4 Inexpensive ways to boost: your home's value.

Author:Parrish, Tory N.

ERIC AND MONTA BASKERVILLE KNEW THE HOUSE THEY bought in 2009 was a good find, but the 51-year-old home needed some upgrades. "It was in good condition, but all the bathrooms needed updating," says Monta, 35, a National Park Service historic architect. The Baskervilles did large and small projects to update their four-bedroom, split-level house in Springfield, Virginia, including removing wood paneling in the den, adding crown molding in the living room, and completely gutting a bathroom--adding new plumbing, a vanity, low-flow toilet, light fixtures, and a marble floor. Eric also changed the home's electrical system from fuses to breakers.

Real estate experts point to inexpensive upgrades and fixes, such as painting in neutral colors, de-cluttering inside and outside the home, landscaping, changing furnace filters, and installing window treatments to let in as much natural light as possible as ways homeowners can boost the value of their homes. How much the boost will be varies by the scope of each project and the location of the home, so ifs best to consult a local real estate professional about what will add the most value to your home, suggests Kit Hale, a regional vice president of the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.

A licensed contractor and a plumbing apprentice, Eric, 42, estimates that the renovations increased the $420,000 home's value by $50,000. Except for assistance with painting from his wife, he did all the work himself, so his only costs were for materials. He spent $4,000 for the bathroom supplies, $450 to change the sewer line, $150 for attic insulation, and $2,800 for an energy-efficient wood pellet store, for which the Baskervilles received a $1,500 energy tax credit. Energy-efficient appliances add value. Even if the house is not being sold, they can save homeowners money in the long run.

In today's shaky housing market, homeowners are becoming more circumspect, weighing the pros and cons of how the renovations they make will affect the bottom line, specifically if they're trying to sell. This especially holds true with falling home prices. The average price of an existing home dropped about 13% between 2008 and 2010 to $172,900, NAR reports. The...

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