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Should You Negotiate A New Roof When Buying a Home? Here Is What You Need To Know

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Picture this: You’ve found a home you love that suits your needs and budget. You’re making Pinterest boards to plan each room, and the moving company is on speed dial. Then, the inspector calls to share some news.

The roof needs to be replaced. *Insert suspenseful music here. 

Though this may be a bump in the road, you shouldn’t run away from the property because of an old roof. Needing a roof replacement is a relatively common occurrence, especially if you’re looking at older homes. You’ll want to arm yourself with the best tactics and a top-notch agent to negotiate with the seller for a new roof, and we’ve got you covered. We chatted with an expert negotiator and are here to share your guide to getting a new roof when buying a home.

Roof negotiations are based on three factors: the market conditions, the buyer’s motivation, and the seller’s motivation. The seller’s motivation to fix the roof depends on the market.
  • Edward Kaminsky
    Edward Kaminsky Real Estate Agent
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    Edward Kaminsky
    Edward Kaminsky Real Estate Agent at The Kaminsky Real Estate Group
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 35
    • Transactions 1093
    • Average Price Point $2m
    • Single Family Homes 743

Can I negotiate a new roof when buying a home?

Maybe you’ve found the perfect home with one major drawback: The roof has reached its expiration date. A roof should be replaced every 20 to 25 years on average, though it may need replacement earlier if in disrepair. Further, the average roof replacement cost runs between $5,000 and $11,000. That is a lot of additional money to spend after taking on the financial burden of a home purchase.

But we’re begging you to not write off a property that needs a new roof (and no, this isn’t a David Rose reference). Instead, you should know the power you hold as an interested buyer, including the power to negotiate.

Expert real estate agent Ed Kaminsky, who works with 66% more single-family homes than the average agent in Manhattan Beach, California, has experienced a lot of bargaining, but acknowledges that roofing negotiations are newer occurrences. “In the past, real estate contracts stated that the roof was to be free of all known leaks, and the seller was obligated to fix it. Today, most contracts don’t have this language, and roofs become a negotiated item,” he explains.

Most often, a seller is ready to give their property to the highest bidder and won’t give as much thought to the longevity of essential home systems, such as a roof. But you, as the buyer, should have this top of mind and may be able to use that to your advantage. Kaminsky explains, “Roof negotiations are based on three factors: the market conditions, the buyer’s motivation, and the seller’s motivation. The seller’s motivation to fix the roof depends on the market.” You’ll need to be smart about your negotiation tactics to get the best results, but don’t be intimidated — we will go over the steps to winning those negotiations.

How to Negotiate a New Roof When Buying a Home

1. Request a detailed roof inspection

During a contingency period, it’s important to have an inspector thoroughly examine the property. Kaminsky states, “Don’t take anyone’s word for it that the roof is good. Have a professional inspector come in.” Some obvious, telltale signs of roof damage would be noticeable to any inspector, including:

  • Watermarks or discoloration on the ceiling
  • Moss spots
  • Asphalt granules in the gutters from roofing tiles
  • Deformed shingles or sagging

While anyone can check for these obvious signs, having a more in-depth review of the roof is key to your negotiation success. Kaminsky encourages buyers to have a roofing contractor or special inspector report on further signs of deterioration. “They’ll look in the attic for leaks, go to the top of the roof to review the condition… If the roof is determined to have some issues, the buyer will be made aware of that now.” This detailed inspection will confirm whether or not a replacement is needed and if you need to ready your bargaining skills.

You can also ask for home maintenance records on systems such as the septic system, HVAC system, and roof during the contingency period. This will only further confirm the roofing needs and add weight to your argument.

2. Discuss with your agent

Now that you’ve received a detailed roof inspection, you can bring in the muscle power of your negotiation: your buyer’s agent. Real estate agents are experienced negotiators who will fight for your best interests.

Remember, the seller wants the best price and isn’t always thinking of the long-term condition of the home they are selling. A roof replacement almost certainly wasn’t advertised in the listing, especially if it only came to light after the inspection. Your agent can help you come up with a plan for how to approach the seller with your requests — they might also remind the seller that refusing to negotiate and finish this transaction would likely be more difficult than working with you to find a solution.

