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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

You've already decided to move rather than remodel, but now -- like so many others in similar situations -- you find yourself thinking abut remodeling anyway. Why? To make your house more appealing to would-be buyers, cut the time it takes to sell it and maybe even get more cash in hand when you sell.

And hey, while you're expanding, why not tuck in a new master bedroom suite above the addition? You'll get all of your money back when you eventually sell your house, right?

Not so fast. While many home-remodeling projects are a great way to add value to your home, not all of them are ironclad cash-back guarantees.

Before you invest a significant amount of your precious home equity into remodeling projects, it's wise to do a little homework on what kind of payback you can expect for various home projects in your area.

A good place to start is the Cost vs. Value report published annually by the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, and Remodeling magazine. The report provides a synopsis of the top projects, the average costs of the projects and their average rate of investment return at resale. It also gives you a city-by-city guide on what various home projects will pay back at resale.

Real estate experts caution that these numbers can differ significantly depending on your state, city or even neighborhood. So use these numbers as a starting point, but consider getting the advice of a Realtor and/or remodeling contractor before you commit to a big home project. These experts can familiarize you with remodeling payback figures tailored to your city.

Top 5 'good payback' projects
According to the NAR/Remodeling magazine's 2005 Cost vs. Value report, the projects that will pay back the most at resale are:
5 projects to boost home value
1. Upscale siding (new fiber cement) replacement
2. Midrange bathroom remodel
3. Minor kitchen remodel
4. Midrange siding replacement
5. Attic bedroom remodel

1. Upscale siding (new fiber cement) replacement.

Average payback: 103.6 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $10,393 for 1,250 square feet
National average resale value: $10,771

"Siding makes a huge difference in a house's resale value, because it's one of the first things you see. It really defines the condition of the home," says Moe Veissi of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami. "If other houses around you have old aluminum or vinyl siding and your siding is nicer and newer, buyers will notice you. With this project, you make your house more attractive -- you're not just improving your insulation value."

2. Midrange bathroom remodel. This includes updating an average 5-by-7 foot bathroom that's at least 25 years old with moderately priced fixtures, a double-sink vanity, a ceramic-tile floor and vinyl wallpaper.

Average payback: 102.2 percent of cost
Estimated job cost: $10,499
National average resale value: $10,727

"Improving an existing, but outdated, bathroom is almost always a good investment," says Finley Perry of F.H. Perry Builder in Hopkinton, Mass. "An up-to-date bathroom makes your home look like it's been kept in good repair, and that's what all prospective homeowners are looking for."

However, Perry cautions homeowners not to try to personalize their bathrooms too much or spend megabucks trying to turn them into ultimate home spas. "Your home is a valuable asset, and you want to treat it respectfully whenever you remodel," he says.

In other words, think twice about adding a pricey imported soaking tub or three separate shower stalls for your growing family's convenience. Those renovations might not fit the taste of a buyer 10 years down the road. If that happens, the money you spent on your bathroom renovation is down the toilet, so to speak.

-- Posted: April 12, 2006
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