Appraising the Value
of Home Improvements

We all want nicer homes. But while some home improvements may add to your lifestyle, they don't always add equal value to your home. You won't feel the effect now, but you will when you go to sell your home. You may find you wish you had remodeled the kitchen rather than adding a backyard pool.

You may discover that the $20,000 you put into improving the property for your lifestyle is unrecoverable. If you're smart about what you improve, you could make money. While your return will be affected by "where" you live, here are some general rules:

Painting

The more you do on the outside to improve your "curb appeal", which is what a potential buyer will see first, the more likely you are to sell it at the price you want. Painting the outside of the house is a relatively cheap way to add curb appeal. Nowadays it's a prerequisite to selling your home. Think about selling a used car. If you advertise it for sale with dents, scratches and bald tires, you're not likely to sell it for much. But if you had the car detailed and put on some good tires, you should do all right, even if there are some problems under the hood.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that remodeling your kitchen or bathrooms was one of the best values you can add to your home. You can pretty much count on recouping around 88% of the cost of a kitchen remodel when you sell the home. Count on around 82% recoup for a bathroom remodel. As a woman, I know I'd have major concerns about a home's kitchen and bathrooms. Those are deal breakers.

Additions

While one of the more expensive improvements to make, you can pretty much count on a new room or garage as an improvement that will pay off. Expect to recoup around 84%. However, do know that it has to be done correctly, with careful design and seamless execution.

Finishing Rooms

Another good investment is to finish underused rooms, such as a basement. If you make this space more liveable and functional it can help, but don't expect to get all your money back. A 75% return is respectable for converting an attic and about 69% on a basement.

Landscapes and Decking

Add a great yard always improves curb appeal. Just don't go overboard on the gardens. If you put $10,000 into your back yard, don't expect to see all of it again upon sale. Adding a deck is great, but you'll probably only be able to recoup about 50% of it.

Pools

Surprisingly, pools are one of the least attractive things you can add to a home in terms of resale value. It will limit the number of buyers who will even want to see your home. But there are some places like Florida where a pool will increase the value of your home.

Custom Improvements

Here is a good rule of thumb: Don't leave too much of your own lifestyle in the home. If your improvements are very customized to your own wants and needs, you'll find it harder to sell the home, much less recoup your investment. Building a hot tub into a deck is not a good idea from a resale point of view. Not everyone wants one, so you'll not likely get your money back.

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