Home $weet home ... or financial folly

There are tempting ways to use your home for potential financial gain. The line isn't always bright, but there are some guidelines for when such moves can be smart ... or dopey.

Type of Project:
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(2006 Natl Avg):
What will you get back?
% Cost recovered  %
Value at sale  
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Remodeling Online's 2006 Cost vs. Value Report
Smart home improvement move
When renovating makes good sense
The beauty of owning a home is that you can customize it to your desire. Of course, doing so takes time, money, vision, talent, and a good sense of value.

Here's when the move can be smart:

The best reason to renovate is two-pronged: You'll enjoy the improvements you make and those improvements add value to your home. Those most likely to boost equity include most kitchen and bathroom renovations and backyard decks.

It's also a good move when you're realistic about the cost and effort required. You've set aside an extra 10 percent to 20 percent for the inevitable overage costs (delays, pricier-than-expected materials, etc.).

Unless you plan to live in your home for at least five years after renovating, don't plan to get back the full average return on your renovation investment if it boosts the value of your home to more than 125 percent of current market price, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

(Here's when it's not a great idea.)

Prepay mortgage? Yup

Prepay mortgage? Nope

Tap equity? Yup

Tap equity? Nope

Renovate? Yup

Renovate? Nope

Get an ARM? Yup

Get an ARM? Nope
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