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Monday, April 15, 2013

Cut costs and make home improvement pay off

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

Spring has sprung and home improvement is on the minds of many Americans who – according to a Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Study -- are spending more on home improvement.

Indeed, 72% of homeowners have at least one home improvement project on their to-do list this year, expecting to spend an average of $4,000, according to an Echo Research survey conducted on behalf of American Express.

So, how can you get the most bang for your home improvement buck? Here are six tricks of the trade from BankRate.com:

1. Think of your home like a car. Give it regular maintenance before costly repairs sneak up.

2. Consider used tools instead of new. You can often snag them at yard sales and at auctions. Farm auctions are an amazing source for mowers. FarmersAdvance.com has a calendar of upcoming events.

3. In some cases you can save hundreds – even thousands – of dollars by renting versus buying tools like power paint sprayers, scaffolding and platforms.

4. Invariably there's a screw or two left over after every project. Keep things like nails and screws organized in a plastic bag or mason jar, so you can find them fast next go-around without having to purchase dozens when you only need one or two.

5. There are probably some places you don't need to be real picky about paint. If so, consider the "oops" bin, where custom colors someone didn't end up buying may be. Local municipalities and waste management departments may have paint they'd love for you to take off their hands for free. And, go for as few coats as possible.

6. Lastly, keep things dry. Moisture is a real culprit in prompting pricey fixes. Make sure your heating and air conditioning system is well maintained. And consider investing in a dehumidifier.

When all is said and done, what kind of return can you expect on your home improvement investment?

In their annual Cost vs. Value reports, Remodeling magazine and the National Association of Realtors estimate improvement projects on average return nearly 61% of the cost in terms of higher home values. So, you won't get it all back, but it's a decent return on investment if the repairs fit your budget.