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Home Improvement 2006  

Getting it done

  Whether you're going with a pro or doing it yourself, here's expert advice to bring your plan to reality.
Top 5 projects to boost home's value for resale
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3. Minor kitchen remodel. This consists of giving a functional, but dated, kitchen a makeover. It includes new cabinet doors and drawers (with cabinet boxes left in place), a moderately priced wall oven, cooktop, countertop, sink and faucet and resilient flooring.

Average payback: 98.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $14, 913
National average resale value: $14,691

Along with bathrooms, kitchen updates are almost always among the smartest remodeling projects for resale value, say the pros. "Home buyers seem to gravitate to the kitchen first when they're looking at a house," says Joe Traynor, a real estate appraiser in Indianapolis. "And as appraisers, we do give extra credit to houses with updated kitchens.

"However, I've also seen homeowners go too far -- they might put granite countertops and top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances in a very modestly priced house," he says. "Those improvements aren't going to help the home's value in the long run, and the owner definitely isn't going to get his money back when he sells."

4. Midrange siding replacement. This more modest variation of the No. 1 ranked project (upscale siding) includes replacing 1,250 square feet of siding with new vinyl siding and trim.

Average payback: 95.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $7,239
National average resale value: $6,914

The value of this project is in its immediate curb appeal: New siding cleans up a house quickly. However, Perry points out that vinyl may not be appropriate and could actually detract from a home's value in historic neighborhoods or upscale areas where traditional wood siding is still the preferred material.

5. Attic bedroom remodel. This entails converting unfinished attic space in a two- or three-bedroom house into a finished bedroom and bathroom with shower. It includes a new shed dormer, new windows and closet space in the eaves.

Average payback: 93.5 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $39,188
National average resale value: $36,649

Because this is a relatively expensive undertaking, real estate experts suggest you do an attic renovation only if you're going to live in the house for a while (preferably five to 10 years) and enjoy the reclaimed space yourself. Over the long haul, this project adds significant value to your home because it creates brand-new living space and isn't just a cosmetic improvement.

Keep in mind, though, that attic remodels don't make sense in every neighborhood and part of the country.

"In Florida, most of the attics aren't big enough to stand up in, so remodeling them wouldn't make sense at all. Plus there's the heat issue -- these rooms would be sweltering hot for us and very expensive to cool," says Viessi, a Miami Realtor.

"This is a good example of a remodeling project that would be wise to discuss in advance with a Realtor who's familiar not just with housing in your area, but in your specific neighborhood," says Viessi. He says good Realtors are always happy to spend time talking with you about the wisest renovation projects for your home -- even if you're not planning to sell your home anytime soon.

Other top resale projects from the Cost vs. Value report ranked by percentage of cost recouped at resale, include:

  • an upscale bathroom remodel: 93.2 percent.
  • a major kitchen remodel: midrange, 91 percent; upscale: 84.8 percent.
  • a deck addition: 90.3 percent.
  • basement remodeling: 90.1 percent.
  • window replacement: 89.6 percent.
  • a bathroom addition: midrange: 86.4 per cent, upscale 85.8 percent.
  • roofing replacement: 84.7 percent.
  • a family room addition: 83 percent.
  • a master suite addition: midrange 82.4 per cent; upscale 80.1 percent.
  • a home-office remodel: 72.8 percent.

While a good return on your investment is important in every remodeling project, experts say that the most important factor in your decision should still be whether the project improves the way you live in your home now.

"The fact of remodeling is that you never get your money back instantly," says Perry. "If you're undertaking a project because you're going to stay in your home awhile, and it will enhance your lifestyle, then great -- do it. It's tough to put a price on the happiness many young families get from fixing up their house and truly enjoying it for the next 20 years."

-- Posted: April 12, 2006
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