Gutters are the unsung heroes of real estate. They don’t earn compliments like a property’s gorgeous landscaping or the rustic tile selection of your master shower will. But without them, a home’s structural integrity is at risk.
Every day 14,000 homeowners face water emergencies while 37% have claimed losses due to water issues. Meanwhile, homeowners insurance companies pay out $2.5 billion in water damage losses every year. Gutters serve the critical role of pushing water where it needs to be: away from the house to avoid foundation erosion and roof leaks.
“When I go out to appraise a property for a lender, they will almost never lend on a property that doesn’t have gutters and downspouts that are functional,” said Jerin Harper, a home appraiser in Oregon with a decade of experience.
“In this instance, I would be required to provide a ‘cost-to-cure,’ which is an estimate to install or repair gutters and downspouts. The cost-to-cure figure can then be subtracted from the overall home value.”
So do gutters increase home value? Not exactly, because they’re like the tires of a car: buyers expect a property to have them in good working condition, or they’ll pay less for it. We’ll help you get up to speed on homeownership and gutters with insights from top appraisers around the country who explain:
- How gutters shield the house from ice dams and foundation problems
- The numbers on dirty or damaged gutters and how they detract from your home’s value
- Pro tips on gutter material selection, installation, and add-ons to maximize ROI
Gutters as guardians of the house: Protecting against ice damming and foundation erosion
Imagine you’re sitting in your living room on a chilly winter day watching television, when suddenly you feel a drop of water on your head. And then another, and another. You look up to find a wet patch spreading out on your ceiling just above you.
Or, picture this: It’s been a stormy few days with lots of rain. You go outside to clean up after the storm and to your horror, find that some of your foundation has washed away—but only in one spot that should have been difficult for the water to reach.
The culprit in both situations? In most cases, bad gutters. Properly constructed and clean gutters are essential to preventing water damage to your home.
The first scenario likely due to an issue called ice damming on the roof, where the water melting from a warmer part of your roof can’t escape. This typically happens when gutters haven’t been cleaned out properly, the water freezes, and then the ice accumulates under your shingles, melting and damaging the attic or ceiling in your home.
The second scenario could be thanks to a broken gutter or a missing downspout—the water is dumping down onto your foundation instead of getting pushed away from the house.
“You need to have gutters because you’re going to start affecting your foundation significantly if you don’t direct water away appropriately,” said Brett Young, a top-selling agent in Indianapolis. “It’s not an option out here, honestly. If you’re buying a house that doesn’t have gutters on it, it’s probably because it’s a bank sale home and it’s all beat up.”
Granted, some locations don’t need gutters as much as others—like Arizona, for example, where Young used to live.
Some homes out there didn’t have gutters and it wasn’t a big deal, essentially because it’s the desert and there’s just not that much rain. But even in that situation, it’s better to have them rather than not, just in case a storm comes through that is strong enough to damage your home.
No gutters (or gutters in poor condition) will detract value from your house
Not only will a lack of gutters or ones with issues hurt your home and affect the sale, it could also actively lower your home’s value.
Whether you don’t have any gutters or the ones you have are dirty, broken or improperly attached, you’re compromising the longevity of the home by leaving it open to other problems. And those problems will have an effect on the appraisal when you’re trying to sell.
Harper notes gutters in poor condition could detract between $500 and $1,000 from the value of an average-sized house with a straightforward installation by a professional.
“Gutters are part of the real estate, but there’s not a specific adjustment line for gutters,” said Michael Keough, a 30-year residential home appraiser in New Jersey. “If the lack of gutters is ruining something, you’ll detract from that item.”
In some cases, the missing or damaged gutters can even end a sale before it begins.
Good gutters will attract buyers but don’t necessarily add value
All that being said, gutters themselves typically won’t increase the value of your home. They’re standard, especially in areas with a lot of rain, and having them isn’t anything special.
“People don’t just normally install gutters for the aesthetics of the gutters,” said Edmond (Buddy) Eslava, a nationally renowned appraiser with the Appraisal Consultant Group in the Mobile, Alabama. “If you needed them and didn’t have them, it would detract value. But having them won’t add value.”
You can, though, add overall perceived value to your home based on the gutters themselves. Our experts shared some tips on what to do to make your gutters work for your home sale.
Make sure your gutters are installed properly.
There are two important pieces to this equation. Proper gutter installation means making sure the water is being diverted far away enough from the house so no damage is sustained around the foundation or on the siding.
But you also have to make sure they’re level—meaning no water is left to pool up in them with nowhere to drain. If that happens, they can start to draw an accumulation of mosquitos and other nasty bugs or cause ice damming.
Match your gutters to your home.
Just like any other part of your property, including outbuildings, shutters, garages, and even gazebos, you’ll want to make sure the color and size of your gutters are appropriate for your home.
For the color, typically the gutters will be the same color as the outdoor trim. As far as sizing, Young notes that the standard size used to be four inches, but now it’s up to six inches—so get the larger ones.
Eslava agrees, noting that eight-inch gutters are available too, and you should opt for those ones instead of the six-inch. But, if your house is a bit smaller and the large gutters would look out of place, then stay with a smaller size.
It’s also critical to have enough downspouts. The general rule is one downspout for every 35 or so feet of gutter.
Stick with the standard gutter materials.
Seams are out. If you want gutters that will bring value to your home, skip them and go for a seamless option. It looks tidier and more professional. Typically, gutters are metal or aluminum; the actual material doesn’t matter much as long as the gutters are sturdy, functional, and match your house. Each material does have pluses and minuses, though.
These resist corrosion and are relatively inexpensive, plus they’re lightweight and the standard material. But they can have strength problems and may break under pressure.
Metal, like copper or steel:
These types of gutters are heavy, expensive, and difficult to install. But they’re stronger than aluminum and work well for matching a certain aesthetic on the outside of your home.
Vinyl or plastic:
These are generally the cheapest type of gutter and they’re easily installed, but they come with several drawbacks. They can discolor easily, and they’re the weakest of the top three options.
Get gutter guards:
Gutter guards are covers that go over your gutters to stop junk from building up inside them. These are your first line of defense if you live in a heavily wooded area or have a lot of trees near your house.
They’ll stop leaves and sticks from getting in, and will keep squirrels and their seeds out—so you don’t have to worry about looking up one day to see a patch of sunflowers sprouting from the edge of your roof. As a plus, Young says having gutter guards could add value to a home appraisal.
Skip the rain collection system:
Well, unless you really want one. Young says that he’s never seen a rain barrel or rain collection system add to the actual value of the house—though some buyers may like having it. Some won’t, though, so go with your personal preference on this one.