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Home improvement projects with big payoffs

See how this list compares to the best home renovation projects for 2013.

Most homeowners know exactly what they would do to change their current home into their dream home: gut the kitchen, reconfigure the bathroom or repaint the entire exterior. But what if you're ideal renovations don't yield any return?

The key to investing in your home is doing it wisely, making sure you recoup at least some of the cost upon the sale of your home. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Remodeling Magazine recently released their 2011-2012 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, and the findings prove you don't have to spend a ton of money to add to your home's resale value.

Exterior renovations dominated the list of cost-effective projects. "This year's Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report shows the value of putting your home's best facade forward, so to speak," said NAR President Moe Veissi. "Inexpensive exterior replacement projects are not only crucial to a home's regular upkeep, but are also expected to recoup close to 70 percent of costs."

So, without further ado, here are some of the home improvement projects which will get you the most bang for your buck:

Home improvement projects with big payoffs
Fiber-cement siding replacement
Cost recouped: 78 percent

An upgrade to fiber cement siding replaced exterior doors as the number one remodeling project this year. Siding replacement is already part of long-term home maintenance, so if you can afford it, go for the good stuff and reap the rewards upon the sale of your home.

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Home improvement projects with big payoffs
Entry door replacement
Cost recouped: 73 percent

Replacing your current entry door with a strong steel door pays for itself in more than one way. You see more than 70 percent of your cost returned, and you will know you and your family are safer than you would be with a flimsy wooden exterior door.

Home improvement projects with big payoffs
Attic bedroom addition
Cost recouped: 72.5 percent

This one might not be possible for everyone but, if have the option, adding a bedroom always adds value to your home. According to the report, this is the least expensive way to add a bedroom and bathroom without putting on an addition.

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Home improvement projects with big payoffs
Garage door replacement
Cost recouped: 71 percent

This project jumped seven spots this year to number six on the list. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, this is mostly due to the average cost of this project falling 15 percent nationally. You can expect a good return when you replace your old garage door with an upscale or mid-range model.

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Home improvement projects with big payoffs
Window replacement
Cost recouped: 69.1 percent

As with many of the projects on this list, window replacement is part of long-term home maintenance for many people. By replacing your old windows with newer vinyl models, you'll recoup some of your cost and save yourself money on utility bills over time.

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These returns represent the national average, but different parts of the country may see higher or lower returns depending on location. To see a full list, and find out where your hometown falls against the national average, visit the Cost vs. Value website.