House Hunting 101 | How To Pre-Inspect A Roof Before Making An Offer And Paying For An Inspection

House hunting can be stressful. Whether you are buying your first home or your tenth, it is a complicated process. Not only do you need to like the home, but you also need to make sure that it is a good investment. The house needs to be in good location, be priced fairly, and be in good working order. Using a licensed realtor and a quality home inspector are the best tools you can have.

The realtor is there to both represent your interests and to guide your decision-making process. The home inspector makes sure the home is solid. There are a few ways, however, that you can pre-inspect the roof yourself -- and save money on an unnecessary inspection -- before even writing up an offer.  

1. Ask the Age: The seller should state in their listing documents how old the roof is. This information can help you gauge when it will need to be replaced. The average asphalt shingle roof lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 years, while a slate roof can last well over 50 years. The life expectancy is dependent on the severity of the weather in your part of the country as well as the quality of shingles and installation. 

2. Walk on the Roof: If you can safely get on the roof, take a closer look. If you see missing, broken, or warped shingles, it is a sign of age. Asphalt shingles are soft and pliable when first installed, hugging your roof to protect it. As they age, they become dry and brittle, losing their effectiveness. Also, if the roof feels bouncy or soft under your feet, it likely is due to water damage. When shingles no longer protect your roof, the plywood sheathing beneath can get wet, causing it to feel soft. This indicates that not only does the roof need to be replaced, but there may be unseen water damage and possible mold elsewhere in the home. Contact a roofing contractor to make repairs.

3. Inspect the Gutters and Downspouts: Asphalt shingles have a protective gravel-like coating when they are first installed. It wears off over time and can pool in both your gutters and downspouts. Taking a close look in both those areas can help you determine if the roof is aging and needs to be replaced. 

4. Look for Low-Hanging Branches: Take a walk around the perimeter of the house and look for low-hanging branches that are near the roofline. Not only could they damage the shingles when they rub against the roof during strong winds, but if they break, they could do damage to the building -- and people -- below.  

5. Head up to the Attic: If the roof is showing it's age outside, it is time to take a closer look inside by heading up to the attic. While standing water is a pretty obvious bet that something is wrong, there are other, more subtle, signs to look for as well. Dark stains on any wood surface indicates previous water damage. Your agent should address this with the current sellers. They may have proof -- and a transferable warranty -- that the leak has been repaired by a roofing company. If the leak has never been dealt with, you may have bigger issues. Not only could you have saturated insulation and drywall, but the Environmental Protection Agency states that mold can grow in as little as 48 hours if not resolved at the source. 

While a full inspection is necessary, doing a pre-inspection of the roof can help you know what to expect and how to make a fair offer based on necessary repairs.