Buying a House? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Roof

The roof – definitely not the first thing to catch your eye when you’re on the hunt for a house to buy. In fact, it might not even have made it to your list of priorities you use to assess the houses on your wishlist. Well, I’m here to strongly encourage you to add it to that list! Somewhere between the number of bedrooms and your ideal location, add ‘safe, reliable roof’.I’m going to assume here that you are looking to buy a move-in-ready house. Apart from swapping the curtains and a fresh coat of paint, you’re looking for a house that is safe and comfortable for your style of living. And a key structure that makes this possible is a quality roof.

As you navigate the house buying process, here’s how to assess the roof at each phase. The goal here is two-fold; first, determine the quality of the roof, then use that determination to guide the offer you make on the house.

Online Research Phase of House Buying

As you begin to find and narrow your options online, look for these roof-related details:

    1. Material & Age – most Minnesota home listings note the material of the roof, and whether or not that material is more or less than 8 years old. This provides a starting point for the age of the roof, which indicates the amount of life it has left (which is dependent on the type of material).
    2. Disclosures – if there are any known issues with the roof, they should be noted in the disclosure forms, which a realtor can help you navigate and discover.

In-Person Viewing Phase of House Buying

When you get to touring houses, look for symptoms of roof damage. On the exterior you’ll look for things like mold, missing or damaged shingles, discoloration, or bowing. Inside the house look for water leaks on the ceiling and walls or sagging ceilings. All of these are signs that there may be roof damage – which would require repair. While not all damage is visible to the untrained eye, the above are easy to spot and raise a red flag.

Secondly, make note of gutters, downspouts, and ventilation mechanics – all of these features help control how water navigates the roof, which is important for long-term roof quality and preventing water damage inside the home. If these items are not present, you’ll want to factor this into the price you pay for the home, assuming you’ll need/want to add them in the near future.

Offer Phase of House Buying

In this final phase of buying a house, here are a few important roof details to verify:

    • Roof Warranty – ask the seller if the roof is still under warranty; if yes, request the documentation so you have the contact information and instruction available should an issue arise during your ownership of the home.
    • Roof Inspection – as part of the inspection process, which is a common contingency included in a home purchase contract, include the roof. It’s a small price to pay to guarantee the roof quality or inform you of issues that will need to be addressed if you choose to proceed with the purchase.
    • Roof Repairs / Replacement – if the inspection (personal and/or professional) determines roof repairs or replacement will be needed immediately or in the near future, factor this into your purchase agreement. There are a few ways to approach this – all of which are dependent on the unique real estate market + selling/buying conditions. You could reduce your office price to account for the cost of the roof work required – meaning you as the new homeowner will pay for and manage that work. Secondly, you could require that the current homeowner complete the work prior to your purchase of the house. Thirdly, you could do nothing, if you believe the seller has already factored the cost of the roof work into their list price. Or lastly, you could find common ground and split the costs. Any way you spin it, simply make sure you’re comfortable with your purchase and your plan to make the roof safe and reliable.

Roofs are an essential part of a house, so it should be an essential feature you assess as you review your options. The further along you get in your house buying process, the more detail you’ll want to gather. In the end, you’ll have enough information to determine if the roof meets your quality standards, or you have a plan of action in place to get it there. Happy house hunting!