However, there’s one issue: you might be buying a house with an old roof. Old roofs are the number one deal breakers when it comes to buying a home and for good reason.
Well-maintained roofs can last 30 years or more—but a shoddy installation or poor-quality shingles and tiles can mean needing to replace a roof much sooner.
So ask the seller how old the roof is, and inspect the gutters to make sure the drainage systems are in good working order. You also want to be on the lookout for dry rot—often caused by poor ventilation—which can cause sagging and crumbling.
First, understand that the home you decide to purchase won’t have a brand-new roof (unless the house was just built). Every roof has some degree of wear and tear. And it will need repair sooner or later.
The question is how old. Are you buying a house with a 15-year-old roof? 20-year-old roof? The higher that number climbs, the sooner you, as the new owner, will need to invest in its repairs and fixes.
Depending on the materials, a roof could last longer than the average (around 25 – 30 years). Asphalt shingles, composite shingles, metal roofs and other materials all have different life spans. And weatherization plays a large part in determining how often roofs need to be replaced.
So, how do you gather all of the facts and make an informed decision?
Be aware that you’re probably not the only person considering making an offer on the house. In a seller’s market, the homeowner won’t be as open to negotiation on roof repairs and price point.
Think of your roof appraisal as a way to protect yourself and align your purchase with your personal goals. Not as a way to leverage the seller into making repairs before you move in (though it could happen!).
Buying a house with an old roof simply means you need to do your homework. Then you can properly weigh your decision by comparing that assessment with your goals:
Sometimes a roof is in such a poor condition, it’s best to avoid a headache altogether and let the homeowner figure out a way to make necessary repairs. Your home inspection should uncover these major issues, but, just in case, let’s cover the danger signals of a failing roof.
THE ROOF IS SAGGING DUE TO STRUCTURAL DAMAGE
If the actual structure of the roof is compromised, it’d be wise to step away from the situation. Replacing cracked or deteriorating roof beams can be an expensive (and unnecessary) investment for a home buyer to deal with.
THERE ARE PATCHES OF MISSING SHINGLES OR ALGAE OVERGROWTH
Are there missing shingles on the roof or patches of sunlight coming through to the attic space? This is likely due to very old shingles or other materials that require immediate replacement. Watch out for moss and algae growth on the exterior singles, too. Moisture in the attic space could mean poor ventilation issues which require further work to be done.
STAINS ON INTERIOR WALLS AND EXCESSIVE WATER DAMAGE
If there is an unnoticed leak in the roof for an extended period, it could have already damaged the ceiling and interior walls of the house. If you do see a stain, run your hand on the affected area and check for softness or signs of mold and mildew.
Roof leaks are never good. If you’re questioning the severity of the leak, then it’s best to have a home inspector check for the root cause and signs of water damage throughout the house.
You may find that the leak is fixable with a simple cosmetic repair. Or that the leak hasn’t yet caused significant damage issues. For instance, water may have been trapped by debris or blockage on the exterior shingles, causing a leak to come through the roof by not letting it flow into the gutters. It’s an unlikely scenario for most slanted roofs, but it can happen.
If you do have to replace the roof, it can set you back—a lot. A new roof can run anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on the size of the home.
Just because a roof is old isn’t typically grounds for asking the seller to lower the price. But you may have room to negotiate if the roof hasn’t been maintained, and if repairs are necessary to fix evident leaks or other major issues.
More often than not, however, you’ll be responsible for replacing or repairing the roof. So factor this cost into your overall housing budget.
Either way, it’s best to look into the matter thoroughly before you decide to purchase the home.