Home buyers want to put a new roof over their head, and not just any roof will do. They’ll expect a reliable roof in good condition to shield them from the rain, wind, and sun for years to come.
So it’s no surprise that your roof becomes a roadblock in your home sale if it’s decades old or not up to par. Soggy spots on your ceiling, buckled or missing shingles, and patches of daylight visible from the attic are all warning signs of a roof in disrepair.
A new roof can run you more than $10,000 and the sound of pounding construction at early hours hardly makes for a relaxed morning. Horror stories abound of months-long installation projects or materials lazily layered over old shingles. Before you sign up for these steep expenses and invite disruption into your life, make sure the professionals you hire are up to par.
To get insider tips on how to hire an experienced roofer to get the job done right, we spoke to a top real estate agent and the Director of the National Roofing Contractors Association, one of the most respected trade associations in the country going back to 1886.
Here’s what they had to say about how to find a reliable roofer when you’re selling your house:
Fix your dated roof to guarantee buyer interest and a future sale
The general rule of thumb when making major repairs to your home before you sell is this:
Wait, and negotiate.
In other words, don’t fix what isn’t broken…most of the time.
If your roof’s age or condition comes up in the home inspection, you’ll have the option to reduce your asking price, offer the buyer repair credit for the roof, or make the repairs before closing.
However, in some cases, it’s beneficial to put a brand new roof on your home before you list and then highlight it as a major selling point. A new roof has a 105% return on investment and buyers will appreciate one less big-ticket item to worry about and maintain.
“If a house has a nice roof and it’s in good condition, it’s a more sellable piece of property [and] you’ll get a little bit more money for it,” explains Nancy Rogers, a top real estate agent in Lowell, Massachusetts, who sells properties 61% faster than her peers.
“I could look at a roof and 99.9% of the time I can tell you about how old it is. If it’s in question, then I call my roofer and have him go look at it.”
You should seriously consider reroofing in the event that:
- Your roof is older than 25 years
- Your roof is visibly damaged and shows signs of loose shingles, cracks in the structures, and algae growth
- Your real estate agent advises that you fix it before listing
Old roofs are often the first deal-breaker for any home buyer since a roof with decades of wear and tear is easy to spot. Rogers explains that “many first-time buyers will have to take an FHA or VA loan, which won’t lend on a house that needs a new roof. The roof has to have a couple years life expectancy left.”
However, Rogers advises most sellers to wait for an offer from a buyer and negotiate pricing with the roof in mind.
In the end, it all depends on your local market conditions and the other homes you’re competing against for buyer attention, so talk with your agent about the best course of action.
One thing’s for sure, roof repair and installation is not a DIY job, so you’ll need to find a reliable contractor in the event that your old roof stands in the way of a successful home sale.
Do your homework to fully understand your roofing needs
Tip 1: Know your roof specs before you contact roofers.
Every roof has its own personality—asphalt shingles or steel shingles, one story with two chimneys or two stories with one chimney.
Without an idea of your roof’s basic materials, structure, and condition, it’s hard to talk to a roofer about what needs to be repaired or replaced. This is where your own research comes in. Once you know your roof specs, you can better predict how long it will take to get it fixed.
Maciek Rupar, Technical Services Director of the National Roofing Contractors Association, advises homeowners to schedule roof inspections twice a year—once in the fall to address any necessary repairs before winter comes, and once in the spring to check for damages after the harsh cold season takes its toll.
Meanwhile, take note of your roof specs—what kind of shingles does your roof have, and what is the current condition of your roof?
“We emphasize it’s always a good idea to get the scope of your roof repair,” advises Rupar.
If you don’t know the details of your roof’s condition and materials, schedule an inspection through your real estate agent or local roofing company for a general check-up. This saves you time and helps you find out how much of your roof needs repairing or replacing.
Tip 2: Set a realistic time frame for getting the job done—and prepare to be flexible.
“It’s not easy to put a time frame on roofing,” says Rupar. “It’s best to provide as much time as possible.”
But, as a home seller, you don’t always have the luxury of setting aside large chunks of time. You’re working within the restraints specific to selling your home.
So, what’s the solution? Rupar advises that you speak with multiple roofing contractors to shop around. Each one will tell you approximately how long it will take them to complete the job. They’ll consider the material of your shingles, the extent of your repairs, weather forecasts, and most importantly, the company’s current schedule.
Quite simply, your timeline needs to match up with the contractor’s and the only way to find a good match is to speak with more than one roofer.
You can’t repair a quarter of your roof if the entire piece is rotting, and you can’t arrange for a new roof when a snowstorm is about to hit your city. The one variable you can control is finding a roofer who meshes with your schedule.
Select your roofer candidates
Tip 3: Ask your real estate agent for a roofer referral before you look online.
Your “in” with roofers starts with your real estate agent, who can refer you to their network of reliable contractors.
“You don’t know how many houses I’ve sold in my lifetime; I have a slew of people that I use repeatedly. They’re honest, fair, and they give good prices,” says Rogers. “Mine are dependable —they know they have to be because they get a lot of repeat business from me.”
