.  15 minutes of shear torture.  Oh no I may have got someone hurt, possibly killed.  Finally I got the report again.  It was not Waipio Valley!  Thank God it was not him.

Two weeks later while visiting them again I saw one of the best remodeling jobs I have ever seen.  It turned out to be one of the best values I ever sold someone.  It also aged me 10 years.



Randy L. Prothero, REALTOR®

Broker-in-Charge, ABR, AHWD, CRB, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, MRP, SFR

eXp Realty

Team Leader - "The Prothero Group"

Randy Prothero is well established as an expert in working with military / VA clients and first time home buyers.  His home seller's (listing) campaign is one of the most aggressive marketing programs in the area.  His luxury home listings sell faster and for more money.

Based out of Mililani, Hawaii. Randy services the island of Oahu (Honolulu County) Performs mediations and ombudsman services for the Board of Realtors.  To improve overall professionalism in his area Randy also offers classes for real estate agents. 

www.HawaiiRandy.comOahu (Honolulu County) Property Search  Hawaii Military Relocations

Comment balloon 27 commentsRandy Prothero • November 26 2006 11:26AM


My biggest flaw is trying to second guess people. You just never know. Thanks for sharing your story.
Posted by Dena Stevens Coriz, Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004 (Rocky Mountain Realty ) almost 13 years ago

Hi Randy,

             My heart was pounding reading your story. I know how you feel. I sold a home right down the street from where we live. The buyer never did a home inspection and after they had been living there for less than a year, I came home to see that the house had burned down. It had a faulty furnace and luckily no one was hurt other than their dog. It's too bad becuase I felt horrible and if they only had an inspection it may have prevented this awful tragedy.

Thanks Jay 

Posted by Jay McGillicuddy, Real Estate Broker (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty) almost 13 years ago
great story, humid weather cities have plenty of termites so i know what you mean. I thought we imported all the termites so tyhe rest of the US could be termite free.
Posted by Eric Bouler, Listening to your Needs ( Gardner Realtors, Licensed in La.) almost 13 years ago


I would imagine that in your state you have the same problems we have in Florida. Lots of termites...

There's plenty to go around...

I see why you were concerned and obviously this prayed on your mind. Glad everything turned okay so far...

Question...Are Termite Inspections required by Lenders in your State?

TLW "The Lovely Wife"...Just Tented A Rental Home For Termite Control...ROAR!

Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago

I find there are two kinds of homes in the Baltimore area. THose that HAVE been treated for termites and those that GOING TO BE treated for termites.

The 10 years look good on you!



Posted by Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 13 years ago
Termites - such friendly critters - in Arizona you have them, you've had them, or you are going to get them - it's only a matter of when!
Posted by Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers, Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ (Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty) almost 13 years ago

Dena - For that reason I have learned to let the customer tell me what he is thinking first.

Jay - I am sure you tell that story to all of your buyers who do not want to pay for a home inspection

Eric - I think Hawaii has about the worst termite problems in the nation.

TLW - Termite Inspections are not required by law, but they are part of our DROA.  Some lenders require them.  As a matter of practice I get them on every sale.

Margaret - In Hawaii we have a similar saying there are two kinds of homes; those with termites and those that will have termites.

Tony - They are just part of the deal

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago
wow!  more proof that some buyers do indeed understand what they're undertaking. =)  i just had some folks in town who are relocating from Oahu, and they were surprised that we have termite issues here like you do in Hawaii-although i don't recall hearing a news story of a collapsing house....
Posted by Leigh Brown, CEO, Dream Maker - Charlotte, NC (Leigh Brown & Associates, RE/MAX Executive) almost 13 years ago


I enjoyed this blow, great experience, and I know how cautious you were with these clients, thanks that you are a good person and you always were aware what  checking if they were fine. I can imagine how hard to see that on the news and you thought that they were in trouble, :)   

Ray Saenz

Posted by Ray Saenz, Homes for Sale in Laredo, TX - Texas, Realtor (Exit Realty Laredo) almost 13 years ago
I can relate to your story.  I had a situation where  the inspection turned up termites, all the beams had to be replaced.  My buyer walked but someone else purchased the property and made the repairs; it is now worth alot more.
Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) almost 13 years ago

Leigh - I didn't realize how big of an issue termites were on parts of the mainland until I made this post.  I won't forget the collapsing house report.  I will be telling the story to new agents for many years.

