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According to Remodeling, there are several significant points that anyone might take to heart when they consider a project.

Minor kitchen remodeling - which includes nothing fancier than paint, vinyl flooring, new appliances, new laminate countertops and refacing the cabinets - is a can't-miss project. Remodeling estimated the cost nationally of doing this to a 200 square foot dated but otherwise functional kitchen with 30 lineal feet of cabinets and countertops to cost $8,635. If the homeowner turned around and resold the house within a year, she will get back $7,041, or 81 percent of the money that she spent. That's impressive.

The figures are almost as good for adding a bath. In a house that has fewer than two full baths - maybe just a bath and a lavatory - the addition of a 6-foot-by-8-foot bath in existing space will cost $13,918 on average nationally. A seller will recoup $10,000 or 72 percent of that within a year. In some cities where the housing stock is old and the market is hot, the numbers are far better.

There are a couple of caveats. To be that valuable, a bath must be convenient to bedrooms and include a standard bathtub with a shower. Experts say anything less will have diminished value.

Another relatively small-dollar project with healthy repayment is the addition of a home office. To take a den or fourth, small bedroom and build in cabinetry, electrical and phone connections to allow someone to do business at home costs about $8,356. But nationally it has a surprising 50 percent return on investment. That number jumps to more than 100 percent in areas like Baltimore, Maryland and suburban New York/New Jersey, where telecommuting and self-employment are more popular.

Less sexy home projects also have a good return on investment. New windows cost on average nationally $7,531. That investment would return 56 percent, or $4,226. Regional differences are especially strong in this category. In the East, with its older homes and cold winter weather, the return averages 61 percent. In the South, where the weather is milder and many of the homes newer, homeowners recoup only 48 percent.

Another project that returns well in the East, but doesn't do so well in warmer parts of the country is replacement siding. Recovering a house with vinyl siding - the most popular variety - costs $6,072 in the East and returns 70 percent within the first year. The number falls to 48 percent in the West, where stucco is the preferred material.
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