Real estate agents like Rogers have been in the business long enough to build up a rolodex of connections and relationships with professionals in your area—roofing contractors included.
Tap into their wealth of local knowledge and cross “finding a few good roofers” off your to-do list with one conversation.
Tip 4: Your neighbors offer roofer referrals on Nextdoor—hit up your block for recommendations.
Another great way to find a qualified roofer is through your friendly neighbors!
Nextdoor is a neighborhood social networking platform, on which your community members can comment and post their reviews of local companies and services.
To start your research, first you’ll need to set up a Nextdoor account if you haven’t already (it’s free).
Once you have an account, you can use Nextdoor in two different ways to find a roofer:
Post a callout asking for referrals
This feature is kind of like a Facebook post, but for a neighborhood or home-related topics.
- Start by going to your Nextdoor newsfeed and click on “Post a message, event, poll, or urgent alert.”
- Select “Recommendations” from the list of categories.
- Click on your neighborhood, which should already be listed.
- Type a short call for help for the subject line, like “Best Roofer Recommendations?”
- Keep the message short and sweet in the body of the post with something like, “Hey! I’m looking to replace/repair my roof. Anyone have a recommendation for a roofer who can do the best job fast? Thanks.”
- Post it!
Your post should look like this:
Nextdoor comments are from actual community members who are previous roofing contractor clients, so you can trust their opinion.
In less than an hour, you’ll likely have suggestions pouring in from your fellow neighbors about their favorite roofing companies. You can reply to their comments, then pick and choose who to search, which narrows down the vast amount of options.
Search for roofers with the most “hearts” from your neighbors
While you’re at it, use Nextdoor’s search engine to find roofing companies in your area that your neighbors have rated. Search “roofers” and the best-rated contractors in your area will pop-up.
Click on the roofer with the most red hearts next to their name and read candid reviews from your neighbors.
Reply to them if you have a question about what they wrote. Look for reviews that talk about punctuality and reliability—“they didn’t show up on time” or “never had a follow-up, didn’t pick up our calls” are signs of an unreliable roofer.
Tip 5: Check out these sites for a roofer referral if you’ve exhausted your referral options.
Let’s say your real estate agent did give you referrals, but those contractors are stacked with appointments and unable to fix the roof on your timeline. You might want to turn to your own online research for a roofer. Here are four sites that can help get your search started:
- The National Roofing Contractors Association, founded in 1886, is a U.S. construction industry trade association that provides roofers with education and advocacy. You can search for a roofer on their portal based on your location.
- The Better Business Bureau provides information on roofing contractors with a letter grade. Based on the company’s history of customer-issued complaints and a list of other criteria, letter grades can help you decide if this company is the one you want to work with.
- Owens Corning, a global roofing materials company that specializes in roofing and glass, lists roofers in your area based on their review-generated rating system.
We still recommend double-checking with your real estate agent for their best roofers, as it’s one less step in your home selling process that you have to worry about.
Vet your roofer candidates like a corporate employer hiring a CEO
Tip 6. Prepare a list of questions to test your candidates
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of roofers, either from your real estate agent or your own online search, pick up the phone and fire away with questions.
Your objective is to find a roofer who can carry out an airtight, up-to-code renovation without taking up too much of your time.
Treat these phone calls as interview screenings that will help you get to know the contractors’ work ethic and figure out who’s the right person for the job.
Here, we’ve listed 10 general questions to ask every company you call:
- What is your company’s full name and physical address?
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have insurance?
- Do you have a roofing contractor license?
- Can I have a list of homeowner references and pictures of your previous work?
Then, ask other questions more specific to materials, warranty, and time:
- Do you work with [your specific roof material] and will you provide the materials?
- Do you offer a warranty?
- Will I be able to speak with someone on site?
- How early can you start?
- How long will my project take?
Basic questions like these parse out whether companies are legitimate, experienced, and trustworthy. You don’t want to hire a contractor only to find out on the day of renovation that they don’t have workers insurance and operate out of a van.
Tip 7: Ask your roofer this zinger of a question to test their legitimacy.
In addition to the questions above, one that will weed out good roofers from the not so good ones is: “Should I get a roof layover?”
According to Roofhub, a 5-star rated roofing company based in Boston, MA, a roofer who responds with a “Yes” is only out there to make some cash without caring about the future of your home.
A roof layover involves contractors nailing new shingle over your old ones instead of replacing them.
This method encourages moss growth, leakage, and essentially adds hundreds of extra pounds to your already decaying roof. An ethical roofer would respond “No” and recommend to strip the old layers for a new installation.
Tip 8: Find out if your roofer’s past clients were happy with their work.
Another way to vet your roofer candidates? Strike up a conversation with their past clients.
Your roofers should have a list of references for you to contact.
When you have them on the phone, ask these 4 questions:
- Did they start when they were supposed to?
- Did they perform your work on a timely basis?
- Were they responsive when asked for more information and changes?
- Would you recommend this roofer?
