Where’s the Joy in a New Roof?

November 11, 2019

For four days straight, men swarmed the house letting off a constant barrage of what sounded like machinegun fire. My husband, DC, and I hunkered down inside yelling at each other to be heard, like two 100-year-olds. The dogs longed to run away, but couldn’t brave the hailstorm of nails flying from the roof. Flurries of drywall falling from the ceiling like snow onto the bed, counters, and floors, became the norm. The Dumpster hogging the driveway forced our cars to sleep on the street, and we sort of envied them.

As home renovations go, replacing a roof is among the noisiest, messiest, most expensive, and, frankly, least-gratifying projects. “Yippee! We’re getting a new roof,” said no one ever. No sane person would do this unless they had to. And we did.

Apparently, asphalt-shingle roofs like ours have a 15-to-20-year lifespan; ours was turning 17 and had started leaking right on schedule.

We got four estimates, all more or less the same — stratospheric.

“We could get a new swimming pool for that!” I cried, then sat down and started breathing into a paper sack to keep from hyperventilating.

“Yes,” said the level-headed DC, “but we need a new roof, one that doesn’t leak. We don’t need a swimming pool.”

That was debatable, if you asked me, but no one did.

When the workers were done, they combed the yard with a giant magnet to pick up stray nails before our feet or tires did. I stood out front and looked up at the new roof. For all that money, I expected to feel at least a twinge of satisfaction, but I felt nothing. Unlike the happy feeling I got when we had the inside of the house repainted, or the hardwood floors installed, when I looked up at our new roof, I felt zippo.

Although the new asphalt shingles are allegedly more durable, we opted for the same medium-gray color as the original shingles. So the new roof looks exactly like the old one.

Imagine my shock when the very day I experienced my non-joy reaction, I saw the new National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, which said that, according to Realtors, new roofing was the number one exterior home improvement that appealed to buyers.

What’s more, according to the report, homeowners who had recently gotten new roofs gave the project a 9.5 out of 10 on the Joy Scale.

What? Who are these people? Probably the same ones whose idea of a great time is colonoscopy followed by a brake job.

I looked more closely at the report, which examined 20 common home remodeling projects — 12 interior and eight exterior — to find not only the “joy factor” and buyer appeal, but also how much of the cost homeowners could expect to recoup.

Then, to make some sense of it all, I called Dana Bull, a Boston-based Realtor familiar with the report, and asked what she made of it.

“The roof data definitely had me scratching my head,” Bull said. “Where’s the joy in that? I thought it was a typo.”

“Thank you,” I said.

However, she added, the roof always comes up during a home sale, usually at the inspection, and it will influence the price one way or another. “The degree to which the roof can become a significant sticking point is why it rises to the top of the list of key projects.”

That was true for us. DC gently reminded me, when he tried to bring me back to my senses, such as they are, “You’ll recall, when we bought the house (two years ago) the inspector told us the roof was going to need replacing in a few years, and we factored that into our offer, which is why we got the house for the price we did.”

I had conveniently forgotten.

“You may not get more for your home because you have a new roof,” Bull said, “but you won’t get dinged for having a roof that needs replacing.” Furthermore, if you can believe the report, homeowners who replace their roofs can expect to recover 107 percent of the cost.

Sigh, fine. I’d still rather have a swimming pool.

Here are some other findings from the NAR remodeling report:

  • The spend. Americans spend $400 billion a year remodeling their homes.
  • The joy factor. After remodeling, 74 percent of homeowners report a greater desire to be in their homes. (The remaining 26 percent apparently enjoy living with workers around all the time.)
  • Inside scoop. Topping the list of interior projects that appeal to buyers (and how much sellers can expect to recoup) are complete kitchen renovations (59 percent cost recovery), kitchen upgrades (52 percent cost recovery), HVAC replacement (85 percent cost recovery), and new wood flooring (106 percent cost recovery), in that order.
  • Outside jobs. For exterior projects, after a new roof, Realtors ranked new vinyl windows (71 percent cost recovery), new vinyl siding (63 percent cost recovery) and a new garage door (95 percent cost recovery), as the improvements that appealed most to buyers.
  • Cost recovery. Overall, with a few exceptions, homeowners are not likely to recoup all they put into a project. However, the right upgrades can definitely help a house sell faster, Bull said. “Homeowners need to make improvements for their own enjoyment, not because they expect to make back all their money plus a profit. When you step into home ownership, you take on a duty to maintain. Sometimes it’s not about getting back. It’s about keeping up.”

CAPTION: Mass appeal. Complete kitchen remodels top the list of interior home improvements buyers like. But if you want to recoup more of your investment, choose neutral finishes. These red cabinets might suit you, but not all buyers will share your taste. Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com.