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When to Replace Your Roof: How to Tell if It’s Time

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.

Last time you climbed up a ladder and cleaned out your gutters, you got a magnified view of your roof. A few turned up shingles, moss, some rust action —  are these blemishes normal, or are they signs that you need a new roof?

When you start noticing your roof’s age, bring in the experts to determine if it’s time for a replacement. Roof damage can lead to leaks and cause significant structural damage. Plus, beyond protecting your home, your roof plays a key role in curb appeal when it’s time to sell.

“We want our houses to look as good as possible from the curb and from the photographs. And now that we use a lot of aerial shots and drone shots, the roof is much more visible. So it’s just that much more important that the roof looks good,” shares top real estate agent Andrew Oldham, who, along with his partner Jennifer Oldham, sells 70% more single-family homes in San Jose than the average agent.

Don’t let a roof in disrepair bring down your home’s value. Follow these six steps to determine if you need to replace your roof.

A house with a roof that has been replaced.
Source: (Curtis Adams / Pexels)

1. Start by learning your roof’s history

Gauge whether you’re closing in on your roof’s expiration date by determining its installation date. If you purchased a new build or owned your home during the last roof replacement, then this should be fairly straightforward. Otherwise, dig a little deeper by reaching out to one of these sources:

  • Ask the previous owners: Give good old-fashioned communication a try and talk to the person who sold you the house. Even if they don’t know the exact date, they can provide you with a ballpark estimate. If you no longer have their contact details, your real estate agent can look into their records and provide them to you, so long as it would not violate any existing non-disclosure agreements.
  • Find the building permit: A roof replacement typically mandates a building permit from the local county. Head to your local municipality’s code enforcement office and request records of building permits for your address. A code or zoning officer will pull up any documents submitted for the project, including scope and building timeline.
  • Contact the roof installation company: If you know which company installed the roof, call and ask if they still have a record of the project in their database.

During your research, keep an eye out for any warranties included. A shingle warranty lasts 20 to 50 years, protecting you against manufacturing defects; a workmanship warranty covers issues that may occur due to improper installation.

2. Gauge material life expectancy

Build date in hand, compare your roof’s age to these average material life expectancies:

  • Asphalt shingles: 15 to 30 years
  • Architectural shingles: 25 to 30 years
  • Wood shingles: 30 years with regular maintenance
  • Clay tiles: 50 years or more
  • Metal roofing: Up to 70 years
  • Slate tile: 50 to 100+ years

How long your roofing material lasts largely depends on the climate you live in. For instance, a 30-year roof composed of asphalt shingles may live up to its life expectancy in Oregon, thanks to the cooler climate. In a climate like Florida, on the other hand, the same 30-year roof may only last 10 to 12 years under the stress of humidity, heat, and turbulent tropical storms.

3. Take note of signs of wear

Climb back up that ladder and inspect these areas for deterioration:

  • Shingles: Curling or missing shingles equates to holes in your roof’s armor, leaving your home more vulnerable to the elements. Uneven discoloration, black streaks, and moss signal that this layer is past its prime.
  • Storm gutters: Clogged storm gutters trap water along your roof’s edges which may lead to mold and decay. Granules of your shingle material in the gutter are another telltale sign that it’s time for a swap out.
  • Chimney flashing: Chimney flashing is the lining at the bottom of your chimney where it meets the roof. If your flashing is slathered with cracked cement or tar, you’ll want to upgrade to quality, water-tight fitting to prevent leaks. Note a red flag for rusty flashing, as well; rusted flashing invites leaks and further structural damage.
  • Wall and roof intersections: See decay where your roof meets the exterior walls? Damaged or missing step flashing allows water to settle into this meeting point, inducing corrosion.
  • Attic ceiling: Your roof is leaking if you see any stains, streaks, or light beams underneath it. A sagging ceiling in the attic or top floor also suggests leakage.

4. Get a professional roof inspection

With your amateur inspection complete, it’s time to phone the pros: roof inspectors.

