What to Look for In a Roof When Buying a New Home

When purchasing a new home, the roof is the most important and potentially the costliest item to replace. A good roof will protect your home for 20 years or more. A poor roof will require immediate replacement. Knowing what kind of roof you’re buying, a good one or a poor one, can save you thousands on the purchase price of your home.

A professional roof inspection serves to introduce you to the state of your home’s greatest ally and protector – your roof. Knowing the key strengths and weaknesses of your roof helps you to plan financially for maintenance and repairs, keeping it strong for years to come. Not only will you learn how many years are left in your roof for your own peace of mind, but you can choose to bring the report to the bargaining table to potentially negotiate the price of your new home down. Some roofs can be so bad that the entire home is uninsurable. To avoid inheriting someone else’s headache, a roof inspection is highly recommended pre-purchase.

NOTE: Home inspectors don’t usually go up on the roof and can therefore miss important information.

There are a few things you can look for yourself, from ground level. Bring a pair of binoculars to your home-buying visits and look for obvious signs of wear – crumbling, sagging, staining, bald or missing components. Check to see if the roof has multiple layers, as sometimes roofs won’t be replaced but only covered with new shingles, making true roofing replacement more expensive as those multiple layers will have to be removed. Within the home look for signs of water damage - walls, ceilings or skylights showing moisture, rings, brown spots, streaking or mold blooms. Within the attic look for the same with a flashlight. While in the attic, turn off the lights and look for daylight shining through the roof, indicating holes where there shouldn’t be. If you have a ladder and permission to inspect the roof, use our blog article Seasonal Spot Checks, Annual Maintenance & Repair for a comprehensive checklist of what to look for. If you do see any roofing warning signs, call for professional roofers to do an inspection and verify your opinion. If you see clear signs of structural issues, leaking and water damage, you may want to walk away from the deal as exposure to the elements can devastate a home in a short period of time.

Conversely, a home with a new, professionally-installed roof can save you money and time. A new roof can significantly cut down on heating and cooling costs. Maintaining this new roof well can keep it performing for decades, making it a wise investment. As the buyer of a home with a new roof, you can expect to pay only 60-70% of the cost, but get 100% of the value.

An old roof doesn’t necessarily mean a bad roof. A general rule of thumb is that composite shingles generally last 15-20 years, architectural shingles last 20-25 years and metal roofing can last over 30 years. Speaking to the current home owner or Realtor can be a good way to get information about the roof. Ask when the roof was last replaced. Similar to buying a used car, ask about repairs. Find out what work was done and if the work was done by a professional roofing company or was a do-it-yourself project. Inquire on the cost of heating the home – the roof, its insulation and ventilation could be the culprit if energy bills are high. Some home sellers will have an inspection done before putting it on the market. Ask to see all supporting paperwork to back up the answers you receive.

Getting clear on the state of the roof gives you options, aligning your home purchase with your plans and personal finances. Enjoy your home-shopping adventure. With good information and attention, it can be the lifetime purchase you are proudest of.

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