Home Improvements that Make Sense 

It's a strange time to be a homeowner. You've managed to hold on to your house during these tough economic times, but figuring out what to do next may be the trickiest part of all. If selling isn't part of the plan, could this be the right time to make some improvements to your home? I think it is, but with one condition. The improvements will have to make sense.

The Nuts and Bolts of It All
Making improvements to your home is never a quick and easy decision. Given today's economic climate, the decision becomes even more difficult. With so many aspects to consider, we decided to simplify things and concentrate on two – cost and the potential for adding value to your home.

Affordability is always relative to the individual. What one person can comfortably pay for may break the budget of another. For this reason we have decided to concentrate on improvements we consider to be fairly low in cost.

In addition, I thought it was necessary for the improvement to have a positive effect on your home's overall cachet. By concentrating on certain types of upgrades you'll not only create a more comfortable living space for yourself, but you'll make it more sellable if and when the time arises.

The Front Door
Repainting or replacing the front door will dramatically improve the exterior appearance of your home. It will enhance an area that everyone sees, no matter if they're driving by or walking up. Upgrading the hardware on the door is also a nice touch.

Plant the Seed
Foliage on the outside of the home carries many benefits. Among them are the addition of color and vitality to the landscaping. If the weather in your area isn't conducive for gardening at the present time, concentrate instead on acquiring potted plants for your porch or walkway. As the weather warms up, think about potential projects for the front and back yards.

Paint the Walls
The weather may not be right for painting the exterior of your home, but it's a fine time for painting the inside. Just remember that you don't have to paint every single room. Prioritize and proceed according to your budget and schedule. Think about sticking to lighter, more standardized colors. These types of colors will not only brighten the space, they'll make it look bigger.

Lighting is Everything
The ambience inside the home, especially at night, is highly dependant on lighting. Great looking lighting fixtures are a plus, but they can be expensive and don't always translate into putting out optimal light. The installation of dimmer switches is far less expensive and it allows for tremendous flexibility when it comes to lighting for mood.

Fix the Fixtures
While upgrading bathrooms is a sound investment in terms of increasing your home's value, a remodel may not be part of this year's budget. That said, don't ignore your bathrooms altogether. Fixtures such as faucets, towel racks, lights and showerheads have the ability to spruce up both the look and functionality. Throw in newly painted walls and some decorative accents and your bathroom will feel brand new.

Fawn Over Your Flooring
New flooring is major "bang for your buck" when it comes to increasing a home's value. But, once again, is there money in the budget to do it? If the answer is no, opt instead for having your carpets and hardwood floors professionally cleaned by a quality and reputable company, preferably one that's been referred by either a mortgage or real estate professional.

No Cottage Cheese
Since acoustic ceilings are no longer en vogue, removing them is a great way to improve the look of your home. You can do this project yourself, but beware. It is not only a messy endeavor, but some acoustic ceilings contain asbestos. We suggest hiring a qualified and recommended painter to do the job for you. If budget is an issue, you can always do one or two rooms at a time, as opposed to the whole house.

Windows to the World
Windows are your portals to the outside world, so it makes a lot of sense to give them a facelift. New windows not only improve your view from inside, they may just save you some money on your energy bill. While you're at it, you may also want to consider adding interior trim to your new windows, or replacing any outdated window treatments. You may be a bit surprised at how affordable these types of improvements have become. Once again, however, you can do this project one room at a time.

Rearrange for Change
One of the least expensive upgrades is a simple rearranging of your furniture and decor. It costs nothing and it might actually result in either selling or donating items you no longer like or want. Proceeds can be put toward the purchase of new items. If you need help in rearranging your home's interior, we suggest the book, Decorating for Good: A Step-by-Step Guide to Rearranging What You Already Own, by Carole Talbott.

Don't Forget the Garage
The garage is a part of the home that is often neglected. If this sounds familiar, you may want to think about organizing the interior. Any items that are no longer in use can be sold in a true "garage sale". These proceeds can go toward either repainting or replacing the garage door. Don't laugh. It's an inexpensive yet effective way to spruce up your garage's exterior.

Ihope you found these suggestions useful. Even more useful is the idea that improving and updating your home does not have to be an expensive proposition. I wish you luck and encourage you to create the brightest and most comfortable space possible.

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