If you’re considering this kind of improvement, start with the two spots experts say add the most to your horne’s value: kitchens and bathrooms. "Shag carpeting, avocado green counters and old wallpaper simply won’t increase the value of a house," says Carter. "But a remodeled kitchen or bathroom will."
To check on how much resale bang you can get for your fix-it-up buck, log on to Remodeling magazine’s Web site (www.remodeling.hw.net). Click on the finance link and go to the 1997-98 Cost us. Value Report to analyze the benefits of home improvement projects against resale value (see right). We did so and found kitchens to be a veritable gold mine. A minor remodeling job of a 200-sq.-ft. kitchen, for instance, including refinishing existing cabinets, installing a new, energy-efficient wall oven and cook top, laminating countertops, installing new sink and faucet fixtures, wall covering, resilient flooring and repainting will run an estimated national average of $8,395.
That outlay, however, will earn you $8,579 in resale value, or 102% of the money you put in, if you sell your home in a year.
A note of caution, though. While kitchens rank at the top of home improvement projects in predicted resale value, these figures can vary regionally. For instance, in Chicago, kitchen remodeling runs $9,219, but it can increase the value of the home by $12,240 — or 133%; whereas in Albany, New York, the job costs about $8,518 but only increases the value by $4,167 — or 49%.
For a less time- and money-consuming project, Atlanta-based Re/Max Pacesetters realtor Lois Blow suggests the addition of a deck or sun room. Typically, a 16-by-20 ft. pine deck will cost about $5,927 and recoup 73% of your investment, according to Remodeling. Remember, too, that tastes vary from city to city. In Jacksonville, Florida, that same deck will run about $4,901, but return only $1,833, or 37% of your investment. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Alabama, you’ll pay $4,738 to put in a similar deck, but get $5,667 or 120% of its value.
Before you start break
ing out the power tools, there’s another thing to keep in mind: putting up the Taj Mahal on a cul-de-sac of single-family ranch homes can be a costly exercise in futility. "Improve according to your neighborhood," Taylor advises. "If all the homes in your neighborhood have 2 1/2 baths and you have two, then you bring it up to 2 1/2."
Nathaniel X. Arnold, an appraiser and owner of New Millennium Appraisal & Consulting in Suitland, Maryland, agrees. "Look at the homes around you," he says. "If you’re in a neighborhood where decks are unfashionable, there may be a reason for that." Arnold, in fact, recalls an appraisal he did for a young couple. They had spent close to $50,000 on installing Italian marble countertops and hardwood floors in their kitchen. As gorgeous as the new layout might have been, it turned out to be