You don’t have to look far in Johnson County to see whole neighborhoods with housetops clad in wood shakes. Its textured, natural look has been a favorite among high-end developers for years, giving homes a more distinctive look—at a much higher cost—than the usual composition shingles. And until recently, many of the homeowner associations established by these developers mandated the use of wood shakes when replacing a roof. This insured that rooftops in a given neighborhood would retain a uniform and upscale appearance. Unfortunately, that’s about the only kind of insurance you’ll get with wood shakes today, because a growing number of insurance companies now routinely refuse to write new policies for them.
According to Mike Hasty, an agent with Johnson County-based brokerage Key Insurance Partners, several companies will write policies for homes with wood shakes, but only if they are ten years old or newer. If the roof is older or in need of repair, options are limited, which causes rates and deductibles to skyrocket. And for houses that have a newer layer of composition shingles over wood shakes? “You’re not going to get it insured,” says one agent flatly.
“Companies are getting stricter with their underwriting guidelines in general,” says LeAnn Crow of the Kansas Insurance Department. An increase in storm damage has made insurance companies wary, with the Joplin tornado of 2011 the most dramatic example. Costing nearly $3 billion worth of damage, it is the most expensive tornado to date in the U.S. The insurance industry responded with tighter guidelines and higher rates, with homeowners seeing increases of up to 30% over the past two years.
Because the insurance implications of buying or selling a home with a wood shake roof can be considerable, homeowners and house hunters alike need to safeguard themselves by getting educated on this topic before they begin the process of buying or selling.
If sellers own a home with a wood shake roof, particularly a roof that is ten years or older, they should consider replacing it before putting the house on the market. By doing so, they turn a disadvantage into a selling point. Buyers, on the other hand, need to take the condition, age and type of roof into consideration during the negotiation process. Are there multiple layers? If there is wood shake under composition shingles, it’s important to find out how much a total roof replacement will cost--including the roof decking, which is different for composition shingles than for wood shakes--and factor that into the price of the home.
Insurance standards change from year to year, and keeping informed of the implications is the best way to keep your home investment secure. Call me for more information about roofing and other insurance implications.