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

Before you make an offer on your new dream home, make sure its roof is up to the job of protecting your home, your family, and your stuff.

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Whether it’s your first home or a long-awaited upgrade, buying a house is a big decision that’s going to have an effect on your family’s finances for decades.

So while you’re getting excited about the huge open kitchen and the pool, don’t forget to pay attention to the roof. Your new home’s roof may not be as sexy as a view of the golf course, but it’s your first line of defense against the elements, protecting your homestead (and your family and possessions) from rain, wind, heat, and hail.

While you’ll always want a free professional roof inspection before making an offer on your new dream house, there are a few important questions to ask when you’re looking at potential candidates. Here’s what you should look for in a roof when buying a new home.

1. How Old Is The Roof?

It’s essential to know exactly how old the roof is, so make sure you get a definite date from the official paperwork. Just asking the seller isn’t good enough, because their casual reply of, “oh, we replaced it around 5 years ago” won’t be much help if it was really closer to 15 years and you have to unexpectedly pony up for a roof replacement.

Due to spring hailstorms and relentless summer sun, standard composition roofs in North Texas only last 10-15 years on average. If the roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, you can use that as leverage in negotiations, or decide to move on to a house with a roof in better condition.

2. What Quality Is The Roof?

There is a world of difference in quality between inexpensive 3-tab shingles and thicker, more durable “architectural” or “dimensional” shingle.

Both are made of an asphalt and fiberglass base with protective granules on top, but architectural shingles are significantly more sturdy and can last longer under difficult weather conditions. Although circumstances vary, the bottom line is that 3-tab shingles will need to be replaced more often than premium shingles.

If the house you’re considering has a newer metal roof, like stone-coated steel or standing seam, then you’re in luck. When correctly installed, these roofs can last 50 years or more, meaning that you might never have to replace the roof again. Ensure that all warranties (from the manufacturer for the quality of goods, and from the installer for the labor) are transferable to you. This high quality of roof increases the value of the house, and may increase the purchase price, but in return you get significant peace of mind for decades.

3. How Worn Is The Roof?

No matter the age or quality of the roof, they definitely take a beating. While we never recommend getting on a roof yourself, there are plenty of signs of wear that you can investigate from the ground. Warning signs include:

  • Any signs of individual shingles cracking, curling, peeling, shrinking, or otherwise becoming to worn to protect the home
  • Granules in gutters or bald spots on shingles, which let in UV light that deteriorates the asphalt
  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on the flashing, gutters, and downspouts
  • Cracked and worn rubber seals (“boots”) around vent pipes

4. How Does The Attic Look?

While we don’t suggest dancing across the rooftops yourself, you can and should check out the attic. That’s the first place you’ll see signs of leaking, mold or mildew, or any other way the roof isn’t adequately protecting the home. You’ll want to look out for:

  • Stains on the underside of roofing, and especially on vertical wooden supports, indicate water damage.
  • Lack of insulation, meaning that there’s not an effective moisture barrier between the living areas of the home and the attic.
  • Inadequate ventilation: air should have a clear path into and out of the attic, and all vents should be in good working order.
  • Check on a sunny day for any small pinholes of light that indicate a hole in the roofing or a weakness at the seams.

If your new dream house will need significant roof repairs or replacement in the near future, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy the house!

Depending on the circumstances, you could request that the owners have the roof replaced before the sale, or ask to knock $10,000 to offset the cost of upcoming roof repairs. The important thing is that you pay a fair price for the house you want, and that you aren’t surprised by any upcoming (and always expensive!) roof repairs.

You always want a dedicated roof inspection before making an offer on a house, in addition to the home inspection. The roof inspectors report will give you further details and allow you to plan/budget for any necessary upcoming repairs, or decide that the asking price is too high. But these 4 questions will help you make an initial assessment of whether the home’s roof appears to be in good condition, or you’ll need to pay attention to roof issues during your negotiations.