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Home Repairs 101: Replacing Windows to Increase Resale Value

As Diana Ross sang, hope is an open window. Unless it’s open because the latch broke, and you’re trying to get your house sale-ready. Replacement windows can add resale value, but they’re not always a cost-effective option. Read on to determine if new windows are the best choice for your house.
As Diana Ross sang, hope is an open window. Unless it’s open because the latch broke, and you’re trying to get your house sale-ready. Replacement windows can add resale value, but they’re not always a cost-effective option. Read on to determine if new windows are the best choice for your house.

If eyes are the windows to the soul, then your home’s windows are windows to the… uhh… forget it. Poorly executed metaphors aside, let’s take a moment to appreciate all that windows do for us. They let in the sunlight and fresh air, boost energy efficiency, add charm to our home’s appearance, provide cats with hours of birdwatching entertainment, and act as a plot device for a classic Hitchcock thriller.

As with light bulbs, furnace filters, and hips*, windows eventually need to be replaced. Replacing your home’s windows before putting it on the market can greatly increase its value, but it’s not always the right move. Here are some examples of when it does and does not make sense to replace.

*Disclaimer: we are not orthopedic surgeons. Do not use this article as a substitute for a medical consultation.

The Pros of Replacement Windows

When are replacement windows the way to go? Well, obviously, if they’re heavily cracked or shattered into thousands of jagged shards, yes, it’s probably time for new windows. Otherwise, let’s talk about energy efficiency. We want our homes to work hard to keep heating and cooling costs down, even if we’re a sedentary log on the couch, in the middle of our second binge-watching session of the weekend (yes, we’re still watching!)

Poorly maintained windows, or those manufactured and installed after a certain time period, tend to be drafty and aren’t set up to block UV rays that overheat your home, meaning your HVAC system has to compensate like an overachieving student in a group of slackers. Replacing old windows with newer, Energy-Star qualified models could potentially save you around 15% on your monthly energy costs.

For the vast majority of potential home buyers, a house only has a few seconds to make a good first impression. Cracked panes or rotting frames are as attractive as that hunk of broccoli wedged in your prom date’s front teeth. New windows can brighten up your home’s curb appeal and set a positive tone for the rest of the showing.

Depending on your local housing market conditions, buyers might be more interested — and more willing to pay top dollar — for move-in ready or turnkey homes. Renovation projects, like new window installations, go a long way in these situations.

The Cost of Replacement

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? It always comes down to money. Window replacement isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination. With installation fees, a replacement vinyl window can cost $600 and wood windows up to $900. That’s per window. Multiply that times your entire house, and you’re looking at thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report estimates the national average job cost of replacing vinyl windows at $16,802 and wood windows at $20,526. So, if you’re hoping that the windows will pay for themselves quickly in energy cost savings, you’re going to be waiting a while.

As with most other remodelling projects, chances are slim to none that you’ll recoup 100% of the money you spend on window replacement. Remodeling Magazine’s report estimated a window replacement ROI between 71-73%. Despite the high cost, new windows may factor into a faster sale and somewhat higher price for your home.

When Not to Replace

It’s hard not to be amazed at the craftsmanship of older homes. Built by hand with unique character and intricate designs, they’re remnants of an era when, with proper care, things were made to last. That includes the windows, and according to this Forbes article, some people are really, really passionate about old windows.

The gist of it is, if your home was built before 1960 and has its original windows, don’t replace them. Like everything else in those days, windows in historical homes are meant to be repaired and rebuilt. Their distinctiveness is so closely tied to the house as a whole that installing mass-produced vinyl windows will stick out like a bevy of sore thumbs.

In situations where a house is being sold as-is or to flip, with the new buyers assuming responsibility for renovation and repairs, window replacements are an illogical choice.

Other Options

Unless your windows clearly (yes, pun intended) are beyond repair, or the home buyer has negotiated it as part of the sale, in most cases, a full replacement isn’t the most efficient use of time or funds, and won’t increase your home’s value enough to offset the high costs.

Consider repairing your existing windows. Latches and hinges can be cleaned and polished, weather stripping plugs gaps in the sash and prevents drafts (say that five times fast), and cracked panes can be replaced.

Renew wooden trim by filling cracks with epoxy putty, and giving them a fresh coat of paint. Most home improvement stores sell window film, some with decorative patterns, that block UV rays. The best news? These repairs can be done for a fraction of the cost of replacement, around $20 per window.

The amount of work you put into your windows — and everything else — depends on local market trends and what buyers are looking for. An experienced real estate agent can guide you on which improvements will help your home sell faster and for a higher price. Get in touch with Clever today for a no-obligation consultation with top real estate agents in your area.

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Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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