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Seattle Times business reporter Elizabeth Rhodes posts the answers to your real estate questions as they pop up during the week. Join this ongoing discussion, which also features reader reaction to real-estate articles appearing throughout The Times.

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October 4, 2007 11:01 AM

Does adding hardwood floors pay off?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: I'm thinking of replacing my vinyl kitchen floor and the wall-to-wall carpet in the adjoining family room with hardwood. Will this pay off at resale?

A: Buyers, in general, do see hardwood floors as a plus. However there's no way to know how adding them to your particular house will affect the sales price without knowing more about your home's general condition, your neighborhood, how long you plan to stay in your home -- and how home sales are fairing at that point.

Right now, for instance, the number of for-sale homes is growing rapidly. So having new floors could be a plus that gets your home sold. But with so much competition for buyers, prices are soft and you might not get the cost of the floors back.

Additionally, you have to consider your competition. If most homes in your neighborhood already have hardwood, your adding it won't make your home stand out (and it's the standouts that bring the big bucks). It will only bring it up to the rest of the neighborhood.

Finally, studies have shown that updating kitchens and baths are the two improvements that return the most at resale. Updating is only beneficial for a few years. Ten or 15 years out, a home improvement may be looking worn and outdated. At that point it returns nothing.

For the best take on what adding hardwood to your home will do resale wise, contact a local real-estate agent. They'll know your neighborhood and should be able to tell you.

But the real deal is this: if you want hardwood floors, you can afford them and plan to be in your house long enough to enjoy them, let that be your guide. A house, after all, is foremost a home.

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