Should I get a roof certification?

Home inspections are a critical part of the home buying process, and one of the thorniest inspection issues can be a worn-out roof. Roof replacement is one of the most expensive home repairs, and mortgage lenders are not fond on making a loan for homes that have marginal roofing.

Buyers want a reliable roof

shinglesIf you are selling your house and the roof has reached the “end of its useful life,” the easiest strategy to prepare your home for sale is to get a new roof. Few buyers are going to want to face an expense that can range from $8k-$30k in the first years of ownership. You can get rid of inspection headaches by addressing the issue before you sell.

Estimating when a roof will fail is an inexact science

Home inspectors are a fairly cautious bunch, and signs of roof wear are pretty easy to see. On a composition roof, the loss of granules is quite obvious, exposing the underlying fiberglass mat. When it is worn out, it is only a matter of time before the roof begins to leak. Predicting exactly when that will happen is impossible to say. Your inspector may say 1-2 years, another roofer says 3 years and yet another roofer may say this year. The roof isn’t going to leak spontaneously all over, but it will eventually fail.

Lenders won’t loan on a bad roof

If the appraiser walks up to the house and it is visually obvious from the ground that the home needs a new roof, your appraisal is going to be issued “contingent on roof replacement or satisfactory roof certification” Said another way, the lender will not make the loan until it is replaced or certified to last for a certain number of years, typically 3 years or so.

The same thing can happen during your inspection negotiations if the lender is made aware of a faulty, worn-out roof. This situation leaves the buyer and seller with only two options to get the loan closed. Either the roof gets replaced or the roof gets certified.

What is a roof certification?

A roof certification is essentially a form of warranty issued by a roofing contractor. It states that they have inspected (and possibly repaired) the roof, and they certify that it will last another 3 years given its current condition. In reality, it is less of a warranty and more of a maintenance plan for the roof. Every company I’ve seen that issues these documents states that the certification is only valid if you pay them to come out and inspect/repair the roof on an annual basis.

Should you get a roof certification

I’ve gone through the roof certification process to get past a loan approval issue. What I found is that many highly-reputable roofers will not even issue certifications. That should give you a pretty clear indication of how much confidence such a certification will give you. Some roofers will certify a roof, but do so with a thorough inspection so they aren’t guaranteeing something that is bound to leak soon. Yet other roofers will certify anything, provided you pay the a few hundred bucks for the report and let them do some minor repairs.

A roof certification can be a useful tool that a seller and buyer use to get a home through closing, but the “warranty” that they provide is pretty much a bunch of hooey. Buyers need to recognize that it doesn’t change the fact that the roof is worn and in need of replacement. Sellers also need to recognize that it doesn’t improve the product that they are selling, and they still need to price the home accordingly, given the condition of the roof.

Roof replacement is always a better option than roof certification, provided you can make the economics work.