Roof Inspections and Selling Your House: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Most of the time, you don’t give your roof a second thought. You count on it to keep you dry and cool every time it rains or the sun beats down, and that’s totally understandable. But, as soon as you spot a weird stain on your ceiling that you never noticed before, you’ll wish you had paid a little more attention every now and then. If your roof wears down to the point where you need buckets in every room when it rains, you’re already too late.

“It’s like having tires on your car. You don’t want to wait until one is bald before you get a new one,” says Mike Montpetit, a top real estate agent in Cary, North Carolina.

Considering a New Roof? First, See How Much Your Home is Worth

In as little as two minutes, HomeLight can provide you with a preliminary estimate of value in preparation of your plans to replace your roof. 

When you’re preparing to sell your home, it feels like every potential roadblock carries a ton of weight, and when it comes to the state of your roof, knowledge is power. An inspection from a licensed roofer puts your mind at ease about the condition of your roof before you even list your home for sale, and can provide the security a prospective buyer needs to feel comfortable making an offer.

We chatted with roofing and real estate experts to gather some of the most important things to know about your roof inspection, including: what to expect, who to call to perform the inspection, and how a roof certification can inform homeowners and reassure homebuyers.

Roof inspection vs. home inspection: What’s the difference?

A home inspection is a visual review of an entire property’s main systems and components, which evaluates the condition of its plumbing, electrical, HVAC, foundation, and yes, its roof, too.

A roof inspection puts just your roof in the hot seat instead of the entire home. The inspector — who should be a well-established roofing contractor in your area — will take a close look at the integrity of the roof and ceilings for signs of damage, leaking, or any other issues specific to the roof that may pose a threat to the home.

“Roof inspections can be tricky because some of the most important components are hidden underneath the shingles,” says John Hogan, president and CEO of Blue Nail Exteriors. “We use clues from what we see on the surface to make an educated guess at what was done underneath.”

Some roofing red flags might include:

  • Mold growth on the shingles that could point to rotting wood underneath.
  • Incorrectly installed flashing that could lead to leaks in the roof.
  • Missing shingles, which can indicate that the roof has sustained wind, water or age damage.
  • Roof granules in the gutter, which can be evidence of roof materials breaking down.

There’s more than one way to inspect a roof; different roof contractors use different methods to get a good look at what’s going on atop your home, including:

  • Visual inspection: Some inspectors use the low-tech approach of visually assessing the roof, which involves climbing up onto the roof and inspecting the attic for signs of damage.
  • Infrared inspection: In this type of inspection, the roofing inspector climbs onto the roof and uses a handheld infrared scanner to look for changes in temperature that indicate areas of damage where heat is escaping from the roof.
  • Drone inspection: Helpful for hard to reach spaces, drones are sometimes used as a specialty tool for inspectors to get a close-up vantage point without having to put themselves in potential danger.

These methods are all respected in the industry, but each method has benefits and drawbacks. Technology provides easier, less invasive ways to assess a roof’s condition, but homeowners can expect to shell out a little more cash for a roofing inspector who goes beyond the traditional visual inspection. If that’s not in the budget, you can still rest easy knowing that an experienced roofing professional will be able to climb onto your roof and provide an accurate assessment.

What roof inspectors look for

Inspectors will spend anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours assessing the roof for the four major facets of roof inspections: structure, interior, materials, and workmanship.


The inspector will make sure your roof is structurally sound, specifically checking for problems like leaking, missing pieces, rust, rot and sagging. They will also check to make sure any chimneys, skylights and any vented areas are properly secured, since heat loss and moisture buildup can cause structural ice damage.


Roofing inspectors will use a flashlight to check for damage from the inside out by looking at your ceilings, walls and attic to check for stains, mold, rot or any other signs of water damage. According to Montpetit, “One of the more common items that comes up on a roof inspection is when the inspector goes into the attic — or ceiling if it’s covered — and notices that there are signs of water that are penetrating the roof.”

This stage of the inspection ensures that water isn’t hiding in nooks and crannies of an attic or crawl space that might otherwise be missed.


The nitty gritty details of your roof’s materials will be assessed, checking for problems like:

  • Rust.
  • Cracked caulking.
  • Missing, curling, or cupped shingles.
  • Damaged flashing.
  • Missing or damaged rubber boots and seals.
  • Areas covered in moss or lichen.

If any of the materials making up your roof appear to be compromised, you’ll need to schedule repairs as soon as possible to ensure that your roof can withstand harsh weather conditions.


Your roof inspector will check to make sure every facet of your roof was installed correctly, including shingles, flashing, vents or any other areas that could be problematic if not put in the right way. If your inspector uncovers multiple layers of shingles, low-quality materials, a damaged roof deck or improper venting, it’s a sign that some corners were cut during installation.

