TODAY   |  April 04, 2014

Best home improvements for your money

HGTV’s “Power Broker,” Mike Aubrey, and TODAY financial editor Jean Chatzky offer TODAY viewers some tips on where to invest dollars most wisely when remodeling a home.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now that the weather is finally getting better, a lot of you may be thinking about making home improvements . homeowners spent $130 billion on remodelling just last year.

>> but not all home improvements pay off the same. good morning to you both.

>> good morning.

>> good morning.

>> jean, i'll start with you. if i want to sell my house , how much money do i want to pour in and know that i'm going to get a return? how do you know what works?

>> well, you look at minor things rather than major things. you want curb appeal and the very best thing you can do, we were talking about this before, just buy some paint and use that as your starting point.

>> all right. so mike, you say the paint is the good thing, it's the easiest, cheapest way to make a difference. the question is, do you go neutral, do you go bold?

>> i think you want to go neutral. the thing is, if you have somebody with bold taste and they come into a neutral house , it's not going to keep them from buying it. if you have someone with neutral taste and they come into a boldly painted house , they may not want it.

>> it's a turn off for a lot of people.

>> and when you're pulling up to a house , the front door jumps out at you. tony hale said he painted the door yellow, changed his whole house .

>> i just got a new garage door at my house . front door and garage door . the folks at every year they do this value study. you're going to get 90 plus percent of your money back on doors. we're talking about 1,100 for a front door, a little less than $3,000 for a garage door . but again, it's worth the money.

>> all right. flooring, as well. and mike, you say don't undervalue the materials that you're standing on. so hardwood is something that everybody -- they're always looking under the carpets. look under the carpets, right?

>> you know, in the '70s, they were doing finished hardwood floors in everything they built. nowadays they're not. but i think people want to see that stuff again. i think if you have bad flooring, it's a bad move if you're going to bring the house to market. if you have carpet, redo it with filter grade carpet. it looks new, smells new, and it's going to pay dividends big time .

>> but laying new hardwood floors is expensive or it can be, right?

>> it can be. one of the things about upgrades i try to preach to my clients all the time is do it while you're living there. take the advantage of being able to have it yourself and then when you go on the market, it's going to make the house easier to sell.

>> what sells the home for me are kitchens. kitchen renovations you say are important, but you can do little things that aren't going to make -- they're not going to cost a lot but will make a huge difference, right?

>> i agree. i hate to say it, lipstick on a pig. one of the things i love right now is painting cabinets. that's not a big cost. and you can really make a kitchen over amazingly just by doing something nice and making the cabinets look newer.

>> and when we look at the statistics, the minor kitchen remodel pays off a lot more than the major one. so reface the cabinets, don't replace the cabinets, new hardware is a great thing to do. stainless steel , though, is what people really, really still want. and granite if you can afford it.

>> let's jump ahead now to some of the worst home improvement investments. just means you're not going to get your money back, right? what are some of those?

>> windows are a loser, loser, loser on resale. if you're going to put new windows in a house and you live there, you get great economical dividends from that while you're living in the house . the problem is, if you put new windows in and go on the market, guess what the difference is between old windows and new windows? not much, they look the same and nobody wants to pay for them.

>> you want to be very careful of overimproving your house . you've got to look at where you live, what's the neighborhood, what's the market going to stand when you go out to sell. look at the comparables. and if you're redoing the kitchen, you don't want it to cost more than 25% of the whole value of the house .

>> do a lot of good with a can of paint.