As a Realtor in Saint Louis, I enjoy taking all types of buyers out to their first showing.  One of the reasons I enjoy it is because it allows me to know what I am working with.  During early consultations with buyers, both of us are trying to get to know each other, and building lines of trust.  Home buyers who have been out of the process for years will often make declarative statements about what they intend to buy.  For example “I will not pay more than $125,000 for a ranch home in Oakville.”  When I show them the available listings at that price, the force of the declaration usually fades.  We all want to set boundaries because it helps us to communicate our wants.

As we walk to the first house, I’m always looking up.  No, I’m not in prayer that this will be the house for my buyers…it hardly ever happens on the first house.  I’m looking at the roof.  These are the things I am looking for.

  • The composition of the roof. The vast majority of roofs in Saint Louis are going to be asphalt shingle.
  • The style of the roof. Are the shingles architectural or a classic style?  This can lead to some insight on the age of the roof.  Architectural shingles have dominated  sales for around 15 years, so if they aren’t, perhaps age of the roof will be an issue
  • The roof pitch. For the most part, when a house was constructed, it was all under one roof.  Along the way, a homeowner could have added a new room or porch.  If the pitch of the roof is lower than the original house, look at the roofing product.  You don’t want shingles on a flat part of the roof, and of the likely places for a roof to leak, it is going to be where two valleys join.
  • The consistency of color on the roof. If shingles have been replaced, you can usually see where because the color will be off.  There’s nothing wrong with replacing missing shingles…the disclosure should indicate a repair.  It’s good to see consistency between repair work done and how it is documented.
  • Any staining of the shingles. The shingles can have streaks or stains.  That’s pretty normal.  However, mold can grow on the shingles and degrade them at a faster rate than a roof where there is no mold.

Each house tells a story, and what you are trying to do is make sure that the story of the roof is consistent with the rest of the house.  Oddly enough, I’ve found that if the roof is in bad shape, there is a higher chance that the inside of the house is in similar condition.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the roof, our habit of looking up continues when we walk through the house.  Throughout every room, we want to be looking at the ceiling.  Here are some things we are looking for.

  • The color of the ceiling. Is the color of the ceiling consistent in the room?  Even on a white ceiling, there could have been patch work done, and it’s really hard to match paint.  The majority of homeowners will paint the whole ceiling if they patch, and if they didn’t, it’s a sign.
  • Discolorations or stains. On a white ceiling, are there any parts of it that look yellowed or have wavy lines?  This can indicate roof that is either actively leaking or a leak that has been functionally repaired but not aesthetically.
  • The location of stains. If there are little red stains in the kitchen, it could honestly be that a pot of spaghetti went crazy at some point.  That’s not an issue.  However, if there is a second floor bedroom, and there are stains below the bathroom, reasonable to ask what is going on.
  • Bubbles or peeling paint. Latex paint can get bubbles from a water leak.  If a house has a humidity or heat issue, the paint can peel.
  • The texture of the ceiling. Some people like popcorn ceilings.  Others can’t stand them.  It’s time consuming and expensive to take a home with popcorn ceilings and change them to flat.  Also, some homes have swirled texture ceilings.  Is this something you are going to want?  I once showed a house that had honeycomb shapes…It’s the only one I’ve ever seen.  My buyers weren’t interested.  The house photos online somehow managed to omit pictures of the ceiling.
  • Are there ceiling tiles? Classic sign of issues in a house is when you walk into three rooms where there is a flat ceiling, and one room with a lower ceiling that is tiles.  Why would someone willingly do that?  This could definitely be a sign that the ceiling tiles are hiding something.

Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the house if you see stains, discolorations, peeling paint, etc.  What you want to be doing is comparing the quality of the ceiling with other houses you are looking at as you determine an offer price.  All things being equal, a house with a perfect ceiling should get a better price than a house where repairs will be needed to bring the ceiling to a condition that you expect.

As you note the rooms, the layout, the furniture, the colors of the paint, the age of the bathrooms, it’s easy to forget to look at any of the ceilings.  It’s not an obvious thing to look at but one that will help you form the story of the home.  Just remember, when you are looking at homes, look up!