What you need to know about the roof BEFORE you buy a house


ts notBy Henry Staggs, RRO

April 9th,2020

What you need to know about the roof  BEFORE you buy a house

Buying a house is stressful

It's not exactly a great revelation that purchasing a home is a stressful event in life. The searching, the walk thoughts, the negotiations, the financing, and the inspections. All are coming at you fast and can be very overwhelming. Its more than enough to push anyone to their limits, buyer or seller, even the realtors are under constant pressure. I can't speak to every aspect of buying or selling a house, but I can talk to the roof part of the deal.


One of the most stressful parts of the transact is that ole' BINSR list (Buyers Inspection Notice and Sellers Response), the buyer sends out their army of inspectors who come back with a list of things to do. That list is given to the sellers, and the negotiations begin. I think this part of the process becomes far too adversarial and is much less critical than realtors make it out to be. In short, both parties have ten days to do all the inspection work and get the repairs done. Ten days to find the problems, find people to fix them and get it done. Whoever the genius was that thought this was enough time, has never had to hire contractors before. It's barely enough time to schedule the inspections, which is the most crucial part of this process. Indeed knowing what is wrong and what it might cost to repair is very important.

Here are some roof specific things you need to know

  • How old is the roof? The easy way to know this is to ask if the current owner is not sure.  Since we don't have to pull permits in most cities in Arizona to re-roof, if the owners don't know, it can be tough finding out. Most roofs will last between 20 and 30 years. If the house is within that time frame and the owner does not know if the roof has was replaced or not, you might assume its the original roof. Just subtract the date the house was built from today's date, and that's the age of the roof.  If the home is older, you may assume that the roof has been repaired or replaced at some point, or that it is in poor condition. 
  • Was the roof installed correctly, to begin with? Age is not the only consideration to take into account when assessing your roof. If the roof was not installed correctly, the service life of that roof has likely been reduced. The roof is only as good as the person who installed it, and if it's been installed poorly, it will perform poorly and fail sooner.
  • What is the cost to replace?  This is not as tough as you might think, there are numerous sites you can simply plug in the measurements of the house and the type of the roof and get a roundabout number. It won't be completely accurate, but it'll usually be in the ballpark. Close enough to work with. 

That's all you need to know, is the roof failing or about to fail and what will it cost. 

The big question is, "Should I (the buyer) ask the seller to hire a contractor and replace the roof." 

Well, the short answer is NO! And here is why; remember there are only ten days to get all this work done, and no good contractor will be able to get it done that fast.  By the time the seller calls for a bid, several days have passed. And the "roofer" they seller might hire, who can get it done that fast. Well, that might not be the roofer you want working on the house you are about to own.  Every one of the ROC complaints I assist a homeowner with is the same story "I bought a house, the seller hired some contractor. The roof is leaking or looks bad. And now the roofer is not coming out to take care of us." 

The seller and the buyers have very different motivations when it comes to hiring a roofing contractor, and unfortunately, most realtors don't help. They feed into the problem actually by recommending not so good contractors (sometimes not even licensed) to their clients. I would suggest not asking your realtor for a contractor referral; you can find a better on your own most of the time. 

Here is what I recommend you do as the buyer

  • Hire an independent roof inspector/consultant who does not install roofs, to inspect the roof. 
  • If they find that the roof needs to be replaced anytime soon, for whatever reason, they should also include an estimated cost in their report. If not, you can always go online and use one of those roof cost calculators or call a contractor you have already vetted and trust. 
  • Then ask the seller for credit and do the roof work yourself AFTER you close the deal. 

This takes a lot of the stress of both the seller and the buyer, and you, the buyer, will have control over the contractor you hire. And you, the seller, are not legally liable for what some contractor does or does not do. 

NEVER hire an unlicensed contractor to work your roof. 

Henry Staggs, RRO

Roof Consultant and Roofing Industry Advocate

(480) 265-1613



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Specifications, Scope of work, Industry Standards, Arizona Workmanship Standards, Building Code, and All the Above

What to really expect when you hire a roofing contractor

The Ugly Truth About Roof Warranties

Arizona Workmanship Standards

Who is the ROC Registrar Of Contractors and why does it matter

Roof Inspection VS Estimate


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