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A Real Estate-Realtor Times reader from Ohio asks:

"I have searched the Internet extensively and have not been able to find an answer, so, can a home be sold by law with a damaged roof? The reason I ask is the owners are trying to sell the house "as is" and I have been told that you cannot sell a home with a faulty roof."

My immediate reaction is that I know of no law that says you can't sell a house with a faulty roof. I know, however, that you cannot sell a house without disclosing to the buyer that the roof is faulty.

If the seller tells the buyer that the roof is faulty and then the seller says that the house is being sold "as is," the buyer has the option of agreeing or walking away from the sale.

When I sold my house in 2001, I filled out a state-mandated disclosure form. In that form, I stated that sections of the roof of my house were about 80 years old, that other parts were newer and that I had tried to keep the roof in good repair and to the best of my knowledge, the roof had no leaks.

I also told the prospective buyers that they had the option of hiring a home inspector or professional roofer to give the roof a good going over, and that any necessary repairs would be negotiable.

I gave them two options: If roof repairs were required, I would, after negotiation, either have the problems repaired myself or I would reduce the asking price of the house by whatever I considered the most reasonable bid for those repairs.

There were seven bidders. The successful one accepted that the statements I made on my disclosure form were true to the best of my knowledge and actually -- and against my strenuous recommendations -- did without a home inspection.

Old roofs are prone to leaks for a variety of reasons, and even a thorough going over by the best professional roofer might be able to successfully predict where the next one will occur.

But as far as it being illegal to sell a house with a faulty roof, my answer is, it is news to me. If you, as a seller, know the roof is faulty and then sell the house as is without disclosing the problem, you should be prepared to spend time in court.

When the typical roof leaks, the solutions are easy: If you're handy, you get out the ladder and the shingles or roof tar. If you're not, you grab the Yellow Pages. Roofs of modern houses are usually made of asphalt or fiberglass-reinforced asphalt shingles. They can last 25 years, are readily available, and are easily repaired or replaced.

But a lot of roofs of very old houses can actually be a series of roofs of different materials, including slate and tin. So repairing it is all the more difficult and expensive.

Many older houses were designed on paper, and a lot of times, the architects had little knowledge of how water would flow in rainstorms.

As houses changed hands, succeeding owners might not have had the financial resources of the original ones. So they took shortcuts. For example, when leaks appeared in galvanized metal roofs, many homeowners coated the tin with asphalt.

Asphalt wasn't an ideal choice to begin with: Sulfur in asphalt attacks metals, creating an acidic reaction that accelerates rust.

Tin will last indefinitely if it is painted every five to seven years with a primer that is 50 percent linseed oil and 50 percent iron oxide, roofing experts say.

When roofs are properly maintained, the system works. But, as many sellers find when they put their house on the market, deferred maintenance can cost a bundle.

Remember that the source of a roof leak is usually not all that obvious. Sometimes, roofers have to come back again and again because they repair the obvious and don't look for the real cause.

Enough on old roofs, and now back to complete disclosure. Any real estate agent worth his or her salt will tell you that "disclose, disclose, disclose" is as important to the future of a seller as "location, location, location" is to a buyer.

The number-one source of litigation in home transactions has been the failure to disclose property defects. The era of caveat emptor -- let the buyer beware -- is over. Agents need to spend more than a couple of minutes convincing the seller that his or her failure to disclose such defects will come back to haunt them.

Disclosure is often state law. In states where disclosure is not mandated, many major real estate brokerages provide disclosure forms.

Your agent should insist that you as the seller disclose everything and tell the complete truth. If a buyer has a question about anything, the buyer should seek professional advice.

It may seem like a cop-out on your agent's part. It isn't. It is simply good business, for the seller, the agent and the buyer.

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