Here are some tips for how to get the best bang for your buck on your home renovations, even in a tight real estate market.
1. Kitchen:
Have you ever noticed everyone gravitates toward the kitchen during a dinner party? It’s known as the heart of the house for a good reason. The draw of your kitchen to party-goers has the same value to potential buyers, so a kitchen remodel is the best way to add value to your house. An updated kitchen appeals to a buyer’s emotions and a homeowner’s wallet because it can give you an 80 to 100 percent return on your investment (source: Reliable Remodeler). Plenty of counter and cabinet space is a must, and granite countertops are popular with buyers. Stainless-steel appliances are also a hot ticket, but the most important thing is to make sure your appliances all coordinate. A window over the kitchen sink is a great place to daydream away your dishpan hands. Island counters are great additions if your kitchen has the space. They not only provide additional counter space, but can also be used for homework, grabbing a quick bite or a place for guests to hang out while you cook. You can even add features like a prep sink or extra burners that will make your kitchen a chef’s dream.

2. Bathrooms:
If you’ve ever lived in a house that doesn’t have enough bathrooms, then you know firsthand how valuable these rooms are to potential buyers. Updating or adding bathrooms will add considerable value to your house, especially master baths. A master suite with his and her sinks, spacious showers and plenty of square footage are what buyers are looking for. Added amenities such as heated floors, steam showers and whirlpool tubs will serve you well, and ample storage is a must. Traditional ceramic tile floors are preferred over wood flooring or linoleum because they handle water better. Half-baths can be created out of small closets or under eaves. If you want to go green, low-flow toilets and skylights are good choices. Keep your design in the same period as the rest of your house. You can still have modern amenities while retaining a classic look. Bungalows command subway tile and pedestal sinks, while a modern bathroom may contain more wood and neutral-colored tile. Don’t be shy when it comes to spending — the average bathroom remodel can get you back 80 to 90 percent of your investment [source: Reliable Remodeler].

3. Curb Appeal:
If your house doesn’t look appealing from the outside, chances are a potential buyer will never make it inside. A good first impression can add five to 10 percent to the value of your home [source: BankRate]. If the exterior color of your house is dated or fading, painting is a good place to start your improvements. Choose colors and exterior details that match the period of your house. Shutters add charm and depth, but not if they’re hanging crooked or flaking paint. Paving a driveway or walkway that is in disrepair is a must, because this is what leads people to your home — you want it to be welcoming. Attractive, manicured front-yard landscaping will also add value to your home. Drought-tolerant plants and easy-to-care-for perennials are a good option if you don’t have a green thumb. And don’t forget about your backyard either. Outdoor living is very popular as more people wish to commune with nature in the comfort of their own home. Sprucing up a deck or patio with attractive furniture, raised garden beds and maybe even a water feature will give you years of enjoyment and appeal to future buyers.

4. Home Office:
Green is in, so many companies are looking for ways to reduce costs and minimize their carbon footprint. One way is to offer telecommuting options for employees. Millions of Americans work from home, and that number grows every year. This has made a home office more of a necessity than a luxury [source: Village Homes]. Creating a dedicated work space not only adds value to your house, but it also makes your telecommute tax deductible. Converting an unused den, sunroom or extra bedroom is a great way to take care of business from the comfort of your home. You’ll want to make sure that you have plenty of space to spread out your work load and ample cabinets for storing supplies and archival paperwork. You also need an ergonomic workstation. The rule of thumb is a 26-inch (66-centimeter) high desk and a computer keyboard situated 23 to 28 inches (58 to 71 centimeters) from your body. Your chair height should be 15 to 21 inches (38 to 53 centimeters) from the floor. If you live in an old house, make sure the electrical outlets have been updated with grounded outlets to accommodate three-pronged plugs. Phone lines and data ports are also a big plus.

5. More Space and Light:
In real estate, dark and cramped are no good, so a little light goes a long way. If your house has small rooms that block the flow of natural light, you may want to consider knocking down some walls and opening up your floor plan. Open floor plans usually involve combining your kitchen, dining and living areas into one big space that suits a casual lifestyle. This makes a small house feel light and airy, giving the illusion of a larger living area. Open rooms create an inviting atmosphere for entertaining, because kitchen duties can be performed while hanging out with guests. It’s also great for young families because it allows parents to work on dinner while keeping an eye on the youngsters. If you’re not up for taking down walls, even widening doorways 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30.5 centimeters) will make a noticeable difference. Adding rooms is also a big value booster. Great rooms can add square footage, and vaulted ceilings will make it feel like there’s even more space. If you live in an older house that has small bedrooms, master bedrooms and bathrooms are also good additions that will increase the value of your home.

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