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Home Improvement Payback

A new steel door beats a sunroom any day

Q. I'm making some improvements to my home. What kind will give the best payback value when I put my place on the market?

See also: Recession remodel room makeover.

A. To determine the best bang for your buck, check out Remodeling magazine's most recent "Cost vs. Value Report," which compares prices of 35 home improvement projects with their recoup values in 80 U.S. cities, based on data from the National Association of Realtors.

Although results vary widely by city, the 2010-2011 report indicates that, on average nationwide, a steel entry door replacement is the best money spent: Although it costs $1,218, it'll add 102 percent of that to the sale price of your home. This is the only project to bring in more money than initially spent, but other projects have high returns.

Replacing a garage door costs $1,291 and recoups about 84 percent, while a 16-by-20-foot wood deck costing nearly $11,000, a minor kitchen renovation at $21,695 or replacing siding at an average of $11,357 all return about 73 percent.

The lowest returns, again on an average basis nationally, come with converting a bedroom into a home office (with custom shelving and rewiring for office equipment), adding a backup generator or building a sunroom — each recouping less than half its cost.

Other experts say that in a tough housing market, the very best time and money may come in making minor fixes — repairing leaky faucets, squeaky hinges and the like — and boosting curb appeal by landscaping and sprucing up your lawn.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues. Have a question for Sid Kirchheimer about a new product, a new kind of bank account? Check out the Ask Sid archive. If you don’t find your answer there, send a query.

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