How to Help Your Home Recover From the Housing Bubble

By Wendy Connick Markets Fool.com

The housing bubble may have burst years ago, but the recovery still has a long way to go. According to Trulia, only about 34% of homes nationwide have exceeded their pre-recession value. If your house is in this unfortunate majority, you can take some easy steps to increase its value without emptying your bank account.

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Kitchen upgrades

According to Consumer Reports, kitchen improvements are particularly effective in bringing up a home's value because a nice kitchen is a top priority for buyers. And while upgrading your entire kitchen would be very expensive indeed, small-scale improvements can have a significant impact on resale value without emptying your wallet.

Cosmetic improvements like replacing cabinet and drawer pulls and slapping a fresh coat of paint on the walls can work wonders. If you have a little more cash to spend, consider replacing flooring and countertops or upgrading your appliances. Putting in all stainless steel appliances can be a very effective way to create a coordinated, up-to-date and easy-care look in your kitchen. A full-scale kitchen renovation can increase your home's value by as much as 7%.

Image source: Getty images.

Boost energy efficiency

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Boosting your home's energy efficiency will not only impress buyers; it can also save you a lot of money on heating and cooling bills. Even small changes, like swapping out standard lightbulbs with LEDs and renewing caulking and weatherstripping around doors and windows, can have a dramatic impact on energy efficiency. If you have more cash to spend, consider replacing your windows with high-efficiency, Energy Star-certified windows and your water heater or furnace with higher-efficiency models. In cold climates, upgrading your furnace can have a dramatic impact on your heating costs; while old furnace and boiler systems are typically 56% to 70% efficient, newer models may reach 98.5% efficiency. Not only will your utility bills drop immediately, but your home's value can increase by up to 3%.

Senior-friendly houses

By the year 2040, seniors are expected to account for 21% of the population. If your home promotes aging in place, its value will soar in this particular market. Small and inexpensive upgrades include replacing faucet handles, doorknobs, and cabinet pulls with easy-to-grasp hardware for arthritic fingers. More expensive improvements like a curbless (one-level) shower, wider doorways, hallways that allow for easy walker and wheelchair access, and easy-to-reach countertop and bathroom heights also help. These senior-centric updates can increase house value by up to 2%.

Curb appeal

An attractive house exterior and yard create a great first impression. Simple cosmetic upgrades like painting your front door and keeping your yard well-groomed can do a lot. With more funds, consider painting your home's exterior, replacing turfgrass with low maintenance and water-efficient groundcovers or gravel, and incorporating outdoor living features such as a fire pit with a comfortable seating arrangement. Another option would be a deck or patio with a built-in grill or room for a freestanding one. Adding outdoor improvements can bump a home's value by up to 5%.

Add square footage

Adding square footage or making the space more usable can make your house far more valuable to potential buyers. With a small budget, rearranging furniture to encourage traffic and painting interior walls a lighter color can give rooms a larger, more airy feel. If you have a little more to spend, finishing an existing basement is probably the single biggest way to have more usable square footage. Finishing an attic is another, though somewhat more expensive, option. If your home's architectural structure allows, you might also be able to remove some interior walls to achieve a more open floor plan. However, check first with an expert to confirm that they aren't load-bearing walls or you could end up bringing down your own roof. Boosting square footage can increase your home's value by up to 6%.

Pick the improvements you can live with

While increasing a home's value is definitely nice, the upgrades you choose should make sense to you and your lifestyle first and foremost. After all, the value you get out of an outdoor grilling area will be a lot bigger if you love hosting lawn parties, and spending thousands on shiny-new kitchen appliances won't make much sense for a family that eats out every night. Improvements that you genuinely enjoy return value far above the extra cash you can get from a buyer.

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