New Home, Old Roof: How To Inspect and Consider Roof Repairs When Buying

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So you found the perfect house online, and now you’re going to view it with the realtor. It’s exactly the style, size and layout you’re looking for, has lots of natural light, a big yard and is close to work or the school. And it’s available for a great price. 

There’s only one problem: the roof hasn’t been replaced in years, and you’re not sure what condition it’s in. It might even have some damage – and you’re unsure if you should continue with the home purchase or even haggle a new price to cover repairs. 

Here’s a few tips and important points to keep an eye out for and consider when making this hefty decision. 

Get That Roof Inspected

First things first, you need to have the roof thoroughly inspected. Even if it shows no visible signs of external damage, there could be all kinds of problems (rot, leaks, mildew) underneath the shingles and in the underlayment and flashing. 

If you’re looking at someone else’s house, you likely won’t be able to just climb around their roof and see what’s up yourself. You’ll need to ask your realty agent to look or get the roof inspected professionally – if the seller hasn’t already gone ahead and had that done. 

(If the house is For Sale By Owner, you never know – they might be willing to show you around themselves). 

When the Inspection Comes Back: What Kind of Damage is It?

If your or the seller has gone ahead and gotten a good roof inspection, you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of damage there is and how much it will take to fix. 

If it’s just minor damage – a few missing shingles, a leak here or there – you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Minor fixes can be done easily for not a lot of money and obviously shouldn’t affect your home-buying decision too greatly. You might need a few new shingles – which are super easy to put on – and some new flashing, underlayment or cement. Easy. 

Now, if the leak is small, but you can’t find where it’s coming from…you might have a problem. Buy the home with this kind of leak and you really have zero idea of how much it’s going to cost to replace. It could just be quick fix, like above…or you could uncover some huge water damage underneath and find yourself shelling out thousands of dollars. 

If this is the case when making an offer on a new home, consider it thoroughly and factor it into how much you’re willing to offer…or see if the seller is willing to pay for the repair before closing. You may even need to hire a roofing company to inspect and handle the problem for you. 

Finally, if the roof has any kind of structural damage – serious rot from an unattended leak – you may be looking at rebuilding an entire section of the roof. That’s a pricey repair and should be discussed with your agent thoroughly. It will also likely affect your ability to get financing to buy the home. 

Who Pays for Roof Repairs?

The age-old question about roof repairs when buying a new home: who pays for them?

It depends. And it’s up to you to negotiate with the seller to find a solution that works you. If the repairs are substantial and are going to make or break the deal, the seller may be willing to cover the cost of repairs in order to make the sale. 

If the roof damage is relatively minor and inexpensive to fix, they might also be willing to just do it and save you the headache upon moving in…but it might also just be easier to get them done yourself. 

Whatever agreement you settle on, remember to work with your agent and attorney to ensure all legal bases and contingencies are covered.

What if the Roof is Just Old (But Still In Good Condition)?

This is also a very common situation when looking at older homes – especially in temperate climates. Roofs with good maintenance and care can last decades. Sometimes, the home you’re looking at may have an older roof nearing the end of its lifespan that is still in great shape; it’s functional and no repairs are needed. However, it will need to be replaced a few years down the road to keep the home in great shape. 

In this case, it’s worth negotiating with the seller to find a pricepoint and agreement that works for all. They may balk at the idea of paying for a new roof themselves if it’s still in such good shape…but you and your agent should be able to find an agreement that takes the age of the roof into consideration. 


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