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4 housing upgrades that don't pay

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Instead, Beneke suggests getting a peek at some of your neighbors' kitchens.

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"If the kitchen remodels in your neighborhood include moderately priced cabinets and something other than expensive granite countertops, then you're taking a chance if you go the more expensive route," he says.

3. Too personal
You remake a cookie-cutter house in the image of your own exquisite taste. Nothing wrong with that. Just don't be surprised if your masterpiece is underappreciated at resale.

A vacation in Tuscany inspired a $160,000 makeover of the interior of Dane Madsen's Las Vegas home with travertine floors, exposed weathered beams, stone walls and murals painted by a local artist.

When Madsen got divorced 18 months later and put the home on the market, Realtors told him some house hunters turned to leave as soon as they stepped inside the front door. One even called Madsen directly to offer $100,000 less than the asking price as compensation for having to tear out all the changes if he bought the place.

Madsen did sell the house after repainting the walls a neutral color -- including painting over the more personal of the two murals -- and making some other adjustments. He says he has no regrets about the renovation, though he admits it was "way overdone."

Miami Realtor Moe Veissi has seen everything from a water canal running through a house and flowing into a pool, to a bathroom with rock walls, live palm trees and other lush foliage, and an automatic misting system to keep it fresh.

"That's the kind of interesting thing that maybe if you take a vacation to Tahiti or Maui you'd love to have for three or four days, but I'm not sure that it's part of the norm," Veissi says.

"And any time you deviate, no matter what the improvement is, from what is a fairly traditional, single-family house, you run the risk of improving in a fashion that will not lend itself to additional dollars."

4. Unpopular
If no one else on the block has a room like the one you're adding, or all the other houses boast the very feature you're getting rid of, watch out.

For example, although converting your garage into an office, bedroom or playroom can be a less expensive way to add square footage and create more living space, it can have drawbacks. Potential homebuyers might miss the sheltered parking more than they welcome the additional room, especially if other homes in the neighborhood have garages.

Diana Bull, a Santa Barbara, Calif., Realtor, says a garage conversion is a resale dud in her market.

"People just shy away from it, and I think it's because ... the guys, particularly, have a lot of toys -- cars, motorcycles, off-road vehicles -- so garages are real popular here," Bull says.

The same is true in Hoffman's South Carolina neck of the woods.

"The additional square footage (from a conversion) doesn't increase the value of the home very much, if at all," he says. "Sometimes it can actually have a negative impact on the sale."

If you decide to go ahead with such a transformation, be sure to check your local zoning regulations to see if you'll have to replace the lost parking space.

Finally, Beneke offers a useful tip for whatever type of home renovation you may be contemplating.

"I always suggest that before you do anything in a house, you live in it for a while," Beneke says. "I've gone through this myself. I write about home improvement, but I also fix up old houses. Typically, when I move into a place, I prioritize what needs to be done, and I'm always amazed a year later when I go back and look at that list, how much it's changed.

"Having lived in the house, you start discovering that you might have problems that you didn't realize were problems before ... but often things that you thought were problems have faded in importance. Just living in a place can help you get a much better priority list in order."'s corrections policy -- Posted: July 1, 2008
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