Cover story: Improvements that boost sale price

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The Appraisal Institute noted that while kitchen, bathroom and curb-appeal improvements are most noticeable, basic upgrades, including painting the walls neutral colors and installing new fixtures, offer the largest returns.

When it comes to the worst yield on returns, the institute said projects that take a home significantly beyond the community’s norms often are not worth the price they cost in a resale situation.

Ms. Small added that especially with today’s fluctuating economy, budget-conscious homeowners look for more economical ways to maximize their home space needs.

Television shows focusing on home improvements have become mainstream as sources of advice for homeowners, and they often focus on inexpensive or less ostentatious improvements, Ms. Blake said. However, many real estate experts agree that in some instances, the shows have inspired owners to take on projects they aren’t necessarily qualified to do.

“This can result in an unpleasant, costly and disastrous home-improvement experience, making the improvements less functional or desirable and even unsafe in some circumstances,” Ms. Small noted.

Other mistakes homeowners may make include choosing trendy items “that are ‘in’ today without thinking about how they may be perceived in five or 10 years,” Ms. Blake said. She advised homeowners to be careful when adding items that are more personal than utilitarian, such as saunas and steam showers.

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