"Fix it and flip it" is a phrase often associated with real estate investing. The idea behind the concept is that the completion of a few choice remodeling projects will add significant value to the price of a home. With this in mind, many homeowners undertake major renovation projects before putting their homes up for sale with the idea that sprucing up the place will result in big bucks. More often than not, these upgrades fail to pay for themselves. Read on to find out how to renovate strategically and which renovations really add value to your property.(To read more about real estate, see Smart Real Estate Transactions, Investing In Real Estate and Tax Deductions For Rental Property Owners.)

The Difference between Investors and Owners
Updating an investment property is generally a sound strategy because successful advocates of the fix-it-and-flip-it philosophy buy run-down homes at bargain prices and save money on the repairs by doing most of the work themselves. A little sweat equity goes a long way toward making a real estate investment profitable.

Investors carefully choose their remodeling projects, focusing on those that will result in the most value for the least amount of effort and cost. Part of the process includes paying attention to the other homes in the neighborhood to avoid over-improving the property. If none of the other houses in the area have crown moldings and Corian counter tops, adding these amenities is unlikely to result in a significantly higher selling price.

Owners, on the other hand, often take a less strategic approach to remodeling when sprucing up their homes prior to putting them on the market. As a result, they can end up putting significantly more money into the project than they will get back out of it when they sell.

To make the most of your remodeling projects, it pays to keep four types of projects in mind : basics, curb appeal, value added and personal preference.

The Basics
The basic are the things that buyers expect when they purchase a home. This includes a roof that doesn't leak, functioning gutters and downspouts, a dry basement, a good furnace, solid floors, walls that are in good repair, retaining walls that work and all of the other common-sense items that you expect to find in a home.

In upscale properties, this includes air conditioning, a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms and garages, and any other amenities that are common to the neighborhood, such as a swimming pool.

Adding these items to a home that lacks them doesn't add value, it merely brings the property up to the standard level of the rest of the homes in the area. Money spent on these items is unlikely to be fully recovered, but should at least result in ensuring that the home sells for a price that is comparable to other homes in the area. (For more insight, see Home Upgrades That Don't Pay.)

Curb Appeal
Items that add curb appeal help the property to look good when prospective buyers arrive. While these projects may not add a considerable amount of monetary value, they will help the place sell faster. Curb appeal items include a nice green lawn, attractive landscaping, fresh paint inside and out, new carpet and new appliances. If you know that a prospective buyer is due to arrive at a certain time, baking an apple pie just before the arrival is an easy way to set the stage, make your house smell good and create a warm, inviting atmosphere. (For more on how curb appeal can help you sell your home faster, read Selling Your Home In A Down Market.)

Adds Value
The projects that add considerable value are big favorites of fix-it-and-flip it advocates. While most of these efforts will not recoup their costs, some will come close. Projects that offer the most bang for the buck include new siding, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, new windows, decks and the addition of living space. The National Association of Realtors cites siding, kitchens and windows as some of the most beneficial projects, often recouping 80% or more of their costs during resale.

Personal Preference
Personal preference projects are nifty items that you want but that other people may not like or be willing to pay to get. In most areas of the country, these include amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, hot tubs, wine cellars, basement game rooms and ponds. There's certainly no harm in adding these items to your house, but don't expect potential buyers to be willing to pay a premium to get them when you are ready to sell.

House and Home
Regardless of the project that you are considering, remember that your primary residence is not just a house, it's your home. If you plan to live there for many years to come, add amenities that you want to have regardless of their impact on resale. When it's time to sell, do the basics to get the property up to par for the neighborhood and add some curb appeal, but don't bother undertaking an extensive array of projects strictly in an effort to increase the value of the property. Even with the projects that are known to add value, the chances are good that you will spend far more money than you will get back in return.

To learn more about buying a home, see Shopping For A Mortgage, Understanding The Mortgage Payment Structure, Understanding Your Mortgage and Paying Off Your Mortgage.

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