Focus on the time it took for the contractors to complete the projects—did the roofers start construction on the date they promised, and did they finish up in a timely fashion?
When previous clients speak to you about their experiences, they can clear up questions or concerns with the company that you can’t find online. You can even ask them for pictures of their roof replacement or renovation.
Tip 9: Check your roofer’s licensing, insurance, and credentials online
Many states require roofers to have proper licensing issued by the state’s licensing board.
Check if your state has any of these regulations, which helps you choose the best roofer based on your location.
The state of California requests roofing contractors to have such licensing—so, if you’re a resident of California and one of your contractors isn’t licensed, cross them out and move on to the next on your list.
A simple search online can show whether their license is active or expired. California’s Department of Consumer Affairs State License Board, for example, provides a license lookup for contractor’s instate.
If you want to avoid any legal issues with your contractor, double and triple check that your contractor has insurance for their entire team.
Ask to see a physical copy of the company’s insurance certificate for validation so that you’re covered if a team member is injured while working on your home.
The last thing you want is a legal mishap with unlicensed and/or uninsured contractors who leave a gaping hole in the ceiling and stall your home sale indefinitely.
Don’t forget these final contract details
Tip 10: Get a full-blown proposal (not just an estimate) from your roofer
Unlike a roofing estimate, a roofing proposal is a detailed letter that documents more than just the costs of a job.
In any roofing proposal, look out for the following items:
- The extent of construction
Are the contractors repairing the roof or completely reroofing? What is the current condition of the roof and size of the repair?
- Cost of materials
The proposal should name the style of the shingles, grade of the material, and their prices.
What’s the construction schedule, start date, and end date?
- Clean up
Roofing jobs are messy work, so make sure your contractor has a plan to clean up loose nails, shingles, materials, and other trash.
- Liabilities and warranties
The roofer should disclose their insurance so that if anything were to happen on your property, you would not be liable for their injuries. Warranties should also explain what’s covered.
This helps to make sure that expectations are met on both sides and that the contractor knows exactly what you’ll look for. “The more detail spelled out in the agreement, the better for homeowners and the contractor,” Rupar says.
Here is an example what your roofing proposal should look like:
But be aware: a proposal isn’t a contract just yet! It’s only a personalized letter that helps you decide among multiple contractors while offering estimates and recommendations.
A proposal turns into a contract when it confirms pricing and becomes legally binding with a signature.
Tip 11: Make sure your roofer pulls a permit
Remodeling or constructing a home typically requires a building permit, which is issued by the state government and grants building permission.
Inspectors then follow-up on your permit issuance to see that construction goes as planned.
Most smaller repairs don’t require a permit, but for a larger project like reroofing, check with your city or county planning and building department to find out if your roof construction needs a permit.
According to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, in San Francisco, CA, a permit isn’t required for:
- Reroofing without the installation
- Repair or removal of roof sheathing
- If the surface area of the roof being worked on does not exceed 25% of the entire surface area of the roof
But, if you are completely reroofing, you’ll need a permit that is approvable over-the-counter.
Make sure your contractor pulls the permit as they are responsible for your roof and more familiar with the government process. If you, as the homeowner, pull the permit, then you will be considered the contractor of the project, so don’t do that unless you’re confident in your own roofing skills.
Without a permit, your city government can stop your construction or force you to tear down your work at any time until you pull the necessary documents.
You are also subject to additional permit fines that are double or even triple the original fee.
Every city and county has different permit rules—since March 2018, New Jersey no longer requires permits for roofing, whereas North Carolina requests that all building and repairs have a permit, for example.
So, talk to your real estate agent and roofer, who will both know the state requirements for permits and pull the right ones.
Tip 12: Set a ‘no-later-than date’ to put boundaries on your contract
Weather can severely damage the state of your roof and halt further construction.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any Instagram filters that you can swipe on or off to make the rain or hail go away.
But, you should still set boundaries on the time it takes to repair your roof. Luckily, you have some control over dates set out in your contract.
Without a set time frame, the start and end of construction can go on for weeks. The slower the repairs, the longer it is to close the deal with a home buyer. Time is of the essence and you can’t put a home on the market if you have half a roof!
So, in addition to your agreed upon price, warranty, and whatever you discussed on your proposal, be sure to put in your roofing contract a “no-later-than” start date.
If the roofer doesn’t start on time, you can void the contract without aimlessly waiting for them to show up.
Find the best roofer to get your home sold
New roofs are pricey and difficult to install but in the end, you’ll find all the hassles and expenses to be well worth it if the job’s done right.
Home buyers want a roof that they won’t have to repair or worry about for the next two decades, so if you can offer them that luxury, you’ll stand out in a competitive market.
Moreover, a new roof can speed up the home inspection process when you are in the middle of tense negotiations with a buyer.
Reach out to a real estate professional who can not only find you the best roofer, but also sell your home for more. The green algae growing on your 25-year-old shingles is reason enough to start making moves.
Article Image Source: (U.J. Alexander/ Shutterstock)