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You’ve found a house you’d like to make an offer on. It checks all of your boxes: location, square footage, price point, a big yard for the kids, a two-car garage, etc. You might even have an excellent real estate agent who’s working hard to strike a deal.

However, there’s one issue: you might be buying a house with an old roof. And ignoring the condition of the roof could lead to serious, unforeseen problems if you don’t have all of the information or know what to expect.

If you know what to look for in a roof and how to weigh your options, then you’ll have a better chance of making the right decision.

Get clear on the condition of the roof and what’s needed

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?

  • Hire a home inspector to investigate the roof’s condition
  • Ask the homeowner for documentation on the last time the roof was repaired
  • Get a second opinion from a professional roofing company
  • Inspect the roof and attic space yourself
  • Get an estimate on how much the repairs would cost and when they’ll be needed

Once you know the roof’s condition, it’s time to weigh your options

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:

  • How long do you plan to live in your new home?
  • Do you have the budget to make roof repairs immediately (if needed)?
  • Do you plan on making additions to the house that could affect the roof?
  • If the condition of the roof isn’t ideal, would the seller strike a deal with you?
  • What are the additional repairs needed? What does it all add up to?

When to walk away from a house with an old roof: 3 signals of a bad situation

cracked shingles

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.

FAQ: Should you buy a house with a roof leak?

Damaged Roof Shingles

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.

Either way, it’s best to look into the matter thoroughly before you decide to purchase the home.