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When you’re dreaming of an expansive new deck or shining granite countertops, it’s easy to justify the remodel based on the perceived value it brings to your home. Not all updates are created equal, though, so take a few simple steps to ensure that you’re investing wisely.

Peruse Your Policy Once you’ve developed your plan, but before you start your remodeling, take a look at your homeowners insurance policy. If the new addition increases the value of your home beyond what your policy covers, you’ll need to make adjustments to your policy.

Choose Wisely To get a realistic view of the “payback” each renovation offers, start by looking at areas you use most. Your entry doors, for example, are used multiple times a day. Installing a new steel door can earn your investment back 101% at sale, while a new garage door will bring back approximately 88% of your money. For room renovations, start in the kitchen: It’s the most-used part of the home, where homebuyers look first. A kitchen remodel can earn back nearly 80% of your investment. Work on your budget with payback potential in mind.

Think Big by Thinking Small Start with simple fixes in high-traffic areas. Updated appliances and a coat of paint will bring tremendous value to your kitchen. If you’re considering a major add-on, the same rules of use apply. Instead of building out a less frequently used office space, add on a family room.

Tip
Updated bathrooms are great selling points, but they’re subject to individual taste. Stick with a clean, neutral style that can be personalized through elements like pictures and towels.

Know Your Limits Sure, you’re handy, but the most qualified person should be doing the job. Hiring contractors can save money in the long run, because a subpar DIY job may need to be corrected by a pro later on.

Do Your Homework Start with word-of-mouth recommendations from friends. Conduct phone interviews, call references and meet finalists in person to see if you’re comfortable with them—after all, they’ll be in your home. Ask for a budget. If you get one back that seems too good to be true, it might be. Cutting corners with materials and man-hours won’t result in a quality investment. Get your agreement in writing.