“We encourage all sellers to go out and get a report because then you can properly disclose to your would-be buyers the condition of the roof and what it takes to fix the roof,” Andrew Oldham emphasizes. “And they’re going to give us a bid basically on what they think needs to be done and how much life it has left.”

With a detailed analysis, a professional roof inspector can even evaluate damage hidden underneath the shingles using an infrared scanner. With your inspection report in hand, you can move forward confidently knowing if it’s time to replace or repair your roof.

According to HomeAdvisor, a roof inspection costs between $119 to $303, though those utilizing infrared technology bump up to $400 to $600. The Oldhams recommend reaching out to your real estate agent to find a dependable, fairly priced roof inspector.

“Our favorite inspector does home and termite, as well, so you can get three done at once. And sometimes the roof will be free if you’re also getting the home and termite,” Jennifer Oldham adds.

Source: (Spok83 / Shutterstock)

5. Decide whether to repair or replace your roof

Say your roof inspection report estimates you should replace your roof in the next five years, detailing several problems with the shingles and flashings. If you’re planning to sell within that window, you might wonder whether it’s best to replace or repair the roof before you list.

“That’s a discussion that you should have with your agent as a lot of that is going to depend on the state of the market your house is in,” Andrew Oldham advises.

“So, if the market is a very hot seller’s market and you would expect to get multiple offers anyway, you may not need to go the expensive route.”

Your agent will measure the return on investment that various roof modifications will yield and determine whether or not your home needs the upgrade to compete in your market.

What to expect if you replace your roof before you sell:

If your home demands a full roofing overhaul to sell, then prepare to fork up a significant sum to cover the project. HomeAdvisor reports that homeowners spend on average between $5,346 – $10,787 on roof replacement, though Jennifer and Andrew Oldham have witnessed clients spend as much as $60,000.

The good news is, a roof replacement returns a fair amount of investment: 61.2% to 65.9% by Remodeling Magazine’s estimate. Industry research leaders the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) echo this calculation in their joint 2019 Remodeling Impact Report. New roofing ranks the number one project for ‘appeal to buyers’ and ‘likely added value to home at resale’. The report estimates that a new roof brings an average $8,000 return, with 33% of agents stating that a new roof has helped them close a sale.

What to expect if you just repair the roof before you sell:

Maybe your agent cautions that a full roof replacement is overkill. Instead, they recommend making a few minor repairs and disclosing the roof’s condition to interested buyers. At a minimum, you should invest a small sum to boost curb appeal and hire a professional to power wash your roof, scrub down the siding, and clear out the gutters.

Here’s an overview of how much roof repairs costs:

A notebook used to disclose a roof repair.

6. Disclose your roof’s condition to buyers at resale

Whether you replace, repair, or leave your roof as is, detail your roof’s condition in your seller’s disclosure form. This provides buyers with full transparency and indicates that your listing price accounts for the required replacement or repairs.

If you replace your roof or handle all necessary repairs, provide your buyer with a roof certification verifying your roof’s condition and lifespan for added confidence. Your roof inspector can provide this document for an added $75 to $200; the letter remains valid for 2 to 5 years after the inspection.

Alternatively, if you go without a pre-listing roof inspection and subsequent disclosure, you bite your teeth waiting on findings from the buyer’s home inspection. If the report reveals your roof is on the brink, it opens the floodgates for renegotiations mid-contract. Jennifer Oldham explains:

“If you don’t have these reports up front, somebody can do their inspection, their due diligence, and then when they put in an offer, later come back and say, ‘well we didn’t know there’s $10,000 worth of damage on the roof. We want those credits or you need to repair the roof.’”

Now you’re on the hook for making repairs or conceding to lower the sale price to close the deal — not worth the gamble.

3 main signs it’s time to replace the roof

When your roof’s age is starting to show, reach out to experts for a reliable assessment. You’ll know it’s time to replace your roof if the following apply:

  • Your roof shows signs of wear and is reaching the end of its average life expectancy.
  • A roof inspector recommends that you replace the roof after a detailed inspection.
  • Your real estate agent advises that a new roof will help your property sell, recouping a significant portion of your investment.

Header Image Source: (Tirachard Kumtanom / Pexels)