If you've been bitten by the remodeling bug, you're not alone. According to a recent American Express survey, three out of four homeowners plan to make improvements in the coming year. Here are a few things to consider before you head to the lumber yard, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

  • Think small. When Remodeling magazine looked at the return on investment for common home improvement projects, the only one that was a moneymaker was a new front door! A good quality insulated steel door costs $900 or more but increases resale value by almost $1,300.
  • The next remodeling tip: Pay cash. Experts say that unless you've got a real emergency - like a leaky roof or flooded basement - you shouldn't borrow money to remodel. Once you add payments and interest, it can double your cost. So, even a $900 upgrade could wind up costing you almost $2,000!
  • Remodel to improve your life not your resale value. The National Association of Realtors says that, on average, spending a thousand dollars on your house only increases the resale value by $600. So, focus on improvements that save money - like adding insulation. Or choose renovations that help you enjoy your time at home now - whether they increase your resale value or not.
  • If you want to sell your home, leave your power tools and hammers alone, and get out your broom and dustpan. Real estate agent Zack Sudler says that for most houses, a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning will do more for your bottom line than any other project. After you've cleaned, attend to the little issues, like cracked light switch covers and wobbly ceiling fans. That's because a pile of small problems can make prospective buyers think there might be fundamental flaws in the way your house is built - or in how it was maintained, and send them searching elsewhere.