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Real Estate - May 29, 2009

Weekend home upgrades: fast, affordable fix-ups

With today's falling home prices, one family's well-worn dwelling can quickly become another's dream "starter" home. Interest rates are at historic lows, meaning buyers can get more house than they could a year ago for the same monthly mortgage payment, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

But affording a new home is one thing; affording to remodel it is another. Here are some cost-efficient upgrades that are easy enough to accomplish in a single weekend.

Start at the front door

Whether you're fixing up a newly purchased home or upgrading your current home to attract a buyer, nothing creates a better first impression than a new front entry door. Installing a new entryway door increases the perceived value of a home by up to $24,000, according to a national valuation study conducted by an independent research organization.

Beyond adding curb appeal to your home, installing an energy-efficient door is an important consideration, if you're fixing up an older home. Houses built before 1939 use about 50 percent more energy per square foot than those built after 2000, according to a Time magazine report. The main culprit is tiny cracks and gaps that can expand over time and let in more outside air.

One way to get both beauty and energy efficiency is to choose one of the new doors offered by many collections. They often include new styles perfect for homes with popular architectural designs including Craftsman, bungalow, arts and crafts, mission and cottage motifs, and offer the high style, rich look and warmth of Mahogany hardwood, but at a value price compared with premium wood doors. Many doors are constructed of durable fiberglass, are ENERGY STAR qualified, provide five times the insulation of a wood door and will not rot, split, crack or rot like wood, or rust, dent or ding like steel. Doors are now available that create tight seals to stabilize interior temperature and help decrease a home's energy costs.

Set the stage with lighting

Upgrading the interior lighting can also make a big difference in your home. Designers often use "layered" lighting - a combination of ambient, task and accent lighting - to create a quality of light that not only looks and feels better, but is also better-suited to activities that can take place in any given room.

While you may not be in a position to install an entirely new lighting system in your home, there is a simple and affordable upgrade within easy reach. Light dimmers are available for as little as a few dollars at local home centers and hardware stores and can be installed by any do-it-yourselfer in minutes. (Just remember to turn off the circuit breaker before starting.)

According to the Department of Energy, artificial lighting consumes almost 15 percent of a household's electricity use. Dimming an incandescent bulb by just 15 percent reduces energy use by 15 percent and doubles the life of the bulb. The more you dim the light, the more energy you save.

Make a splash with color

Adding a new coat of paint is another easy, inexpensive upgrade. Depending on the shade you select, your room can be dramatically different or simply refreshed.

The paint you choose can also keep your home looking fresher over time. Some interior paints are perfect for high-traffic hallways, bathrooms, kids' rooms and anywhere long-wearing durability, antimicrobial properties and stain resistance is a must. It's tough enough to withstand repeated cleanings without visible wear, no matter what shade is selected.

As you add color, add a splash of sustainability, too. A low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and low odor paint such as can help ensure better indoor air quality, and it's manufactured using sustainable processes.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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