Spruce Up for Profits

If you're putting your home up for sale, the right improvements can increase its value by $5,000 or more

are not going to lend more than the property is worth." If you’re looking to refinance, most reputable banks will give up to 80%-90% of its current value, she says.

Don’t confuse an appraisal, which is required by a bank or lending institution, with an inspection. An inspection is usually optional and done so that the owner or buyer might determine the physical condition of the house. Experts will tell you that an appraisal is to estimate value; an inspection, however, is to determine how sound the physical structure of your home is.

So what are appraisers after? In a nutshell, they’re looking at your house "as is." They’ll note that a roof is caving in and knock the price off your horne’s worth. They’ll run down a checklist of things: the square footage, neighborhood, lot size and overall condition of the property. And as a gauge of your home’s value, appraisers will likely keep a keen eye on the rest of the neighborhood and how much homes near yours are now worth.

In fact, according to Lewis Taylor, an appraiser who runs his own business in Columbia, South Carolina, "the neighborhood pretty much sets the drumbeat for the prices," even though he’ll look at structure, soundness, safety and sanitation of a home. As realtor Janice Brown knew, when determining the value of a property, some physical improvements might mean the difference between a low-end or highend appraisal. That’s because appraisers also look at a home’s "marketability," which roughly equates with the "curb appeal" of a house.

"That can be very arbitrary; appraisers are human and will react to negative influences the same as you would," points out Daryl Jesperson, president of Re/Max International in Denver. The bottom line? The higher the appraisal, the more likely you are to get the maximum price for what’s probably your biggest investment: your home.

From painting to fixing up, there are a lot of things you can do. But when does it make sense to build? When would a light "touch up" job suffice? How much improvement is too much? The following are tips on how to increase your home’s value in ways ranging from the most expensive and labor-intensive to the least. Of course, there are regional differences in housing prices nationwide. It might be easier — and more profitable — to add an extra $5,000 to a $200,000 four-bedroom home than to a house appraised at $80,000. There are some things that can be done, however, that might not cost you much but your labor.

BUILD SOMETHING? MAYBE
Suppose you want to do something that will increase your property value even though you aren’t in the market to sell right away. Real estate experts say you should consider home construction. The reason? Structural additions, extensive remodeling and rebuilding can cost a lot, but they improve your overall living conditions. It only makes sense that you should enjoy what you

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