From great advances in green living to not-so-great dips and turns in housing market, sometimes it's hard to figure out the best ways to improve your home's value. Here are five that will help your family ride out an unpredictable economy with comfort, efficiency and steady home value. 
  • Maintain home value. Though you can’t control the ups and downs of the housing market, you can take steps to steady your home’s value and overall condition. First and foremost, stay on top of basic maintenance chores, because neglecting the little things can lead to big expenses later on. From there, consider improvements carefully and spend your time and money on the most cost-effective of the bunch. Generally, that means avoiding anything that’s too dramatic a change, too personalized to appeal to the general home-buying public, or reconfigurations that subtract precious living or storage space. Before making a move toward the local home improvement center, be sure to browse Remodeling Online’s Cost vs. Value Report, which provides recent data on popular improvements and corresponding costs recouped, according to U.S. region.
  • Improve Home Value, Comfort and Efficiency Five WaysSave energy. There are a number of things you can do to trim heating bills in the winter and keep your cool in summer. Make sure hard-won comfort stays indoors by bulking up insulation, sealing leaky ductwork, and adding new weatherstripping to drafty doors and windows. Create climate control with a programmable thermostat. Keep heating and cooling systems in tune with annual service inspections, and be vigilant about changing filters. And if you’re able, begin replacing inefficient windows with Energy Star qualified models, which will improve your home’s value as well as its indoor climate.
  • Improve indoor air quality. As you tighten up your home’s envelope, make adjustments to keep indoor air clean and healthy. Choose VOC-free finishes, floor coverings and project materials, and get a vacuum equipped with a powerful HEPA filter. Ensure that all vents are in working order so that moisture and odors can properly exhaust, and consider adding a whole-house air cleaner to your existing HVAC system. 
  • Reduce outdoor water usage. During high seasons for landscape maintenance, about 1.5 billion gallons of water is wasted daily in America’s great suburban outdoors. Avoid adding to the problem and your water bill by installing a water-wise irrigation system, operated by an adjustable, reliable timer and integrating special sensors that can tell when Mother Nature has taken care of the watering and your sprinklers aren’t needed. Also consider making changes to the landscaping itself. Less turf and more native, water-wise plantings can greatly reduce irrigation needs while enhancing your home’s outdoor impression year-round.
  • Improve accessibility. Ensure comfort and mobility for family members of all ages and extend your own years in your home by applying the principles of Universal Design. Install grab bars in the bath, replace standard doorknobs with lever models, establish clear and uncluttered paths for wheelchair and walker access, and improve the stability of handrails located indoors and out. Also keep barrier-free features in mind as you replace fixtures and make other improvements (for example, a lower-slung stretch of countertop in the kitchen will allow you to do food prep chores while seated). Universal design improvements also have the universal effect of improving your home's value all at the same time!

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