We could all use a little more sunshine in our lives. Skylights, or windows installed in your home’s roof or ceiling, are one way to brighten up a space so even when you’re inside, you’ve got access to a pretty piece of sky.
But do skylights increase home value? Well, much like pools, skylights are difficult to price out when it comes time to sell your home. Some buyers will appreciate the extra light and potential energy savings during the winter, while others will only see the potential for leaks, water damage and unwanted summer heat—and both are correct depending on a few key factors.
We studied up on skylights and sat down with experienced real estate agents so you know whether investing in a skylight is right for your home, and (if you already have one) how to make sure it’s a featured highlight buyers will love.
Breaking Down The Different Types of Skylights
Understanding the inherent value of skylights starts with knowing all the different kinds out there on the market, and which type makes the most sense for your home.
At their most basic, skylights are fixed windows that sit on your roof at an angle designed to capture the most light (and warmth) in the winter, and to mitigate sun exposure in the summer.
The U.S. Department of Energy quotes an ideal angle (also called a slope) as one that equals your geographical latitude plus 5 to 15 degrees.
Lower slopes, they caution, tend to have the opposite effect: drawing in the most light and heat during summer, while capturing little to none in colder months—all things to keep in mind when installing a unit.
The size of fixed skylights depends on the manufacturer. They can range anywhere from 14” to 72”.
These little circular units are some of the newest on the market, and they’re good for bringing in more natural light to replace lights in bedrooms and hallways.
Tubular skylights are much smaller than fixed skylights and range in diameter from 10″ to 14″.
They can generally be installed anywhere where there’s less than 20 feet between your ceiling and roof.
Their petite size makes them less obtrusive to your roof architecture, and less likely to cause excessive heat gain or loss.
Vented skylights look just like fixed skylights, but they also have the capacity to open up and let in the fresh air.
Some units are electric (and more pricey) and others open manually. Vented skylights are a great option for small rooms that might require more airflow, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
The most sophisticated (and priciest) units are the solar-powered skylights. Solar skylights offer the same basic principles as vented ones, with the added perk of sensors that cue the venting feature to open or close.
Solar skylights can often be programmed to open and close at certain intervals, and include rain sensors to prevent water damage. Some even include solar blinds, which control how much light or heat gets let in. According to Consumer Affairs, these units are even eligible for a tax credit through 2021, which is great news considering the high price tag.
How Much Do Skylights Cost?
According to leading renovation resource HomeAdvisor, the average homeowner spends roughly $900 to $2,000 on a skylight, with solar powered ones coming in at the top of the list at $1,500.
The expert contractors at Remodeling Calculator quote fixed skylights costing around $150-300 per unit, but also mention that prices jump drastically (sometimes by $1,000) when electric ventilation features and costs of electric work are factored in.
Different glazes, UV blockage ability, and sealing strength will also play into the cost of a skylight—and can change these estimates significantly.
What Qualities Make a Skylight Desirable?
The last thing you want is for your skylight to make a certain room of your house unusable because it’s letting in too much heat or, on the flip side, allowing warmth to escape in the cold months. It’s also not ideal to have a skylight that constantly collects leaves and moisture.
Glazing: Glazing refers to the type of material installed in your skylight window frame. The most common types of glazing are plastic and glass. Plastic is less expensive and a safe choice since it can’t shatter, though it is susceptible to discoloration and getting brittle.
You’ll usually see glass glazing on the most expensive skylights. It’s more durable and lasts longer, though you need your skylight to have tempered or laminated glass so there’s no risk of it shattering onto the ground in big sharp chunks.
Ratings like UV blockage, R-Value, and U-Value: A skylight’s UV blockage rating should be available as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the less UV light can get through. The R-Value of the skylight has to do with its insulation and resistance to heat flow (the higher the better). Finally, the U-Value will tell you a skylight’s rate of heat flow—a lower rating means less heat flow. For more on reading skylight ratings, check out this guide from home improvement author and HGTV personality Don Vandervort. If you install a poorly made skylights with bad ratings, you’ll likely see an impact on your energy bill.
Shape: When you picture a skylight, you imagine a rectangle, but in reality these windows come in all shapes and sizes—circles, triangles, ovals, you name it. Even more important is the shape of the glazing, which can be flat, dome, or pyramid-shaped. Though flat may seem like the natural choice, a lifted frame can be beneficial in keeping water and debris at bay.
Where Should You Install A Skylight?
Now that you know the kind of expense you’re facing down with a skylight install and the qualities that make a skylight desirable, you want to know when and where skylights make the most sense. As always in real estate, location plays a huge role when it comes to skylights—both geographically, and where on the roof you choose to install one.
Real estate agent Dawn Rushton of Maple Valley, WA, who ranks in the top 1% of local agents, often encourages her local clients to install skylights to brighten up their interior spaces.
“Skylights are a wonderful thing here in the Pacific Northwest where we don’t have a lot of light,” she says. And while homes built in regions with less light work well with skylights, you might think twice about installing one in a hotter climate where future homeowners are more interested in keeping spaces cool, such as Florida or Arizona.
Where the skylight is inside the home also plays a role in its value. Says Rushton, “If the house has a tendency to be dark, then by all means I think it’s a good investment, especially for kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways.”
According to Remodeling Calculator, skylights can capture up to 30% more light than standard windows, which is a great way to brighten up windowless spaces that feel dark or cramped. “Skylights really improve a small older home with low ceilings,” says Rushton.
Just be sure you don’t cover up too much roof. The U.S. Department of Energy uses the following as a rule of thumb: skylights should never be more than 5% of the floor area in a room with lots of windows, and no more than 15% in an area with few windows.
Another important note is that skylights can’t just be casually installed on a whim. In fact, Rushton is constantly reminding her clients that installation basically has to coincide with a new roof. She says, “Nobody will install a skylight on a roof that’s not brand new.” So while skylights can work well to brighten up older homes, they’ll need to be installed at the same time as a roof replacement.
Bottom Line: Do Skylights Increase Home Value?
Some people (like the Consumer Affairs Research Team) think so. But strictly speaking? Probably not in the ways you’d imagine.
While skylights increase light and heat during cooler months, they also break up the insulation in your home—allowing warm air to escape in winter and cool air in the summer. More windows ultimately cost you in electricity, so even though skylights add heat and light, they aren’t necessarily going to decrease your monthly expenses.
But they do increase value in another sense—by improving the overall look and appeal of otherwise dark and gloomy spaces.
Research shows that natural light increases health benefits, boosts moods and productivity, and draws in buyers. The fresh air from vented skylights helps, too. So even if you don’t can’t break down an exact ROI for your skylight, you can be sure that one in good condition will help sell your home from an aesthetic standpoint.
Pro Tips For Selling Your Home With a Skylight
If you’re selling a home with one or more skylights, follow these tips to capture the most buyer interest:
- Don’t wait too long to sell. If your roof and skylight are old and due for replacement, make these renovations before putting a home up for sale. Your roof will come up during the home inspection, and if the skylight appears to be in poor condition, you can bet buyers will know about it and ask for a credit or repair.
- Before any showings and your open house if you host one, be sure to stage around the skylight, placing plants and other eye-catching accent items nearby to draw attention into the room.
- Leave skylights open (weather permitting) during showings. The fresh air and open skylight will create the impression of a larger space.
Article Image Source: (Colin Schmitt/ Pexels)