New windows before house sale?
April 10, 2005 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm fixing up my house to sell mid- to late summer; refinishing wood floors, etc. It's gotten so that I've realized that the one huge detractor that could quash buyers' interest in the house is the windows. Should I replace before sale?

The windows in question are peeling down to bare wood in many (!) noticeable (!) places; many are missing their 'matching' screen windows. They're an eyesore, really. However, replacing with halfway decent stuff would be very spendy. We don't want to ask a real estate agent because then they'd pester us until we were finally ready to sell, and that's still months away. Advice?
posted by clever sheep to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
 
I'm not a real estate agent, but it seems that in the current market, you could sell a home that was literally on fire and still have two or more bidders duking it out for the right to buy.

So I'd opt for selling it with the windows as-is, or, at the most, with a fresh coat of paint on the most noticeable spots.

Almost everybody gets a pre-sale inspection these days and the buyer will be well aware of the condition of the windows and the cost of replacement. Just factor that into your asking price.

Plus, it's a pain to finally get your home in decent shape just to hand it over to someone else.
posted by baltimore at 1:59 PM on April 10, 2005


I'm not a real estate agent, but it seems that in the current market, you could sell a home that was literally on fire and still have two or more bidders duking it out for the right to buy.

I am a real estate agent, and the market isn't like that at all in my area. If it's like that near you, baltimore may have a good point. But based on my area I'd say replace the windows. You don't get a second chance to make a good impression, and curb appeal is a much, much bigger part of a sale than, frankly, it has any logical right to be.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:04 PM on April 10, 2005


Peeling down to bare wood isn't a problem, but deterioration of the wood, or other frame materials themselves would be. It sounds like you just need a coat of paint. If you want to go all out, strip the windows and then repaint them. I think screens can be replaced without replacing the entire window.

Plus, it's a pain to finally get your home in decent shape just to hand it over to someone else.

Certainly. However, some fix-ups actually provide a return on the investment greater than what you paid to do them. Generally, that's limited to paint and other new finishes.
posted by LionIndex at 2:08 PM on April 10, 2005


Having been watching a lot of The House Doctor lately, I've learned that 1) things that look like they are in bad shape and costly to repair can have a severe negative impact on your ability to sell and 2) buyers are incredibly gullible so you don't have to spend a fortune to fix everything.

I would replace the screens (screen is really cheap). Also sand the windows right down to the wood and then paint them. Ask the paint store for advice about which paint is most appropriate and make sure you tape them carefully. Bad windows are a huge turn off, but people won't necessarily notice them if they are freshly and neatly painted, clean, and have nice new screens.

Also, I advise taking a real estate agent's advice over mine ;)
posted by carmen at 2:17 PM on April 10, 2005


Going further, if you really want to replace the windows, you should consider how that will be done. Many companies now sell "replacement windows", which fit into your existing window openings. The downside to these is that since they're taking the opening you've already got, the overall window opening will be smaller after installation. I've only heard of replacement windows being made in vinyl, which is quite a downgrade from wood windows. That doesn't mean there aren't companies that will do it in wood, though. Real wood windows come at a much higher price point, so take that into consideration.

The other way to do it is to really replace the windows, which, in addition to the cost of the windows themselves, requires a lot of patching of finishes on the exterior and interior. Again vinyl and aluminum are cheap but not so great looking compared to wood.
posted by LionIndex at 2:20 PM on April 10, 2005


If the windows were stripped to bare wood, would they not be attractive?

A home with well-built, finished wooden windows would command a modest premium from me (as a potential buyer).
posted by Kwantsar at 2:24 PM on April 10, 2005


Are you going to use a real estate agent? My experience is that s/he will go though the home with you and offer suggestions to help make the place more sellable, like repainting the walls, rearranging the furniture to make it feel more open, etc. You should ask him/her about the windows, as s/he will know the specific market.
posted by rhapsodie at 2:24 PM on April 10, 2005


Also, you should be able to inexpensively retain a handyman to fix/replace your screens. It's not difficult, and it shouldn't be expensive.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:26 PM on April 10, 2005


If the windows were stripped to bare wood, would they not be attractive?

Yes, but (depending on the species of wood used) they don't hold up to weather well. If you're using mahogany or teak ($$$$!!!!!), go nuts. Pine or Doug fir will need to be treated and coated somehow. Obviously, this is really only a concern for the exterior finish--the interior is probably okay to just leave as wood, maybe with a clear sealer.
posted by LionIndex at 2:43 PM on April 10, 2005


Please don't replace your nice old wood windows with crappy vinyl or metal windows.
posted by Nelson at 2:51 PM on April 10, 2005


Please don't replace your nice old wood windows with crappy vinyl or metal windows.

Yep. What he said.

On a more modern house, installing newer (energy efficient) windows may actually increase the sales price of the house.

