NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) -
It seems like these days everyone has an opinion about what to do with your house. Here are some smart moves from MONEY Magazine that can help you make the most of your real estate, whether you're buying, selling or staying put.
Open a home-equity line of credit -- for the right reasons
Do: Open a home-equity line of credit and use it for the right reasons: to tap as a rainy-day fund, to finance college for your kids or yourself, or to pay down credit-card debt. Don't: Raid your home's equity to fund vacations, plasma TVs and that Beemer you can't afford.
Fix your ARMS
Replace an adjustable-rate mortgage with a 30-year fixed-rate version (recently at 5.8 percent). Short-term rates are already heading up, but long-term mortgages are still historically cheap. Lock in now and never worry again about your housing costs spiraling out of control.
Lower the thermostat automatically
Pick up a setback thermostat for less than $100 at your local hardware store or Home Depot. When you're sleeping or at work, it will automatically adjust the heat (or the AC). A 10-degree drop can knock as much as 15 percent off your utility bills.
If you're selling, think about the curb appeal
Before you put your home on the market, plant a daisy or two. Simple landscaping should cost less than $500 but will increase your sale price by a couple grand. Other high-return/low-expense projects: Put a coat of fresh paint on the front door, turn up the wattage in your lamps, and hire a pro to deep clean.
Average cost to fix a dated or cramped kitchen: $42,660. Average fraction of that you'll add to your home's value: 80 percent. Pleasure derived by creating a gathering spot that fosters more family time: off the charts.
50 Smartest money moves: Money management
Check out MONEY Magazine's special report: Your Home 2005.
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