Should You Repair Your Roof or Sell As-Is?

Chad Dierickx is a Redfin Listing Agent in Seattle.

Damaged Roof

If your roof is beyond its useful life, then you should replace it before you sell. But there’s a lot to consider if it only needs minor repairs.

Just once, I’d like a homeowner to call me and say: “A meteorite punched a gigantic hole in my roof. Do I need to repair my roof before selling?”

Not only would that be a pretty amazing story, but I’d have a much easier time answering with: “Yes, of course you should repair that giant, gaping hole in your roof! Then again, if you market the home as a tear-down, there’s a case for not doing any work (but the property will understandably sell for less).”

Unfortunately, the average homeowner who is thinking about selling is probably trying to rationalize a roof situation that isn’t quite as clear-cut: Will replacing those shingles really factor into my home sale? Do buyers really care about that moss? Do I really need to repair my 20-year-old roof or can I sell as-is?

Those are more challenging questions to answer. If you’re wringing your hands in indecision, then read on…

What’s the big deal, anyway?

A rooftop in serious disrepair can be costly to fix and ranks pretty low on the list of “fun things to spend your money on” for any homeowner. Because a major rooftop repair can cost thousands of dollars, it easily becomes a negotiating point in a home sale. Savvy sellers know that if they don’t fix their roof (and it needs it), buyers will expect to pay less; however, there are only a few types of renovations that reliably earn every dollar back when the home does sell. This year, Remodeling Magazine reports that return on investment for a roof replacement averages 53.4% for a full replacement and 61.7% for a minor rehab.

So, how do I decide?

Your best bet is to figure out where you stand by taking stock of your home, the current market, and nearby sales activity. As with any major system in your home (electrical, plumbing, appliances, etc.), you should know everything you possibly can before listing your home for sale. Get an inspection from a local service provider before listing your home to get a clear picture of what might be an issue for potential buyers (and lenders, if there’s financing involved). If the inspection reveals there are potential issues with the roof — from minor to major — then you need to ask yourself a few more questions.

Wood shake roof

This wood shake roof is thoroughly overgrown with moss, a common problem with older wood shake roofs, especially in rainy climates.
(Photo via Robert Wittenberg and HomeFront Inspection, LLC)

What’s the damage? 

If your inspection reveals there are issues with the roof, bring in an expert to tell you how much repairs will cost. Costs can vary by provider, so it’s best to talk to two or three local roofing specialists to get a range of quotes. Knowing the cost will tell you if you can afford to take action, but also how much is reasonable to adjust the sales price by if you choose to do nothing and it factors into a buyer’s negotiation over final price.

Why would I choose to spend money on the repairs?

There is one reason you might choose to spend money on your roof: to sell your home faster. Well-maintained homes have the potential to sell faster because they show better when people tour them in-person, and that’s one less concern for the buyer to take into account.

If the useful life of your roof might come into question when you sell, pay for a roofing specialist to do a maintenance service and then certify the roof for an additional three to five years. A certification will back you against any doubts about how many years the roof has left.

What might motivate me to sell as-is?

Simply, you can’t afford the repairs or you don’t want to take the extra time. But if you choose to sell as-is, it might impact the final sales price. That’s where insight into the pace of the market and how your home compares to recent nearby sales will come in handy. The “Real Estate News & Analysis” section of the Redfin blog and the neighborhood pages on Redfin are good places to find that information. If you’re lucky and sell in a competitive market, then buyers might be more willing to overlook minor maintenance issues with the roof to win the offer and it won’t make a dent in the final sales price.

Similarly, selling as-is and pricing your home lower to compensate could work in your favor to attract multiple buyers in a bidding war. In a bidding war, buyers are more likely to inspect prior to making an offer or waive inspection altogether, and that removes the possibility that the buyer will re-negotiate the final price later. So, if you price your home at the mid-to-low range compared to other nearby homes for sale, you may not have to worry about repairs at all.

But will selling as-is factor into loan approval?

Should you decide to sell as-is, make sure it won’t block a successful close if your buyer is financing the purchase through a lender. Minor maintenance typically doesn’t factor in, but when a roof is nearing the end of its useful life or needs major repairs, a lender will commonly make the repairs a condition of loan approval. When that happens, the cost typically falls to the seller and repairs are required prior to close. Motivated buyers have been known to meet in the middle on repair costs, but don’t count on it.

Bottom line is…

If your roof is beyond its useful life (especially if it has been pummelled by a meteorite), then you should replace it before you sell. Anything less cut and dried will require additional consideration into the level of repair, cost, market conditions, comparable sales, and how quickly you want to sell.

Every situation is different, and we’d love to get your take. Are you a homeowner who sold as-is? Or did you decide to make repairs? How did your situation work out for you? Tell us about it in the comments!

Discussion

  • William Bazeley

    Great post, I would also add that buyers and sellers need to be aware that roof condition could significantly impact their property insurance coverage and rates.

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  • Christina

    I had a reputable roofing company ( GAF certified) give us a free quote and they priced our new roof at 16,000-20,000. We have to sell our home within the next 18 months and after all our seller fees (we are going to offer closing cost) we’ll be lucky to walk away with $10,000. I just can’t justify it in my head!

    • Audrey Lawrence, Redfin

      It is definitely a big ticket decision. Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Debbie Bernstein Mathosian

    I am planning on moving in the next 3-5 years. The roof has never been replaced and roofers say its in good condition. Should we just reroof over the existing roof or should we spend the extra $3000 to have the original roof removed?

    • Audrey Lawrence, Redfin

      You might want to get an inspection from a local service provider to see what issues might turn up for potential buyers. If your roof in good condition, you may only need a minor rehab.