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Five ways to increase the value of your home

Hints on home improvements that really pay — and some that don't

It's always fun to enjoy the improvements and renovations you make to your home. What you do to your home now, can affect the price of your home later. What you don’t want to do is something that will negatively impact the return on your money when it's time to sell the house. TODAY real estate analyst Barbara Corcoran has some hints on home improvements that will increase your home’s value. As a rule, for every $1 you put into your house, you should be getting $1.50 back when you sell it.

Improvements that will increase your home’s value:

Add a deck
It's a cheap way to expand your living space. The average deck costs about $7,000. It's cheap, but it gets you $15,000 when you sell your house and you get to use it for however long you use it. They last for a long time with the pressure treated wood and other strong materials they use to build them now.Deck: Average cost $7,000, return $15,000

Buy yourself a fireplace
It doesn't have to be real. Most people with fireplaces don't even use them. However, when the person sees the fireplace, they will associate that room with having a happy home life. There's a strong association with happiness. The kids picture themselves laying down around the fireplace playing Scrabble. Gas is a little cheaper, but you definitely will get back what you put in. Fake fireplace: Costs $1,000 return $3,000

Move your laundry room upstairs
You can update your home and increase its value by bringing your laundry room upstairs. Doing laundry in the basement is depressing. It's dark. Every house that's built today has a laundry room upstairs. So you'll bring your house up to date. That specific change speaks volumes to a home buyer. It's light it's fresh. Bring the machine into the main quarters. If you feel you don't have room, you can get a stacked washer and dryer. Most people can make a closet and put a stacked unit in there. It only takes 30" X 30" of space. Laundry room: Only needs 30" X 30" feet spacePopular stacked unit = $1,200Return $4,000

Take a portion of your garage and turn it into a rec room
Most people with two-car garages don't put two cars in them. You should convert your two-car garage into a one space garage. Put up some sheet rock and then use the other side of the garage as a rec room. It's not expensive and you'll be surprised how useful it can be. Converting the basement doesn't do that. When people go down to the basement that's not finished, they think it's very cheap to do yourself and whatever you did to finish it yourself, they probably won't like it anyway. More money is wasted on finished basements than not. If you put in $10,000 you may get $5,000 back, but not much. Basements are associated with subground, mildew, and no matter how pretty it may look, people think they can finish it off anyway with a coat of paint and some  carpet.Portion off garage: Cost of a dry wall Costs $1,500, return $5,000

New neutral kitchen
An updated kitchen will add value to your home, however adding too much of what's the latest and greatest look, like color cabinets or bamboo countertops can be a mistake. They are just "this year," but years from now, it'll be outdated. If you put in the traditional white cabinet, with a simple countertop, you'll get a clean look kitchen. No fancy knobs, no color appliances. That's too individual and may get in the way. If you keep your kitchen neutral, it's a fine improvement to make. In fact, you'll get $2 from each dollar you put in. Fancy, name brand appliances is a good place to put your money. It's a big up charge, but you will get your money back. Also, adding a kitchen window can make the kitchen brighter and is not so expensive to do. Adding the window will also give you back a good return. A window kitchen is a happy kitchen.New Kitchen:$2 return for every $1 spentKitchen Window: Costs $1,000, returns $3000

Renovations that don't pay:

Don't lose a bedroom
People shop by bedroom count. After they tell you where they want to live, the next thing they say is how many bedrooms they want. Buyers don't shop by square footage, they shop by bedrooms. It makes the house on paper much smaller even though the space hasn't changed. You have one less bedroom to sell to someone else. They may not want a sewing room, or office, they want to see that the house has bedroom space first.

Don't put in a swimming pool
unless you live in a place like Florida where there's sun all year round. It's an expensive asset that's going to take a lot of work to upkeep. When people see a pool in the listing, they think they're being charged extra for it.