Can a Home Inspection Decide When the Roof Needs Replaced?

The answer to the question isn’t a simple “Yes” or “No.” But a home inspection offers necessary information for making the decision.


            Suppose you’re buying a house, and your home inspector says the roof’s shingles need to be replaced. But the seller says it isn’t necessary. He says the roof doesn’t leak and never has. He’s not going to replace shingles as long as the roof still sheds water.


Who’s right?  What should you do? First, start with what your inspector found..


There are two main techniques for evaluating a roof. One is to objectively determine the physical condition of the roof and its material. A good professional roofing contractor will do this, and so will your home inspector. If the roof is deteriorating, he’ll recommend replacement, regardless of whether there is evidence of leakage.


The second technique is to find an answer to whether the roof actually leaks. Asking the home owner whether it leaks doesn’t deal with the issue. It’s wishful thinking to assume the roof won’t leak now or in the future. That’s a sign of misguided hope and an unwillingness to face the fact that costly repairs or replacement are needed. It’s a bad idea to rely on old shingles just because they’ve done their job so far.


            The real question is whether an old roof should stay in place until water damage in the home makes replacement unavoidable. A home owner must recognize that ignoring warning signs of wear exposes walls, ceilings, and furniture to needless water damage.


            Think of it this way. You wouldn’t want your car mechanic to overlook brake problems just because you’re still able to stop your car. An accident will happen sooner or later that will have serious or fatal consequences.


            Here’s another way to see it. Imagine going to the doctor and being told you have high blood pressure. You didn’t know there was a problem. Then your doctor explains your condition. He prescribes medication and gives you guidelines to lower the risk of heart attack or stroke later.


It’s the same kind of situation when a home inspector reports the condition of an older or damaged roof. Paying attention to warning signs and taking steps to correct the problem now will prevent trouble later.


            What if you and the seller still can’t agree on what to do about the roof? Call in a licensed roofing contractor who will professionally and objectively evaluate the roof’s condition. The final resolution should be based on the following considerations:


*   The true condition of the roof


*   The effect of a deteriorated roof on the value of the property


*   The motivation of the seller to complete the sale


            However, you should remember this. Even if replacing the roof is called for, the seller is still not obligated to replace it. Whether the roof gets replaced before the sale depends on the terms of the purchase contract.


            If the seller remains adamant about not repairing or replacing the roof, you may need to seriously reconsider whether you’ll purchase the home. Perhaps his attitude and actions are an indicator that there are other unforeseen problems with the home which will show up after it’s been sold.


Replacing the roof is a big decision and requires a significant investment. Whether you’re buying a home or you’re selling, having a home inspector’s professional evaluation is crucial to help make the right decision.


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