Is it stupid to not accept a (potential) free new roof?
February 4, 2020 10:17 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are buying a house. We are currently in inspection negotiations. It needs a new roof, a new sewer line and some other things. It also needs cosmetic work, like new floors and a bathroom renovation. But recently, we found out the the roof is not really but kinda under warranty and we could get it replaced...

We asked for the sellers to fix the sewer line and also a mix of a lower sales price and credits for the roof remaining stuff the house needs. The owners basically did nothing to the house in the 20+ years they lived there. We are walking into this with plenty of cash on hand to take care of minor stuff and all the cosmetic updating we want, and we could do the roof once we sell our current home easily. Our current closing date is mid February and we planned to take a month (if needed) for the cosmetic work and then move in in March.

However, the roof shingles are defective and although it is a few years out of the manufacturer warranty, the roofing company that installed the roof claims that they spoke to the manufacturer about it and it is a known defect that they will fix. It would be a (probably) free roof for us! The catch is that they will only do the replacement for the original owner of the roof and not us. And just the processing of the claim for the defect will take 4-5 weeks and then it will be up to the roofing company's schedule when they can do the roof replacement. They estimate at least 60 days until it would be finished, pushing our closing date back at least two months and meaning it would be at least 3 months until we move in. AND it does NOT seem like a guarantee to me that the manufacturer would approve the claim anyway, meaning that we may be wasting our time for a month. (The inspector thought the roof looked like the roof had been power washed and the owners did admit to washing it but not POWER washing it).

The roof quotes we got were to the tune of $17k. When we were formulating our response, we were fine with spending this money because it meant we could spend a little extra to install some much needed skylights in rooms that were low on windows.

Is it stupid to just... say no to this free major expense? Please talk some sense into us. Please also feel free to tell us this is fine. If you have any related experience with roofing stuff with buying a house, that is acceptable as well.
posted by ancient star to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Think about yourselves five years from now. You're well-settled into the house, and life hands you another major disaster, as life does. Do you want to have that 17K in your savings, or not have that 17K in your savings? I know you're anxious, buying a house is the worst, most heartburn inducing thing ever. But I don't see anything here in your reasoning that says you shouldn't wait. A month of waiting will seem like nothing, at that point.

What are your expenses currently? How much will it cost you to wait?
posted by backwards compatible at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think it's quite strange for a shingle manufacturer to cover both labor and parts for a warranty repair and not derate the cost for the already used portion of the roof's lifetime. A more typical warranty would progressively decrease coverage over the useful life of the roof. For instance, if it is a 30 year warranty and the previous owners had it for 25 years, the warranty would cover only 16.7% of the cost of a replacement. Further, labor to replace the roof is generally not included by the shingle manufacturer.

If the roofing company is correct, then the shingle manufacturer is going so far outside the normal bounds of a warranty that I'd think something is quite defective with the roof - to the point of it possibly not being habitable or safe. I would think you would be able to find out about this in the news, so it might be useful to do a broad search for the type of shingle you have.

I think it's more likely that the roofing company is just drumming up work. They know that if they get you to delay the sale, that as time goes on, you will be more and more likely to pay full price for a roof replacement in order to close the sale. You've already indicated that you're willing to pay full price for a roof replacement, so they have you "hooked". However, on the off chance the roofing company is correct, I think you should get a second opinion in case the roof is not safe to use. I would not believe that a shingle manufacturer would offer a full replacement of a 20+ year old roof including labor expenses for anything other than a potentially disastrous situation.
posted by saeculorum at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify:

- The roof is just out of the manufacturer's warranty and should have had another 10-20 years on it. All of the roofing companies AND the inspector said it had only a year or so of life left. This is why I mentioned the power washing thing, and my suspicion that it would maybe not be covered after all. There's no sign of water damage that anyone could find.
- The shingle manufacturer WOULD only cover 80% of the replacement cost (yes, including labor, apparently) and the seller would pay the rest. It would be free to us, not free in general.
- The seller is working with the roofing company. Our quotes were from somewhere else. Most of this is second or thirdhand.
posted by ancient star at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2020

It's even more strange for a shingle manufacturer to pay for replacement out of warranty. The offer is bizarre. I would not trust it.

