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Saturday, July 22, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The 7 deadly sins of home "remuddling"

MarketWatch

CHICAGO — Homeowners can find plenty of information on which improvements will help boost the value of their houses. But significantly less attention is paid to what to avoid when remodeling your home. Consider the following seven deadly home-improvement sins before committing to projects that may work against you to lessen your resale value.

1. Overexpanding

Keeping up with the Joneses is fine, but don't keep outdoing the homes on the block with a procession of additions — unless you plan on staying put for a long while. A home that becomes conspicuously larger — and more expensive — than those around it risks becoming difficult to sell, said Holly Slaughter, brand manager and consumer experience expert for RealEstate.com, a Web site that provides information to home buyers and sellers.

Also keep in mind that additions tend not to return their entire investment, according to Tom Stevens, president of the National Association of Realtors. The 2005 "Cost vs. Value Report" by the association and Remodeling magazine found that homeowners were able to recoup 83 percent of the cost of a family-room addition and 82 percent of the cost of a midrange master-suite addition.

2. Making your home into something it's not

Don't change the general architecture or style of the home, and make sure that renovations match. For example, a modern steel door doesn't belong on a ranch house built in the 1970s, Slaughter said.

Changes that are obviously inconsistent with the style of the home limit the number of people who will be interested in buying it, said Michael Nagel, vice chairman of the National Association of Home Builders' Remodelors Council.

3. Changing a room's functionality

Completely altering the purpose of a room is risky. So keep kitchens as kitchens and bathrooms as bathrooms — they were built that way for a reason.

Even with the rising number of people who work at home, building up an office also can be a negative, Stevens said. The National Association of Realtors/Remodeling magazine study found that installing a computer workstation, office storage and commercial carpeting — as well as rewiring the room for computer and fax use — only produced an average 73 percent return on investment.

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4. Doing it yourself — when you shouldn't

Be extremely confident you're capable of taking on a project before attempting to do it yourself.

"I wouldn't try and fix my own car; why would someone want to fix their own house?" Nagel said. He frequently sees sloppy tile jobs, for instance, completed by amateurs who should have contracted an expert instead.

5. Underbudgeting

Don't underestimate how much projects will cost. Homeowners routinely make that mistake and end up 20 percent to 30 percent off in their budgets, Slaughter said.

"People not only underbudget from a monetary point, but they also underbudget time," she said. A prospective buyer walking through a home isn't going to see the glass half-full when a project is only half complete.

Be conservative when budgeting, Nagel said. Expenses usually are added to jobs and rarely subtracted.

6. Making unnecessary renovations

When remodeling for resale, don't waste time with renovations that won't pay off. Proceed first with projects that are going to have the highest rate of return.

In the past four annual editions, the National Association of Realtors/Remodeling magazine study has identified four projects that show the greatest return at resale: improvements to siding, windows, kitchens and bathrooms.

In the 2005 study, a midrange bathroom renovation paid off with an average 102 percent return on investment and an upscale bathroom renovation recouped 93 percent of its cost. A midrange kitchen renovation recouped 91 percent of its cost on average, and an upscale kitchen recouped 85 percent. A minor kitchen-remodeling job returned 99 percent of its cost.

7. Neglecting regular maintenance

Don't forget proper maintenance and annual upkeep — those may be the most important improvements of all. Make sure the home is painted as needed, clean the gutters, trim shrubs and check for termites. Keep track of annual maintenance and use those records as a selling point, Slaughter said.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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