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Replacing roof, or not, can be deal breaker for sale

Q: I’m selling my house, and we just got inspections done. It turns out the roof is older than we thought and the buyer is asking me to replace it. What should I do?

I didn’t really plan on spending this much on the house, but I want to sell it. Should I let this buyer go and start over with someone else?

A: The inspection portion of the process can be painful. Repairs you didn’t even know needed to be done come up on the report, and unless you are selling your house at a steep discount, most buyers will expect you to fix a good portion of the repairs needed.

Only you can decide what to do. But I do want to give some things to consider.

If you’re selling your house to someone who is going to live in it and it’s not a short sale or being sold “as is,” then a buyer has a reasonable expectation of things working and the house being relatively well maintained. So, if something is not working, you should expect to fix it. If you’ve neglected some maintenance items (cleaning gutters, painting, stucco …) you should plan to fix it.

The roof falls under a maintenance item. If it’s very old, but in good shape, you might be able to get away with doing some basic repairs and giving the buyer a credit at closing. Then they can get the roof replaced when the time comes.

However, if the roof is so old that’s it’s likely to fail at any time, a buyer might expect you to replace it before closing.

Figuring out what the buyer wants and what you’re willing to do is only one aspect of the roof issue. The other one is the appraisal. If your buyer is getting a mortgage, whether it’s a conventional, FHA or VA, the appraiser is going to examine the roof.

The appraiser might request what’s called a “three year certificate” if they feel the roof is in disrepair or is really old. This is when a licensed roofer comes out to the house and certifies that the roof will last for at least the next three years. If they cannot or will not certify it, then the lender would require the roof to be replaced.

So, all of that to say, if you want to sell your house and you figure out it’s going to need a new roof to sell to someone getting a mortgage, you might be better off just replacing the roof.

Even if that’s not the case, you’ll have to disclose everything you learned about the house to new buyers (if you let this buyer go) and they may very well offer you less money because of the roof. Plus, if you have a mortgage on the house, you’ll be paying for that while you wait for a new buyer.

So, whatever you decide, remember your goal is to sell the house. Weigh the pros and cons and make a decision, but generally speaking, it’s better to negotiate with the buyer you have rather than risk waiting for a new buyer to come along. Who knows, they might just ask for all of the sale repairs anyway.

Talia Freedman is a Realtor with Signature Southwest Properties.

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