For most home shoppers, any mention of roof damage is enough to send them sprinting in the opposite direction. Buyers who are not in the market for a fixer-upper are typically trying to nab a house in the best possible condition, and roof damage can be seriously costly to repair.
But should a faulty roof scare you off, or does it present an opportunity to negotiate the price of the home? Consider these factors before making a decision.
How bad is the damage?
The extent of the roofing damage is one factor that should help sway your decision.
“If some or all of the shingles have been blown off during a one-time event like a tornado, hurricane, or tree collapse because of a storm, then correcting any structural damage and replacing the shingles should suffice,” says Frank Lesh, former president and executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
The problem with roofing damage, however, is that it can be more extensive than it appears.
“Be aware that a bad roof could lead to other issues such as ceiling drywall, insulation, or even structural replacement,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta. And these additional issues can add to the cost of fixing the roof.
Are you getting an FHA loan?
Buyers who plan on using a Federal Housing Administration loan to finance the house can end up putting down as little as 3.5%. But to be approved for the FHA loan, the property must be in livable and insurable condition, and the buyer must have secured property insurance before closing.
To get property insurance, the insurance company will require a four-point inspection, which covers electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and the roof’s condition and life expectancy, according to Juan Rojas, licensed real estate broker at JPR International Real Estate in Miami.
“Typically, if the roof doesn’t have at least three years of life expectancy, an insurance company won’t be able to insure it,” he says.
Therefore, if you're planning on getting an FHA loan, trying to buy a home with roof damage might be more trouble than it's worth.
What if it's just an old roof?
Perhaps there's no proven damage to the roof; maybe it's just really old, like, 20 years old. The life span of your roof is determined by the material it's made of and the weather conditions in your area. Slate, copper, and tile roofs can last 50 years or longer; wood shake roofs last about 30 years; fiber cement shingles last 25 years; and asphalt shingle roofs last about 20 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Home buyers shouldn't necessarily shy away from a home with an older roof, Lesh says.
“It would depend on the quality of the workmanship and materials, and whether any signs of abnormal wear are visible,” he says. “For example, a 20-year-old undamaged, clay tile roof in the southwestern United States is more likely to last longer than a brand-new composite shingle roof in the same area.”
Should you buy a home with roof damage?
Ultimately the decision is yours; however, most of the experts we spoke to believe that problems with a roof should not deter you from purchasing a house—as long as there are stipulations.
“As long as the damage has been or will be repaired, there should be no problem buying a house with a roof that has been damaged,” says Lesh.
Maya Madison, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Metairie, LA, believes you should absolutely consider buying a house with roof problems.
“During the inspection period, get a quote from a licensed contractor to repair or replace" the roof, she says. “Either the seller will agree to fix it before the act of sale, or take the amount off the purchase price.”
And if you don’t agree with the seller’s decision, Madison says you can cancel the contract during the inspection period.
However, if you decide to proceed with the purchase, Breyer warns against letting the sellers make the repairs. He advises buyers to get their own quotes and then negotiate the price down based on the amount it will cost to repair or replace the roof.
“The sellers' goal would be to save money, meaning that they are going to hire the cheapest contractor, and you might end up with a roof repair that is lacking in quality,” Breyer says.
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