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Our homes are our largest and most important financial asset—but do you know what yours is worth? There are hundreds of sites out there that will give you a rough number based on your street address, but none of them take a deeper look inside or, more important, tell you what kinds of updates you need to make to yield the best returns. Now you can get all the answers you require from your phone.

Plunk, a new app designed to help homeowners grow their home equity, launched this week. The free tool uses AI, image analysis, and computer vision to provide you with accurate, real-time home valuation (it also takes into account upgrades you’ve made over the years or just a few days ago). It will even tell you how much value certain remodels, be it attaching a garage or redoing the kitchen, will add to your space. We caught up with the company’s cofounder and president, David Bluhm, to learn which updates are worth tackling—and which ones to avoid. 

Courtesy of Plunk

Courtesy of Plunk

To Build a Pool or Not to Build a Pool?

Location, location, location should be the deciding factor. A swimming pool is going to be seen as a lot more valuable in a place like always-sunny Florida than in Alaska, notes Bluhm. “That same pool also has a very different value in a luxury neighborhood than in a median one, where its upkeep is going to be seen as an unaffordable cost, and even possibly a liability,” he says. 

Be Skeptical When It Comes to Exterior Updates

At some point or another, someone will try to sell you on gutter guards (screens that keep leaves and debris from clogging gutters), but Bluhm says that, while they may prevent some very costly water damage, there is no data to support that they impact the price tag of your home in the long run. “They aren’t even listed as a home attribute in county assessor, recorder, or MLS property information,” he says. 

Also, don’t automatically be swayed by roofing companies that tell you your shingles need a tune-up. As long as a home inspector gives you a five-year certification, there’s no reason to replace them. “They often just need to be cleaned,” says Bluhm

Focus on the Selling Points

You’ll see the most bang for your buck in what Bluhm calls the decision-maker rooms—i.e., the places we spend the most time in these days, like the kitchen, main bedroom, and office. “Think about giving them a fresh coat of paint and updating flooring,” he says. Cha-ching.

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