Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: Before we sold our house, I repaired a roof leak above the bedroom, and just to confirm that the repair was good, I climbed into the attic during the next two heavy rains. No leaking occurred. The people who bought the house hired a home inspector. He didn’t find any problems with the condition of the roof, but he disclosed the water stains in the attic and recommended further evaluation of the roof by a licensed roofing contractor. The buyers did not follow that advice and proceeded with the purchase. A few weeks later, it rained again and two roof leaks occurred. When the buyers contacted us, we asked them to get three written estimates for roof repairs. Instead, they sent us one estimate for a completely new roof. We repeated our request for three repair estimates, but they insisted that we should replace the entire roof. What do you think we should do?  Lesley

Dear Lesley: The buyers were advised by their home inspector to have the roof evaluated by a licensed roofing contractor. They chose not to follow that advice. By disregarding the inspector’s expressed recommendation, they failed to exercise due diligence and are therefore in no position to make demands at this time. By waiving the home inspector’s recommendation, they were, in effect, accepting the roof in as-is condition.

A second vital point is that their home inspector did not cite any physical damage or other observable defects on the roofing itself. He merely reported evidence of past leakage in the form of water stains in the attic. If roof replacement is necessary, that fact should have been reported by the home inspector. The lack of such disclosure indicates that the home inspector regarded the roof as needing possible repair, rather than total replacement.

Given the buyers’ acceptance of the roof as reported by their home inspector, and given the inspector’s lack of major defect disclosures, it would appear that the buyers’ demand for a new roof is unreasonable and overreaching. Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that they will not continue to pressure you for a new roof or to use legal pressure to achieve that end.

What you need at this point is a detailed written report of the roof’s condition by a qualified expert, with lots of pictures of the existing roof. It would also help to have the buyers’ home inspector reinspect the roof to see whether he will confirm or alter his original findings. If the buyers are intent upon pursuing the demand for a new roof, they should cooperate with this discovery process.