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3. Make your case

Next on the negotiation to-do list is making your case with the seller. Whether the buyer or seller pays for the roof (or what percentage of the roof replacement they pay for) depends on the negotiated terms. There is no single solution, and each contract will look different depending on the seller and the buyer. “The question becomes what is fair or reasonable to assume. I believe that paying for a half-life roof is appropriate, creating a 50/50 split between the two parties,” Kaminsky states.

There are two options we recommend considering when it comes to negotiating a new roof:

  • Option A: The seller replaces it on his or her dime before the new buyer takes ownership.
  • Option B: The seller gives a credit or reduces the purchase price for the buyer to take care of the replacement after purchase.

Many sellers prefer the latter, providing a credit for the buyer to replace the roof after the sale is complete. This keeps them out of the replacement process, meaning they don’t have to deal with contractors, roofing professionals, and more.

Option B may be in the buyer’s favor as well! Getting a credit or reduction in the price puts the replacement in your hands. First, a seller might not care as much about the quality of material or aesthetic appeal of a new roof as you would being the new homeowner. Second, there is little motivation for the seller to get the best contractor to do the job.

This option also ensures the buyer will have ownership of the roof warranty. Some roofers may only offer a non-transferable warranty, and a roof warranty purchased by the seller would belong to the seller even after closing. Putting the onus on you to figure out the details of the roof replacement just makes sense — you’re the one motivated to find the best contractor, purchase the best material, and own the warranty. Case closed.

4. Research quality roofers in your area

It’s time to start the roofing hunt once you’ve come to an agreement with the seller. Your agent will be a source of knowledge for you and will more than likely have relationships with or recommendations for roofers in the area. Further, you should research your options outside of your agent’s recommendations as well. A few go-to methods include:

  • Asking friends or relatives in the area for recommendations
  • Searching online and paying special attention to the reviews
  • Posting on an online neighborhood board

Identify and request quotes from at least three roofers to give yourself options. These quotes should also include a range of material choices at different price points. Receiving multiple quotes is particularly important if the seller will be taking on the task of replacing the roof. You’ll need to review the numbers and come to an agreement, and having options will allow for each side to feel there is room to find alignment.

At this point, you may want to discuss with your agent how a new roof (and specifically the materials used) could increase the home’s value. Based on Remodeling’s 2021 Cost Versus Value Report, a roof replacement would recoup 56% (metal) to 61% (shingles) of its cost upon resale of the home. Though the difference between those two materials is a small increase, it might be worth your investment to spend a bit more on quality.

5. Request an amendment to the purchase agreement

The final step to negotiating a new roof is the most important: Get the agreed-upon terms on paper. Having written terms prevents any gray areas and makes it legally binding — leaving little room for interpretation later on. Work with your agent to have an amendment to the purchase contract written and signed by all parties.

FAQs to consider in your negotiation

How do you know if the house you are purchasing needs a new roof?

The inspection report and home maintenance documents provided by the seller will alert you to the condition of the roof. Age is the main determining factor as those around 20+ years old will need a replacement sooner.

How long do roofs usually last?

The life expectancy of a roof can vary widely based on the quality of material, installation, and other details. However, 20 to 25 years is a good estimate of how long roofs typically last.

Will I be able to get a mortgage if the roof needs replacing?

“Generally, if the roof is old but you’re not seeing significant issues with the property, this won’t come up in getting a mortgage,” Kaminsky shares. But there are some caveats to this statement. “If the appraiser walks in and sees a leaky roof… they’re going to have to adjust the appraisal based on the house’s condition, which could affect the borrowing position of the buyer,” Kaminsky continues.

Also, a bad roof may impact your ability to obtain an active homeowner’s insurance policy, and this tends to be a necessity to qualify for a mortgage. The insurance company may be unwilling to offer a policy before the roof is replaced, making it impossible to move forward with a mortgage.

What should I do if the seller is unwilling to pay for a new roof or compromise?

Ultimately, you have to decide whether taking on the cost of the roof is worth it. Kaminsky shares, “There are cases in which a seller doesn’t have the equity to cover even 50% of the roof replacement. The buyer has to decide if $10,000 is too much or if it’s still getting a fair deal… You need to try and remove emotion from the situation and look at it financially.”

In this case, consider working with your agent to offer slightly below the asking price to make up for some of the cost.

Header Image Source: (Austin Walker / Unsplash)