group of contractors and workers
Illustration: Josh Garskof

Stay Put and Upgrade

From 2001 to 2005, the American house rose in value by an average of 50 percent. That made it a no-brainer to take out a home-equity loan for redoing the kitchen or adding a master bathroom. Not anymore. The average home price fell last year, for the first time in the 40 years that the National Association of Realtors has tracked sales data.

But every cloud, and perhaps every exploded bubble, has a silver lining. The slowdown has hit the construction industry hard and turned home improvement into a buyer's market. And that makes this a great time for a project, whether you hire out or do it yourself. As long as you didn't buy near the peak in a ZIP code where prices doubled or tripled and you plan to stick around to enjoy the results for a few years, there's almost no way you won't come out ahead. There are a lot of good reasons to do a project now. Read on to see all 10 of them.
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