The roof inspection will entail a close look at:

  • Overall appearance of the roof from the inside and outside of the home.
  • Condition of roofing materials, especially in relation to the roof’s age.
  • Proper installation of flashing and material quality.
  • Quality of installation (such as nail pattern, overhang, and shingle positioning).
  • Presence of high-quality roofing underlayment.
  • Integrity of skylights, chimneys, vents, and gutters.
  • Areas where water may collect on the roof.

Conflict of interest? How to get an honest opinion on your roof

We’re not implying at all that roof inspectors are shady by nature, but there’s always an innate conflict of interest if a person who’s evaluating a house (or car, or anything else) also has financial incentive to recommend more work.

As a rule of thumb, you should never hire your roofing inspector to do repairs. It’s ethically frowned upon, and you should be wary of any professional who offers their services after taking a look at your roof. A good inspector won’t put you on the spot; if they do, it’s a definite red flag.

Instead, hire an outside roofing company to handle any repairs indicated as necessary by the inspector. You’ll get a fresh set of eyes on the issues at hand and you won’t have to worry about the motive. (Just be sure to always ask for proof of certifications and insurance before letting anyone up on your roof!).

What’s a roof certification and how does it help sell your house?

A roof inspection is an important step in the selling process, but it’s a roof certification that can seal the deal and put buyers’ minds at ease about the quality of your home’s roof. It’s not included in a standard inspection, but it’s worth it for sellers who want to reassure buyers that the roof will remain in good condition for the near future.

A roof certification is a document from a roofing professional meant to inform the homeowner (and prospective buyers) about the roof’s condition and lifespan, and is typically valid for two to five years after inspection. If problems are earmarked, and your roof does require some TLC, you’ll be issued the certification once you’ve made the necessary repairs.

You don’t have to get a roof certification to sell your house, but it provides buyers with key information that can make them feel more comfortable going forward with purchasing a home with an older roof.

When to get your roof inspected: Before or after you list?

With so many balls already in the air, it can be difficult for sellers to assess which details they should handle prior to the sale and which ones they can afford to hold off on.

Though sellers on a budget could wait it out and put the roofing inspection on the back burner until they have interest from prospective buyers, experts suggest that you should get the roof inspection out of the way before you list your home. If you’re following guidelines set by the National Roofing Certification and Inspection Association, you should already be getting annual roof inspections as part of your home maintenance routine.

When you know the value of your roof going into negotiations, you retain more power than you otherwise might. If a buyer feels that the roof is going to be a major financial drain on them in the future, they’re likely to ask for a reduction in price to compensate. If you’re not prepared to offer a credit to buyers, you’ll want to make any repairs prior to listing and set yourself up to sell at the top of your price range.

Average cost of a roof inspection

According to estimates from HomeAdvisor, most homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $125 to $358 for a standard roof inspection, not including certification or cost of any repairs that are uncovered in the process. More advanced methods of roof inspection will come with a bigger price tag. Sellers who want to spring for a drone inspection are likely to end up paying between $150 and $400; an infrared roof inspection can run anywhere from $400 to $600.

If the added security of a roof certification sounds like a worthwhile investment, you can expect to pay between $75 and $200, depending on the size of your home, the pitch of your roof, and the company that performs the certification.

Can buyers get a mortgage to purchase a house that needs roof repairs?

Like any business, banks and lending companies want to protect their assets. If any major damage is flagged during the roof inspection, it can put a halt to an otherwise smooth sale.

Federally-backed mortgages like FHA or VA loans are notoriously strict when it comes to maintenance issues that might compromise a home’s integrity, but a bad roof can hold up bank-backed conventional loans as well.

Some roof issues that can throw a wrench into a mortgage include:

  • Active leaking
  • Curled or cupped shingles
  • Mold
  • Evidence of termites
  • Sagging

Buyers should talk to their loan officer if there are any concerns surrounding the roof’s viability. Establishing an escrow holdback at closing can ensure that repair costs are factored into the deal and set aside to be used as such, so the sale doesn’t get held up while you’re waiting for contractors to get back to you.

A roof inspection gets your home sale off to a good start

Don’t be spooked by a roof inspection. Even if you find out that you’ll need to handle some repairs before listing, you can take comfort in the knowledge that most homeowners recoup about 61% of the cash they invested in their roof when it’s time to sell — that’s close to $18,000 on average for a roof with newly repaired asphalt shingles.

You don’t want to wait until you have an interested buyer to learn that your roof is going to need thousands of dollars worth of work. Get a roof inspection to head off any problems before they become larger issues, so your otherwise airtight home sale doesn’t spring a leak at the last minute.

Header Image Source: (Tiago Rodrigues/ Unsplash)