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NEW: Simon Lloyd

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One word above all others gnaws away at the consciousness of Queensland real estate agents.

Termites, southern buyers and other pests

Few words can strike fear, anger and menace more bitingly into the hearts of Queensland real estate agents than “termite”. But the reason is not what you might think.

Now we all know the termite can munch its way through just about any substance other than solid steel (although, I hear that in parts of Townsville termites are so macho they snack on galvanized piping), and can raze a home to the ground in a matter of months (hours in Rockie).

But here in Queensland we’re pretty much inured to all that – just spray some highly carcinogenic liquid around your damp course every couple of months and you’ll be right. No, the true reason real estate agents loathe the termite is the critters’ ability to make contracts, not houses, crash.

The “crashed contract” is one of those jargony property industry terms that I find amusing because it’s, well, kind of onomatopoeic, and irritating because it happens in Queensland real estate so often – and so often because of the bloody termite. And not only do we agents blame little white ants. We blame southern buyers.

Yes, the influx of our cousins from NSW and Victoria into the Queensland property market has been responsible for an exponential increase in the number of crashed contracts in recent years.

For the uninitiated, in the Smart State the building and pest clause – along with a finance approval clause – is standard in residential property contracts. Unless the buyer waives one or other clause, no contract can become unconditional, and the reality is, the vast majority of buyers want a “B&P”, as real estate agents refer to them through gritted teeth.

The wording of the clause is such that if buyers aren’t absolutely, positively, deliciously, gorgeously 100% happy with their B&P report, they can simply terminate (funny how that word contains the word termite, eh?) the contract, get their deposit back, and move on to pester the next hapless vendor.

Now, if you’re a Queenslander buying a house anywhere north of the Tweed and a building inspector tells you there are a few termites in the back yard, you usually shrug and throw them a pile of wood to munch on. “Keeps ’em out of the house” is what you’ll hear most maroon-blooded buyers say.

But I’ve personally seen hardy New South Welsh property hunters and feisty Victorian purchasers who’ve ventured up to these parts turn green and shudder violently when an inspector breaks the shocking news that one of the railway sleepers used as an attractive border for the herb patch has had termites in it sometime in the past 10 years.

Bang! Crashed contract! This is a real scenario for more and more sellers, and it’s also driving real estate agents mad (hey, who said “good”?) While the buyer waits to get the B&P report done, and the contract usually allows a fortnight or even a three-week deadline for this, the property is effectively off the market.

However, there’s a solution if you’re a vendor, and one which real estate agents are sensibly recommending more and more.

Get a B&P done on your own property before you go to the market.

Okay it’ll cost you a few hundred bucks, but if it shows your house really is falling down, at least it’s not going to come as nasty a shock as if it’s a potential buyer pointing out this minor issue to you!

But assuming your place is structurally sound, even if it has a bit of pre-existing, non-live termite activity, at least your agent can wave your B&P in front of prospective buyers as something they don’t need to do. And if it mentions a few white ants in the yard, this will get the chickens running for the border before they can waste your time by signing a contract, while you can insist buyers with stronger stomachs sign the contract with a waiver on the B&P clause.

Then all they have to do is come up with the money to actually buy the place, and these days that’s a hell of a lot easier than finding a Queensland back garden without a pest in it.

To read other Simon Lloyd blogs, click here.

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