In some ways, searching for a fixer-upper is harder than looking for a home that's move-in ready. You have to decide what flaws you're okay with and are willing to repair, and which are beyond your scope. One questionable issue you may come across is a sagging roof. If you were looking for a pristine home to live in, you would certainly walk away. But as someone who is handy and who has plans to fix up the home, you might still want to consider the purchase. You should, however, proceed with caution, while keeping the information below in mind.
Causes of a Sagging Roof
When a roof begins to sag, it is because the wood that underlays the shingles has begun to decay and crack. It is no longer supporting the weight of the shingles. There are several reasons this can occur, and you should really deduce which one is at fault before agreeing to buy a home with a sagging roof.
Poor Roof Maintenance
This is the most common cause of roof sagging. The roof probably needed to be replaced several years ago when the shingles began to deteriorate, but the homeowners did not replace it. As a result, moisture kept seeping through the shingles and into the wood underneath until the wood began to decay and rot. If poor maintenance is to blame, you should carefully assess the attic and top floor for water damage — there probably is some, and it can quickly add to your repair costs.
If the roof was replaced within the last 20 years or so, then the roof may be deteriorating due to the use of bad roofing materials. This is actually your best-case scenario, since you may be able to contact the company that made the shingles and file a complaint. They may cover part of the cost to repair the sagging roof.
If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, a sagging roof may indicate that too much snow has been allowed to pile up on the roof in the past. The weight of the snow has caused some of the wood underlaying the roof to crack. This is a precarious situation that you should probably have a structural engineer look at before you agree to buy the home. It's possible that the roof's layout will make sagging and cracking likely even if you replace the roof.
Determining If a Sagging Roof Is Safe
A sagging roof can be repaired, but the bigger questions are whether you want to invest the money to have the repairs made — and whether you can live in the home until those repairs are made. Sagging roofs can be very unsafe. They are often at risk of collapse if you get any snow or if there are high winds.
Have a roofing contractor come look at the roof and assess its safety. If they feel the roof is unstable, consider trying to negotiate with the seller to have the roof replaced before you take ownership of the home. Or, you could buy the home as-is and have the roof replaced after closing, but before you move in. In any case, replacing the sagging roof should be the first repair you endeavor in this home — not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure water damage does not negate any other work you put in.
Keep in mind that fixing a sagging roof costs more than a traditional re-roofing. The roofing company will have to replace the wooden roof platform — not just the shingles — and this takes a lot more time and materials.
If you get a great deal on a home with a sagging roof, it might be worth making the (expensive) repairs. However, you should approach this situation knowing that the roof is likely dangerous and will probably leak excessively until it's replaced.