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Home Upgrades That Pay Off

These 10 around-the-house improvements are well worth the investment.

By Allegra Muzzillo
Yellow front doorAimee Herring

8. Installing Central Air-Conditioning

Why it pays off: Adding central air to an average 2,400-square-foot house could cost upward of $10,000 and boost your home’s value by 10 to 20 percent, says appraiser Leslie Sellers. And central air-conditioning is energy-efficient too. Centralized units have an average energy-efficiency rating (EER) of 11.5, compared with an 8.5 EER in single-window models, making them less expensive to run. What’s more, central air won’t block the view the way a window unit does.

9. Fixing up the Basement

Why it pays off: “There’s nothing worse than that unmistakable damp-basement smell,” says Corcoran. “A dry basement is far more important than worrying about the right lighting or furnishings.” If your basement is prone to flooding, leaks, or excess moisture, call in a pro. If you do want to finish your basement by adding drywall, insulation, laminate flooring, or even a bathroom, “be sure it’s proportional in quality to other areas of your home,” says Lonny Rutherford, a chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers, in Washington, D.C. According to Sellers, “basement remodels gain back anywhere from 50 to 100 percent, depending on the quality of the materials.”

10. Putting in a Swimming Pool

Why it pays off: When you’re deciding whether to install a pool, it’s important to consider the part of the country where you live. In places where it can get unforgivingly hot, such as Arizona and Florida, an inground pool may boost a home’s value by up to 8 percent, according to a 2003 study by the National Association of Realtors. In more temperate areas, however, a pool can be a big turnoff, as prospective buyers imagine all the work they’ll have to do to maintain it, not to mention safety issues and higher insurance rates. But if you plan to enjoy a pool for a few years and it improves your quality of life, “then go for it,” says Tom Kraeutler, a cohost of The Money Pit, a home-improvement radio show, and a coauthor of My Home, My Money Pit (the Globe Pequot Press, $20, “You can’t put a number on that.”

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