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“If you do choose a finished lower level because you want that living space right away, I highly recommend adding a full bath rather than a powder room because the full bath adds more value,” Mr. Wagner said.

Some features add a “wow factor,” Mr. Wagner said, but are not necessarily going to add value to a home.

“A finished fourth level or loft makes sense if the neighborhood supports it, especially if it’s a luxury town house, but you may not get your money back on it if other homes in the area don’t have this feature,” Mr. Wagner said. “Whirlpool tubs were in vogue for awhile, but the truth is that most people don’t use them.”

Kitchens and baths sell homes, Mr. Boucher said, so buyers may want to concentrate their dollars for options in those areas once they have made the decision about structural improvements.

NAHB research shows buyers want an eat-in kitchen, plenty of counter space and a walk-in pantry for storage.

“Depending on the price range, buyers expect hardwood and ceramic tile floors and granite counters, stainless steel appliances and hardwood cabinets in the kitchen,” Mr. Wagner said. “But you’ll have a wide range of choices on these items, so you need to be careful of what you choose. Builders often give their buyers some money to spend in their design center as an incentive, but then buyers experience spending creep as they see all the options they want.”

Mr. Boucher points out that granite counters can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. His advice is to pick the most expensive-looking granite for the lowest price.

“Just don’t go crazy,” Mr. Boucher said. “Pick things that are good for you and for your family and try to spend a similar amount to what others are spending on options. If the typical buyer in your price range is spending $50,000 on options, then you should make your choices within that price range.”