Ray - To say I felt sick was an understatement

Jennifer - I would not be afraid of the home as long as I had someone who new what he was doing to do the work and the price of the home was correct for the condition.  I would however get signed releases from the buyer, which I did.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago

Randy - That is a great story !!  I am working with a couple Buyers that absolutely love homes that I would never buy...They want to just remodel and have projects...I guess I've done enough remodeling to know it's harder than it looks and it costs more than you think.

Maybe the husband likes projects to keep him busy and his marriage strong...Things that make you go Hmmmm......

Posted by Lauren Corna, Broker (Archway Realty, LLC) almost 13 years ago
Termites are a big issue here in AZ as well.  I am curious as to how the lender funded this based on the overwhelming termite infestation
Posted by Adam Tarr, PC -GRI, ABR, CDPE, RSPS, ePro - Designated Broker (MavRealty) almost 13 years ago

Lauren - Always push them for a home inspection and always watch for red flags. 

I put everything in writing and have them sign when ever possible.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago

I guess too, that's where not getting too emotional about a property goes.  Thanks for sharing the happy ending with us.

Posted by Netta Blackwood, REO/BPO Expert (La Rosa Realty) almost 13 years ago
Man o Man that would make me have several sleeples mights.
Posted by Rob Wills (Gilpin Realty Inc.) almost 13 years ago

Netta - It is ok to get emotional about the people though

Rob - It definitely effected me.  It took a few hours to come back down after first hearing that news report.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago
just goes to show that clients do know what they want sometimes. I bet the husband saved thousands of dollars since he did the work himself. Great story
Posted by Eddy Martinez (Nationwide Funding Group) almost 13 years ago
Eddy - They love me.  their house has appreciated a bunch.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago
Great story, glad it all worked out for everyone. 
Posted by Cynthia Sloop (Community Association Manager) almost 13 years ago

Randy, there is a buyer for every house, the trick is finding them.  That experience explains the white hair I see in your beard.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) almost 13 years ago
Great story - sounds like you did everything correctly in this case.  You voiced your concerns, more than once, thats for sure!  This guy obviously knew what he was doing.  One could argue that maybe he should have been a little more open about his prior experience(s) in remodeling and such, but irregardless, you were certainly in the right.
Posted by Kaushik Sirkar (Call Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago

Cynthia - Me too.

George -I had white hair before that transaction, but it seems like I had more after.

Kaushik - Part of the problem was their English was challenged which made me event more cautious.

Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago
Hey! This is one of those stories I treasure...especially this..."It was commonly believed that the only thing keeping it from collapsing was the termites holding hands..."...
Posted by . 4Terra Land Brokers .. 828-776-0779 Asheville NC, What's Most Important to YOU? Call(828)-776-0779 ( REAL ESTATE RESOURCES & NETWORK ) almost 13 years ago
janeAnne - One of my favorite local phrases.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago
We don't have termites here in Minnesota, no termite inspections and most natives don't have a clue what a termite looks like or what termite dmamge looks like.  I sold a house with obvious termite damage and termites.  No one beleived me or my buyer.  There are a couple of places in St. Paul, South St. Paul and Minneapolis MN where there are termites.
Posted by Teresa Boardman (Boardman Realty) almost 13 years ago
Teresa - I remember as a young kid in Chicago having a one neighbor who's house had termites.  When I moved to Hawaii all of my neighbors either had termites or will have termites.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 13 years ago

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