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It's home improvement time

You'd love a new kitchen, but the kids really want a swimming pool. And a finished basement sure would be nice. Tips on how to maximize your investment – and how to come up with the cash.

Most Americans dream of owning their own home. And once that dream comes true, most of us move into the next phase: home improvement. In fact, American Express Home Improvement Index indicates that people are more likely to spend money on home improvements than on vacations or entertainment.

Some home improvement projects are a slam dunk. If you can update your kitchen with paint, a new floor and maybe an appliance or two, you'll easily recoup your investment when it's time to sell. On the other hand, if you live in Alaska and you're thinking of putting in a swimming pool – you may want to think again.

The following chart can help you evaluate the potential payoff for various home improvement projects.

Project

Cost

Average Payback

Basic kitchen re-do

$14,773

87%

Major kitchen remodeling

$38,769

80%

Adding a bathroom

$14,216

81%

New deck

$5,865

75%

Finishing a basement

$39,658

69%

Ten new windows

$9,026

68%

(Statistics source - www.smartmoney.com)