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18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

(MoneyWatch) Some people like to spend their tax refunds, while others like to save them. But if you're a homeowner and spend your refund making improvements that add value to your house, you can do a little of both.

The average tax refund is $2,700, but no matter how much you get back, there's a project out there that will add value to your home -- whether you're selling right away or further down the road. Even if you don't want to dedicate your whole tax refund check to a particular home improvement project, you can pick a dollar amount and do some quick maintenance that will still add value.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For less than $100: Paint

A new coat of paint can really spruce up a room, whether it's a fresh coat of a fairly neutral shade or simply re-touching all the dings and scratches. This home improvement project is low-cost, but can carry high rewards if you're thinking of reselling.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For less than $100: Fix leaks

You don't need a full energy audit to find and fix air leaks. Take a small candle and hover it around corners, edges and any visible cracks in your walls, as well as around windows and doors. If the flame flickers, there's a draft that you can stop up with a little caulk. This will also save you money on heating and cooling costs.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $100 to $200: Hire a cleaning service

If you're on the verge of selling, or you just want to make sure all the nooks and crannies have been scrubbed, consider hiring a cleaning service to get all the dirt and dust you shrug away during your busy everyday life.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

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For $100 to $200: Steam your carpets

Steam-cleaning your carpets is another inexpensive way to see instant, gratifying improvement as well as adding value to your home. Similar to a new paint job, cleaning any latent dirt or grime out of your carpets makes your home look newer, fresher and more attractive.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $200 to $300: Replace bathroom light fixtures

Most buyers want significant light in the bathroom for daily grooming, so making sure your lighting is both modern and efficient is important. Replace any dated light fixtures and consider installing lights over the mirror in addition to general overhead or wall sconce lighting.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $200 to $300: Install new faucets

Few upgrades are more appealing than a quick faucet change. If any of the faucets in your house, particularly the kitchen sink, are the bare minimum, change them out. For your kitchen sink, get a spray faucet or consider a water purifier. These small features can make big differences to potential buyers down the line.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $300 to $500: Re-tile bathroom

If you want to get a return on investment, spend money on your kitchen or bathroom. Re-tiling the bathroom floor or walls around the shower won't cost much, but if your space is outdated, it could make a big difference.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $300 to $500: Hire a design pro

This price range may not get you full services, but you could spend that money hiring a professional decorator, interior designer or home stager to come in your home, give you an assessment and offer advice on the best way to make improvements.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $300 to $500: Get an energy audit

You can hire a pro to come in and assess where you can increase your energy-efficiency, saving you and the future owners money in the long-term.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

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For $500 to $750: Hire a professional organizer

Bring on a professional organizer to advise you on how to maximize storage and install organizational solutions in your home. Anything that helps add storage and reduce clutter is a big hit with buyers.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $500 to $750: Landscaping

Adding curb appeal is almost always a surefire way to add value to your home without spending a lot. You can hire a professional landscaper to design a new look for your yard, or do it yourself by getting a new tree or a mixture of shrubs, bushes and perennial flowers. To maximize the benefits, look for native plants that naturally thrive in your area and are relatively drought-resistant so you don't have to spend a lot of time replanting or maintaining.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $750 to $1,000: Re-do a closet

Adding shelving, organizational furniture, replacing wire racks or installing new doors in a closet can help you create new space and keep things organized. Regardless of whether or not the additions to your closet are permanent, anything that makes your closet space look bigger will look good to buyers.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $750 to $1,000: Install a steel front door

Steel doors actually have one of the highest returns on investment of any home improvement project you can do. Plus, a new color or design can add to the curb appeal of your home and steel adds to the overall security.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $1,000 to $1,500: Update your kitchen appliances

Almost all kitchen appliances -- dishwashers, ranges, ovens, refrigerators -- can be purchased for around $1,000 to $1,500. While higher-end models will run closer to $3,000 for many of those items, if your appliances are old or dingy, an upgrade to a sleeker, stainless steel model will do wonders to modernize your kitchen and add value.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $1,000 to $1,500: Install shelving

Built-in shelving can take an awkward space and turn it into something visually interesting and functional. Plus, installing shelving is one of the few projects many people can actually tackle themselves with the right tools and attention to detail.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $1,500 to $3,000: Install a kitchen island

Kitchen islands are extremely popular these days. If you have the room, and aren't considering any frills like plumbing or electricity, you can have a sizeable island installed for much less than $3,000.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $1,500 to $3,000: Catch up on repairs and maintenance

If you have any project nagging at you, maybe some siding needs to be refreshed, or the water heater needs to be replaced, some plumbing could be improved or your air conditioner unit needs a tune-up, make these necessary upgrades. Buyers expect your home to be in working condition, so don't fall behind. It's less expensive to maintain than to fix when it's broken.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $3,000 to $5,000: Replace kitchen cabinets

If your cabinets are stuck in the past, consider refacing them, which could run for $3,000 or less, or completely replacing them. While the cost varies greatly depending on your space, it makes the biggest difference in the overall look of the kitchen. (If you have less to spend, change the hardware for an updated look.

18 ways your tax refund can be used to add home value

For $3,000 to $5,000: Re-do a room

To maximize your return on investment, focus on the kitchen or bathroom and then the master bedroom, where you could add an attached bathroom. Also consider turning your basement or attic into a usable room, which will increase the functionality of your home while you're in it and put another room on the listing when you sell it.

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