Windows are arguably a very important part of any home. In fact, renowned interior designer Rose Tarlow said they are the eyes to the soul of a home. As a property investor considering whether it's time to replace windows, though, your eyes are focused firmly on your bottom line when it comes to home renovation projects. So let's take a look at whether new windows are worth the investment.
More than a view to the outside world
While the views can increase the value of a home in and of itself, windows do much more than simply allow you to see outside. Windows permit natural light and ventilation into a space. Energy-efficient windows save money season after season by keeping more of the cooled or heated air inside. And depending on the style, windows can provide an interesting aesthetic to both the home's interior and exterior.
How much do windows cost?
Windows come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Their prices can also range greatly depending on the glass and materials used to create the frames, which include vinyl, wood, aluminum, fiberglass, or composite. For the sake of this discussion, we'll be focusing on replacement windows for an existing home, not windows for new construction.
According to Home Advisor, replacement windows can cost anywhere from $300 to $2,100 each. The average cost is $850 per window, and installation makes up $100-300 of that total per window. The materials used to create the window will drive up or down the cost, with aluminum on the lower end of the scale and fiberglass on the higher end. Vinyl replacement windows are by far the most popular choice given their durability and energy efficiency that comes at a more modest cost.
Another consideration when purchasing windows is the number of panes. Double-pane windows are typically a good bet for most homes, as they are energy efficient and can keep out most of the noise. Triple-pane windows take those capabilities up a notch, but just because they're the best doesn't mean they are the best choice for your property. When determining whether you should go double or triple pane, consider both the regional climate and the local noise level. For example, triple-pane windows in an area known for cold, wet weather would be beneficial, and they might also be a good choice in a crowded city with tons of street noise. But if your property is in a milder climate in the quieter suburbs, double-pane windows will do just fine.
Keep in mind that window replacement does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. To save money, a homeowner can replace only those windows that need it the most, or perhaps add an attractive bay window in the front of the home for added curb appeal. For the sake of energy efficiency, new caulking or weatherstripping on older windows might do the trick.
The value of new windows
Remodeling Magazine's 2021 Cost vs. Value Report evaluated both wood and vinyl window replacement. To replace 10 3 x 5 foot double-hung windows with more energy efficient, low-E (low emissivity) versions would cost $23,219 for wood windows, with a return on investment of 67.4%. To do the same with vinyl replacement windows, it would cost $19,385 with an ROI of 68.6%. While this does mark an increase in window prices and a decrease in ROI from the previous year because of product and labor shortages during the pandemic, investors can still recoup a good portion of the costs.
Keep in mind, too, that while top-of-the-line windows certainly have their place in the luxury real estate market, it's not necessary to bust your budget on high-end specialty windows for more modest properties. Of course, it goes without saying that broken windows should be addressed. Not only are they an eyesore, but they will lead to higher energy bills and even security issues.
At the very least, if you're looking to sell a property, make sure all of your windows are in working order for a smoother sale. Case in point: When my husband and I were negotiating the contingencies of our own home purchase, we asked for a cracked basement window to be replaced. The house had been sitting on the market for a while, and so the owner was eager to comply with our wishes.
The bottom line
While windows do enhance the aesthetics of a home, they also serve more important and practical purposes, such as providing ventilation and conserving energy. For an investor looking to increase a property's value, it pays to consider installing new windows.