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

more than a bit overboard. Arnold says newer houses in the neighborhood fetched about $400,000 each, but the couple’s older home couldn’t muster more than an appraisal in the high $200,000 range.

Think your basement is nothing more than a dark, dank storage area under your home? Think again. Provided you don’t have flooding problems, it could well be an unexpected asset. "For one, redoing your basement increases the square footage of livable space," says Carter. And, according to Re/Max’s Blow, you can often recoup twice your investment once your home has been appraised. "I’ve been in houses where the upstairs areas were impressive, but the basement really sold it," she recalls.

Another tip: finish those home improvement projects you’ve procrastinated about. A house that needs work cannot demand top dollar. "Make sure the home is in good repair. If the hot water heater is leaking, the appraiser will knock some off," says Jesperson.

One repair you can’t get around is fixing a leaky roof. Keep in mind that a composition shingle roof will start to show wear and tear in about eight to 10 years. If it’s looking weather-beaten, don’t be surprised if your roof might rip $4,000$5,000 off your home’s value, says Jesperson.

Even so, don’t jump to a costly replacement. In Jesperson’s opinion, it’s probably more cost-effective to get the roof fixed than it is to replace it.
Make needed repairs

If you are looking to sell, now is the time to pull down that leaky, leaning garden shed you built or any shoddy structures put up without a permit. You’ll also want to make sure that you get rid of anything that resembles a heap of debris. Appraisers, after all, photograph your property for lenders to look over. "I took a picture of one house with a dilapidated garage and the lender nearly balked," Arnold recalls.
Also take a critical look at your floors. "Make sure the carpets are not soiled or stained," advises Arnold. "Refinished floors may be a matter of personal taste," says lending specialist Cita Carter, "but if your carpet is worn, they might be a very good idea."

You might also opt for a new, inexpensive, neutral-colored carpet that can create a feeling of cleanliness in the home and boost its value at the same time. Here again, it’s probably a good idea to keep in line with your neighbors.

Just a coat of paint may do

Victor and Lori Franklin of Ellenwood, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, told their real estate agent they wanted to sell their seven-year-old, three-bedroom split-level home, but were worried about the appraisal. "We didn’t have a lot of equity in the house; we hadn’t made a down payment, and we’d refinanced three years after we purchased it," says Lori, a computer programmer analyst. "If it didn’t appraise high enough, we wouldn’t be able to

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