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Before you buy a home, ask these 5 questions

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Ready to make an offer on that perfect piece of real estate? Most homebuyers have a checklist of questions to ask the seller. Questions about the plumbing, heating and AC unit are common. But when searching for that dream home, one of the most important yet overlooked major items is directly overhead and should top the checklist.

A roof protects the home from the ravages of sun, wind, rain and other threats. The ability for a roof to provide protection is directly linked to its condition. A roof nearing the end of its service life can be a major investment for any homeowner. Knowing the condition of a home’s roof plays a big part in determining what the overall investment in a new property will be.

Here are a few questions to ask before committing to any property:

How old is the home’s roof?

Ask the homeowner about the age of the roof — and don’t be shy; ask for documentation. Knowing the age of the roof will help you understand issues you may encounter and how to plan to prevent them. It can also influence homeowner insurance costs — and even whether an insurance company will write a new policy on the property, according to

Typically, a roof can be expected to last anywhere from 15 to 50 years, or even longer, depending on the roofing material, the severity of the weather it is exposed to and if it was installed properly.

Are there any known damages or repairs to the roof?

In most states, a seller must disclose any known home damage or defects to a prospective buyer. By asking about roof damage and repairs specifically, the seller cannot easily forget to mention those details. It is better to get any bad news early and factor the cost of potential repairs into negotiations to avoid devoting time and money toward a property that may have cost-prohibitive issues.

When was the roof last inspected?

A thorough inspection is important, even if the roof is new. Wind and hail can cause hidden damage that could dramatically shorten the life of the roof. Impacts from large tree branches can distort or even penetrate roofing material. Small, hard-to-find water leaks can lead to rot and costly structural damage beneath the surface.

A professional roofing contractor can provide a comprehensive inspection. Professionals can expertly assess the roof’s condition, inspect often-overlooked areas, identify needed repairs and estimate the roof’s remaining useful life before replacement will be necessary. They may also inspect roof ventilation to ensure it is adequate and check to see if gutters are functioning properly and not allowing water to back up into the roofing system.

Is the roof still covered under warranty? Can that be transferred?

Depending on the manufacturer, the home’s roof may have a warranty that is transferable from one homeowner to the next. Warranties are designed to cover certain manufacturing defects. Ask the seller to provide a copy of the roof warranty and carefully read through the terms and conditions to determine if the warranty can be transferred and what degree of coverage will be provided. You may also ask for information about the contractor who installed the roof because some roofing manufacturers, like TAMKO Building Products LLC, offer enhanced warranties if the roof is installed by a certified contractor.

Will the seller negotiate a lower price to compensate for an old or damaged roof?

A home with an old roof is not necessarily the end of the line for a homebuyer’s dream. Sellers may be willing to negotiate a lower selling price to help a buyer cover the cost of roof replacement. The good news for the buyer is a new roof, along with a new warranty, is like a new beginning for the home with decades of life ahead. Some roofing manufacturers offer limited lifetime warranties that may add peace of mind for homeowners and potential buyers.

A roof can make or break a home deal. Any potential buyer should be sure to get the facts before committing to a sales contract.

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