July 8, 2010 -- If you're one of the millions of Americans who have seen your home lose value since the housing bubble burst, here's a bit a good news: There are ways for you to gain a little control over the value of your home.
By doing relatively minor home projects, you can make your home and property more desirable and increase its value with your own two hands.
"Good Morning America" teamed up with Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine to share some of the magazine's best tips.
CLICK HERE to visit the ShopSmart website.
Fix Poor Lighting on Walkways
Not only does poor lighting on walkways and entryways compromise safety and security in your home, it also hurts the overall look of your house.
To fix it, ShopSmart suggests installing low-voltage fixtures for pathways. Compact florescent bulbs can last up to 10 times longer than incandescent ones and can give the atmosphere a soft look if you look for packages marked 2700K or "soft light."
Fix Up Your Entry Door
If your front door doesn't look good, it's going to reflect on the rest of the house. Fix it up with new weather stripping and sand or refinish the paint or repaint all together, ShopSmart said. Don't forget the details. You can polish any hardware on the door and frame the door with matching pottery or planters.
If you're in the market for a new door, an Energy Star-approved door comes with a $1,500 tax credit.
Get Your Shrubs in Line
If your shrubs are overgrown and spilling onto the walkway or driveway, it can give the whole property an unkept look.
ShopSmart said using simple hand-operated edge clippers or an electric model for the shrubs can keep them in line. An electric trimmer can work wonders for the edges of walkways.
Scrub the Grundge Off the Garage Door
According to ShopSmart, here's the recipe for defeating outdoor home stains: scrub the ugly patches with one part bleach, three parts water followed by a good rinsing from a hose.
A scrub brush with soft, nylon bristles can tackle the stains without doing any permanent damage to a garage door or siding. If the stains are stubborn, you can rent a pressure washer for as low as $60 a day. Just use the wide spray setting and start 12 inches away from the stain. If you plan to use it more often, you may want to consider purchasing a pressure washer. Electric models run around $100, ShopSmart said.
Remember to keep the high pressure sprays away from hands, feet, people and pets.
Make the Grass Greener on Your Side
Brownish grass with a lot of weeds can be an eyesore, even if the house itself is beautiful.
It costs as little as $10 to test your soil, ShopSmart said, so you can see exactly what nutrients your lawn needs. Next, ShopSmart said to buy the kind of grass that will grow best in your area. Remember to water in the mornings and when you cut your lawn, make sure not to take off more than a third of the grass height at a time.
When you mow your lawn, you can save time and energy by mulching your own clippings rather than bagging them.
ShopSmart recommends the Toro Recycler 20332, which is said to operate as well as mowers that cost twice as much.
Web Extra Tips
Take Out the Peeling Paint
Nothing makes a home look weathered quicker than peeling, fading, cracking or flaking paint.
To fix it, you need to asses the damage, ShopSmart said. If it's just a little dirt and mildew, a good pressure washing can blast that out. But if the problem's more serious, it's time to get out the brushes and rollers.
In that case, ShopSmart recommends using Behr Premium Plus Flat and Semigloss paint which costs less than $25 per gallon. It's mildew resistant and is designed to last for nearly a decade.
Dealing With Damaged Decking
Damaged decks -- those with cracks, missing boards, and loose nails, screws or bolts -- not only look bad, but can also be dangerous.
Take the fight to the deck with your own set of tools to hammer down loose nails and tighten loose screws. If you can replace one or two boards without too much trouble, that may be the end of your deck dealings. But if the damage requires a more aggressive strategy, you may want to think about replacing the entire deck with a new one, ShopSmart said.
Watch Out for Wrecked Windows
If your windows are cracked, have rotted frames or other visible damage it could be costing you big time in wasted energy.
Caulking or installing new weather stripping can eliminate drafts, ShopSmart said. If the frames are rotted, you'll likely have to install brand new windows from the outside, which can be costly.
The best windows, ShopSmart said, are clad wood and fiberglass windows that help block cold air and rain. The ones that are Energy Star approved earn you a $1,500 tax credit.