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8 home improvement projects that pay off big

Some of these can be DIY, but even if you have to hire a professional, you should recoup a large percentage of your investment when you sell.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 29, 2013 12:44PM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner site Money Talks News. http://www.moneytalksnews.com/


MTN logoThough it may not be their primary purpose, our homes are our biggest investment and, when it's time to sell, it's smart to optimize the return on that investment.


Yard work (© Kate Mitchell/zefa/Corbis)With the real estate market on a steady climb back to solid ground, more people are feeling comfortable enough to explore what options they have in the current market. If you're flirting with the idea of listing your home, it's important to make sure your home outshines the competition.


Here are eight home improvement investments that offer sellers the highest return:


1. Repainting

A coat of paint gives you a lot of bang for your home improvement buck. With premium brands costing about $35 a can, painting a room is economical and a project that most folks can handle without hiring a contractor.


If you're selling, focus on rich neutral colors inside your home. It's OK to push beyond the standard colors of builder's beige and off-white. With a little experimentation and a keen eye, browns, greens and grays can become part of a contemporary neutral color scheme that will highlight the best features of your home and impress potential buyers.


2. Replacing siding

Replacing the siding on your home not only improves its appearance, it can boost energy efficiency too. If you choose vinyl or other siding products with permanent color, gravitate toward neutral colors that will still be classic year after year. According to Angie's List, a $10,000 siding investment can return an 80% return on investment or more.


3. Improving the basement

Few things turn off buyers faster than the smell of a damp basement. If your home's basement is prone to moisture accumulation, leaks or flooding, call in a professional. Perhaps a simple sealant or patch can solve the problem without a huge budget impact. (If a new exterior drainage system is required, that could become pricey.)


Though a finished basement will help sell a home, the single most important improvement you can make to the basement is creating an environment that's clean, dry and ready for further upgrades. But if you do want to go all out, a full basement remodel costs about $60,000 and will give sellers a 70% ROI, according to Remodeling Magazine.


4. Upgrading the kitchen

It's true: Buyers really do focus on kitchens and bathrooms, and upgrades in these areas pay off consistently. As with any remodeling project, homeowners can choose the level of time, expense and energy they want to devote to a kitchen remodel.


If you're on a tight budget, keep things simple. Make sure that appliances are in good working order, countertops aren't chipped or stained, the walls have a fresh coat of paint, and basic fixtures like lights and faucets are updated. More extensive renovations that include new cabinetry, floors, granite countertops and stainless appliances can recoup nearly 69% ROI, Remodeling Magazine says.

5. Remodeling a bathroom

Like kitchens, bathroom upgrades provide a solid return, typically 68% to 78% ROI for a mid-range bathroom remodel, according to Real Simple. If your budget is limited, try cost-conscious solutions like resurfacing an existing tub or sink, installing new laminate flooring, upgrading faucets, adding a deluxe shower head, or splurging on a glass tile backsplash. Small improvements done in a classic and well-coordinated style can make a big impression.


6. Adding a patio/deck

Decks provide an attractive transition between inside and outside. Especially for smaller houses, well-designed patios and decks can provide much-needed extra space for dining, entertaining and relaxing. According to CNBC, deck additions in the $15,000 range average a 73% return on investment.


7. Replacing old windows

Replacing old windows improves the look and energy-efficiency of a home. New windows let potential buyers check off a major to-do from their home improvement list and can be a major selling point. Sellers should pay attention to the details when choosing replacement windows and honor the architecture, period and style of their home. Inside, vinyl replacement window finishes should complement existing wood colors. Again, according to CNBC, a $10,000 window replacement project can net sellers an 85% ROI.


8. Landscaping

Your yard is a key part of your home's curb appeal, and for would-be buyers, it provides clues (whether accurate or not) about how well a home has been cared for. If you're on a limited budget and need to buy and plant strategically, begin by approaching your home from the street to the front door. What areas do you notice first? What might potential buyers be immediately attracted to or disappointed by? What details can be improved upon with materials or supplies you already own?


Focus on simple projects you can do yourself. Plant climate-appropriate perennials that add beauty year after year, design clean borders filled with mulch, and prune existing trees and shrubbery. Adding new trees and shrubbery will not only freshen the look of your home, they'll also help prevent erosion, slow storm-water runoff, filter pollutants, offer shade in the summer, and provide a home for small wildlife.


Remember, you won't need to break the bank and retain a full-time contractor for all of these projects. The key is to take a critical look at your home from a buyer's perspective, determine what needs to be done, and prioritize your projects. If you have the luxury of time, reserve a few months' worth of weekends and methodically work through your list.


The efforts may just pay off with an easier sale, a higher sale price, better terms, and a whole new set of skills that you can take with you to your new home.


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