Virtually anyone can call themselves a roofer, so choose carefully

Whether you need a new roof, or just need repairs, this is the peak time to get the job done. Just be careful about which roofer you choose to do the work, because virtually anyone can call themselves a roofer.

A lot of people don't know that you simply must pay for your state license, get bonded and buy insurance and you're pretty much set. Which is why it's critical to investigate before you hire. And if you're buying a house, be careful about letting the seller take care of any roof work that needs to be done.

Yugo Sato just had to replace the roof on the house he bought 2 years ago. The sellers agreed to pay for a new roof as part of the purchase agreement, but experts say the roof was done on the cheap.

The result: leaks, cracks and water damage. Based on customer ratings that he researched in, Sato got three bids and hired a new roofer to replaced his roof. Contractor Aaron Santas says when the roof is an issue during a real estate purchase, home buyers need to be especially careful when the seller agrees to replace a roof.

Keep in mind, the goal of most sellers is to get as much money out of their home as possible, and spend as little as necessary fixing the home up to put it on the market.

"The inspector finds a problem. And now it's holding up a sale, and they scurry to get a roof done very quickly in order to get the sale to go through," explained Santas.

"I think they're just want to find the cheapest option possible," Sato said of the people who sold the house to him and his wife and their two young daughters.

Unfortunately, homeowners often make the same mistake when they hire contractors to work on the home they're still living in. So whether you need a brand new roof or just repairs, do your homework.

"Get at least three bids. Don't get estimates, don't get a handshake, 'Oh, it'll be around this much.' Get it all in writing. Get every detail there could possibly be in writing," said Executive Editor Kevin Brasler.

Checkbook is a non-profit consumer rating service that provides extensive advice, and ratings based on feed back from its own subscribers, and subscribers of Consumer Reports.

Make sure the contractor is licensed and bonded and check for customer reviews and complaints. Remember- virtually anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a roofer.

"There's no testing. There's no qualifications, no one comes out and looks at your work and that's not just for roofing, that's also for being a homebuilder," Santas emphasized.

And if the roof is an issue when you're buying a home, factor in the cost of replacement or repairs as part of your purchase offer then, you hire the roofer of your choice after the sale is complete.

And remember, the lowest bid doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the best work, but the highest best doesn't guarantee the best work either. You have to do your homework. Get recommendations from friends and neighbors you trust. Confirm the license, check with the State Department of Labor and Industries for claims against the contractor, and used unbiased customer rating services like to check local customer reviews.