On an older house (I'd even say anything pre-WWII) its quite possible that you'll lose buyers if you replace double hung windows with modern vinyl replacement windows.

Stripping, sanding, reglazing, repainting, rehanging windows -- time consuming and tedious, but not really expensive or hard.
posted by anastasiav at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2005


Yes, people are WAY to quick to replace wooden windows, that have tons of character and usually just need some elbow grease, with crappy-looking vinyl replacements. Worst of all is when the new windows are smaller than the opening and they put some ugly filler around them. If I were buying your house I would rather see the original windows--though my wife would prefer the replacements.

Not that you want to tackle disassembling, stripping, reglazing, etc. yourself in a house you are about to sell. Paint what you have and let the new buyer make her decision.
posted by LarryC at 3:27 PM on April 10, 2005


Also, I advise taking a real estate agent's advice over mine ;)

However, this real estate agent emphasizes it is REALLY hard to judge this over the net. Has much to do with condition, modern v. 'classic' home, etc. Use your own judgement after reading this thread (duh).

Like rhapsodie, I highly recommend you get a local agent to look at your home despite your concerns. I'll be honest with you, I know if you told me you'd be selling in six months, you'd hear from me briefly a few times in the interim. But no one knows how to sell a home better than a real estate agent, and the good ones understand that if they help you now without being a pain, you'll remember them when the time comes.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:52 PM on April 10, 2005


I wish you worked the MSP market, JKF!

Thanks all -- I appreciate that this is something where it's really hard to judge without seeing the actual house and windows. Not to mention appreciating the sheer number of windows we're talking about here.... Elbow grease or vinyl replacements, I tell ya, there's going to be some righteous pain either way.
posted by clever sheep at 4:02 PM on April 10, 2005


What tends to deter buyers (in my opinion; my wife and I have bought three houses in the past seven years) isn't so much eyesores, per se, but rather things that will take a lot of effort to fix, including finding the right person to fix them. So, for example, if you have a bid from a local contractor to replace the windows and put in new screens, at a cost of $X thousands, and you had a positive recommendation for the contractor, that might be enough.

Other thoughts:

-- eyesores and other issues with houses (e.g., fewer than normal number of bathrooms) tend to lengthen the time on market, until the right buyer comes along. (The alternative is to reduce the price of the house such that it's a bargain, which is more expensive, generally, than just fixing the problem.)

-- If you spend (say) $5,000 to fix the problem, you'll probably only get $2,000 or $3,000 more for the house than if you left it as is.

-- If you have to guess at what the buyers might like (wood, vinyl, double-paned, type of screen?) then there is a good chance you'll get it wrong, including too cheap or too expensive.

-- Real estate agents really will back off if you tell them to. "We're thinking of selling this is several months; you're one of several agents I'm considering using; I'd like your advice now; we don't want to be contacted until June 1st about putting the house on the market; after we've talked about the windows, if you call to ask about the listing, it will definitely count against you when we make our choice."
posted by WestCoaster at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2005


I'm going to put in another vote for NOT replacing the wood windows if it is a pre-WWII house that is aesthetically pleasing. We bought this monstrous fixer upper that had a lot of other problems specifically because the owner HADN'T messed with many of the original aspects of the house. Even though many of things had fallen into disrepair because of poor maintenance.

It costs 4x as much to UN-do a poor "muddle" project in a house than it would have to do it correctly in the first place.

Granted, we are probably weird buyers. But there are a lot of us old house freaks out there...especially lately and especially in MN near Minneapolis. If you have a bungalow, you are golden. Take a look at "Working Windows" if you need a little guidance.
posted by jeanmari at 7:45 PM on April 10, 2005


Here in Minnesota, and especially in the zip code listed in your profile, it's worth is to keep the original windows.
Also, off-topic, jeanmarie, I love your blog. Nice work!
posted by Coffeemate at 8:10 PM on April 10, 2005


Well, people have said this already, but I'll just add to the chorus. Don't replace the windows if it's an old classic house -- especially if it's a bungalow. Some folks down our street did that just a few years ago and it was heartbreaking. Those old windows may not be as weatherproof, but they are way more appropriate to an old house.

If your house is modern, though, go nuts. :)
posted by litlnemo at 10:50 AM on April 11, 2005


I replaced almost all the old single-pane windows in my house with replacement vinyl windows, most of them inside the original frame. I think they're great and don't regret my decision.

However we did it mainly for energy savings reasons, plus some of the old windows were actually cracked.

For your case I'd just scrape the peeling paint and repaint the frames, and replace the screens that need it. That's going to make a ton of difference for the 'eyesore' factor and is likely to give a good return on your investment.

Replacing all your windows could very well turn into a year-long project or more so I wouldn't risk getting into something like that if you're looking to sell this year.
posted by jacobsee at 11:31 AM on April 11, 2005


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