I modify my suspicion to the roofing company drumming up business with the seller. The seller will be progressively more and more interested in paying for the replacement in order to sell the home - especially if home sale becomes contingent on roof replacement.
posted by saeculorum at 10:40 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Shingle warranties only pay homeowners when the shingles are found to have a manufacturer's defect -- an occurrence that is so rare, Talley has never seen this happen during his twenty years in the business. David Vincent, product manager at David D. Deschaine Installations in Portland, Maine, says their company has never had a successful warranty claim for the CertainTeed shingles they install. [...] Most roofs that fail during the warranty period do so because they were installed incorrectly. [...] Even if you are one of the rare homeowners whose roof fails due to defective shingles, getting reimbursed for a dozen bad shingles won't take the edge off the cost of repairing your roof. The shingles are not the most expensive part of any roofing job -- the labor is. Shingles account for only about 10-20% of the total cost of a repair job or a new roof. Other materials are needed, such as roofing cement, flashing, nails or screws, and underlayment, but labor is the largest expense by far. A warranty that covers replacement shingles, but not labor, may be worth only a few hundred dollars of the thousands needed to repair or replace your roof.
posted by saeculorum at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would only take the "free roof" if I was able to independently collaborate that the manufacturer would, in fact, pay out as expected. It is simply too bizarre. Can you get the name of the roofing product manufacturer, and the name of the product that's on the roof? If so, you could call the manufacturer and try to validate the story (and the important details).

My gut instinct is that you'd be well served to forget about this "free roof", take possession of the house, and hire another firm to put a new roof on it later this year.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2020

For $17K I'd definitely pursue this. That's a chunk of money.
posted by fshgrl at 11:22 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

When we were formulating our response, we were fine with spending this money because it meant we could spend a little extra to install some much needed skylights in rooms that were low on windows.

Why is this mutually exclusive with having the current owners replace the roof? Sure, it's going to be easier to do when the roof is being redone, but I can't imagine that it's impossible to do after the fact. $17k can buy lots of skylights, I'd think.
posted by Aleyn at 11:24 AM on February 4, 2020

I'm wondering if this roof is part of the CertainTeed Class Action Lawsuit, which does do cash payouts even for shingles out of warranty. If they are, you will want to have the homeowner do this.
posted by anastasiav at 11:36 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

$17k may buy a lot of skylights, but the 10% cut of $42.7million available from one of the crown princes of Saudi arabia could buy even more skylights! And all you need to do is supply the bank account/info briefly so they can get the money out of the country.

Which is to say all of this is so beyond the norm that I think the roofing company is trying to get the buyer into a spot where they agree to the work, where the roofer will then be able to get a lein on the house when the shingle supplier is (surprisingly) not paying the other 80%. What about timing; check local laws if a lein can be placed upon a house that's recently sold where the previous occupant racked up the bill?

Even consider this 20% that the shingle company isn't covering - why is the homeowner taking this on themselves for a house they're about to exit? Did you mention a concession of some sort re: price or is the homeowner just gifting you this on their way out? Hey, what's $2-4k between complete strangers who will never see each other again?
posted by nobeagle at 11:37 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Are you financing the new home? If so, the lender is likely going to require that the roof be repaired before escrow closes.
posted by summerstorm at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2020

I’d cut through the what if’s and tell the owner that you’ll only buy the house if it’s fixed by him on his own dime (in whatever way he can swing, this isn’t your issue to navigate). Once it’s fixed, then you buy. I wouldn’t take any of this on yourself. Right now it’s his house, his problem. If you buy it unrepaired based on a scammy promise then it becomes your $17k problem and I’d rather see the money in your bank account. It also makes me wonder what other surprises you’re going to find. I don’t trust any of it now.
posted by Jubey at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

It smells to me, I don't have a reasoning but just instinct. I'd go with summerstorm's and Jubey's responses. Don't take this on yourself, make it the seller's problem.
posted by matildaben at 4:03 PM on February 4, 2020

The current owners don't want to deal with this either probably. Can you negotiate down the price of the house by say $8k? That way they get to close faster, and you can justify spending a bit extra to get the skylights you want. It sounds like that would be a win for both sides.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thank you for everyone's thoughtful responses. I had a feeling the (not actual) warranty might be too good to be true. Their response deadline was last night and they requested an extension while they wait for the sewer line quote they had someone out for yesterday. But based on the convo our agent had with theirs, it sounds like they are moving forward with the roof replacement. Which immediately made sense to me because they would just be getting a check from Certainteed, and the roof needs replacing either way so why wait? For whatever reason everyone suggested that they would wait before starting that work until after the claim was processed!

The seller is an older woman whose husband passed away recently. It does sound like she is being reasonable/honest but is just caught by surprise with a lot of this stuff. The roof should have lasted a lot longer and they also had someone out in October for a back up who did not do a full scope but only looked at the one backing up pipe and saw that it was "fine".

I'll come back and update once we get the final word.
posted by ancient star at 5:48 AM on February 5, 2020

As a matter of general principle, I would favor getting some cash in hand (via a price reduction or whatever) and closing quickly versus drawing out the process in the hope of getting the free roof repair. Delaying the closing increases the risk of something going wrong with the deal, such as some hiccup with your financing or some problem with the seller being willing/able to sign. You also take on the risk of the roof project getting delayed or being done poorly or whatever (are these the people that you would hire to do a new roof?). Cash in hand, even if less than $17k, is a lot more certain and gets you your deal done.
posted by Mid at 10:21 AM on February 6, 2020

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