Resale, Sweet Resale

It's hard enough getting two people to agree on what movie to see, let alone whether a paint chip is blue-green or green-blue.

So when it comes to remodeling your home, how do you do it without offending a future buyer's taste?

You poll the people.

That's what did in its annual "Cost Vs. Value Report." For 18 years, Remodeling has surveyed contractors, real estate agents, and appraisers to come up with the national average price of specific remodeling and home-improvement projects, and the amount each would add to a home's resale value.

Before you take a sledgehammer to the den's drywall and get a second mortgage to cover the cost of a pro to come in and clean up that mess you made, consider how homeowners in 60 markets fared financially after 18 common upgrades.

The best bang for the remodeling buck, according to the report, is a "minor kitchen remodel," which includes refinishing cabinets and installing energy-efficient appliances, laminate countertops, new fixtures, wall covering, and resilient flooring at an average cost of $15,273 in 2004. Homeowners recouped an average of 92.9% (or $14,195) of the cost of that lemon-fresh kitchen at resale. A close second, at an average cost of $6,946, was new siding, which returned 92.8% of the outlay when the "Sold" sign was stuck in the lawn.

The most expensive upgrade -- the addition of an upscale "master suite" -- cost a whopping $134,000, on average. If you decide to treat yourself to this kind of upgrade, make sure you get 22.4% worth of enjoyment out of the whirlpool tub and walk-in closet/dressing area, because you'll recoup only $104,000 of your remodeling money when you sell.

Want to avoid living in a money pit? Think twice before adding a sunroom (average cost $31,063, of which you can expect back just 22 grand) or redoing your basement (where you'll get back 76% of an average $47,888 outlay), the survey reports.

Of course, your actual home-improvement payoff depends on the value of your home and of others in the neighborhood, how fast property values in your area are rising, the cost of materials and labor, and the color of green-blue tile you pick for your backsplash.

And, yes, there's no denying the role of the old standby: Location, location, location.

For those who prefer to avoid drywall dust in their cereal, consider other ways to make the most of your biggest asset -- your home. We've got tips on everything from saving money on biweekly mortgages, to title insurance, to cutting costs big-time when you sell your home.

Do you have home-improvement ideas for your fellow Fools? Take them to theBuilding/Maintaining a Homediscussion board.

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