7 Types of Windows That Make Real Estate Agents Cringe

published Oct 16, 2022
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Sunny kitchen with white counters and window above sink
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Interior designer Rose Tarlow is widely credited with this philosophy on home design: “If eyes are the windows to the soul, then windows are the eyes into the soul of a house.”

That’s a lot of pressure! So, it’s no wonder that real estate agents are either elated or dismayed by their style and condition. 

Windows are important home features because they let in natural light and allow for ventilation. However, not all of them do so effectively. And those that are effective might be, quite frankly, ugly.

Here’s some insight from real estate agents about what they love and hate — okay, mostly hate — about the windows in homes.

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Stained Glass

Lauren Byington, a licensed real estate agent in Texas who co-owns with her husband the eco-focused home building firm, Warren + Lauren, loves the charm and personality that stained glass windows add to a home. However, she says, “I get nervous when I see them in a home because they often elicit a love-or-hate response from buyers.”

This is not to say that you should remove stained glass or other historic details in your older home. But it might take a specific type of buyer to be wooed by that older-era accent.

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Glass Block Windows

If your home was built in the 1980s, there’s a good chance you’ve got a glass block window in your bathroom. The thick glass obscures the view while still letting in the light, but they’re just no longer in style. “They have become difficult to replace because they’re difficult to match, given their fall in popularity,” Byington says.

Wooden Frame Windows

“In Las Vegas, the worst kind of window to buy is one made with wood,” says Kurt Grosse, a Realtor with Realty One Group in Las Vegas. “The sun heats and dries out the wood quickly, which requires constant upkeep.” This should give pause to any homeowner with wooden windows living in a hot climate — not just Vegas, baby. 

What’s a good replacement for wooden windows? “Low-E windows are the best choice in extreme heat,” Grosse says. Low-E stands for low emissivity. Windows with this rating have glass that’s coated to make it more energy efficient — they reflect the heat to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, he explains. As for choosing something other than wood frames, Grosse says, “Vinyl and metal frames last for decades.”

Awning Windows

Awning windows are a recipe for disaster, says Dustin Fox, owner and Realtor at Fox Teams, serving Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  “Since they open outwards, people may run into them when they least expect it,” he says. 

Unfortunate clumsiness aside, there’s an even bigger red flag with awning windows. “[They] cannot offer quick and easy exits during emergencies because of the way they open,” says Fox.

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Bay or Oriel Windows

There’s no denying the beauty of a bay or oriel window — they’re the ones that protrude out from a home rather than staying flush against the exterior. But they have downsides, says Sal Dimiceli, Sr., owner and broker of Lake Geneva Area Realty in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. 

“To start with, they are not a perfect fit for hot climates,” he says. The sunlight streaming in, especially in summertime, can create intense heat. “The structure is not quite impressive, and they are difficult to install as well,” he explains. “Last but not the least, they might fail to ensure the level of privacy you want.”

Any Window That’s Old and Drafty

Old windows are bad news for energy efficiency. “Single-pane windows are not energy efficient and can cause loss of heat,” says Priscilla Holloway, licensed real estate professional and new construction expert at Douglas Elliman in Suffolk County, New York. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says you are wasting between 25 and 30 percent of your energy use because of heat coming through or escaping from those windows.

What’s more, Holloway says that if those old window sills aren’t switched out for new ones, water can seep into the home and cause mold. 

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Foggy or Dirty Windows

Rain doesn’t have to be in the forecast for you to see fog through your windows. “Double-paned windows are great for added energy efficiency, but those are also the windows that can end up with condensation between the glass,” says Jodi Terrell, owner and broker of JNG Real Estate Solutions in North Alabama. “No one likes a hazy and dirty window.” 

While there are ways of trying to clean or reduce the condensation, you might have to eventually replace the windows. But if it’s not fog and your window is just plain dirty — no judgment here! — then clean it or hire someone to do it. Dirty windows are not only unpleasant to look at, but they block natural light. 

Should you replace your windows to improve resale value?

Buyers prefer to see new and updated features in a home. When it comes to windows, newer models mean higher efficiency, which translates to lower energy costs each month. The average cost to replace a window is $850, according to HomeAdvisor. That can add up if you’re replacing multiple windows, but you could get a return on investment at around 70 percent.

“Replacement windows can potentially add over $10,000 to the price of a home,” says Terrell. “This is especially true if you’re in an area with a lot of new construction.” If you’re thinking of selling a home, it could be well worth it to replace your windows — at least any that have fallen into complete disrepair. 

“Cracked or broken windows can be a major turn-off for potential buyers, and they can also signal that the home has other underlying issues,” says Boyd Rudy, an associate broker at Dwellings Michigan in Plymouth, Michigan. 

Rudy notes that when choosing replacement windows, it’s best to go with a neutral color or style, though. “Windows that are brightly painted or have bold patterns can be off-putting to some buyers, and they can also make it difficult to show the home in its best light,” he says.