Just a couple of ideas...
Radiant-heated bathroom floors
Forget fancy water-filled tubes embedded in concrete. You can now buy simple mesh-and-wire mats that install fast and easy under ceramic tiles. They cost as low as $15 a square foot and come with a variety of thermostats. Put a toasty floor in your homes' bathrooms and watch your buyers melt.
Butcher block countertops
Wood is the original solid surface. Used as an island or a bar, it holds nostalgic memories for older buyers and offers a fresh natural look for younger customers. It traditionally comes in maple, but butcher block is available in other species such as cherry and birch. An 8-foot-long top measuring 1.5 inches thick and 25 inches wide can be had for as little as $189.
Yes, glass is cool. And yes, it’s pricey. But used sparingly as a kitchen or bath backsplash, glass can’t be beat. It reflects light, shimmers with color, and is virtually maintenance-free. If you shop carefully, you can buy it for as little as $7 a square foot.
Dual flush toilet
One can only imagine the perceived value of a dual-flush toilet installed in a powder room, which will cost about $250. That is about $100 more than a standard toilet, but it can have a family of four up to 6,000 gallons of water per year.
There’s a chance you’ve used a new low-flow showerhead and don’t even know it. And that’s the point. These units use air to deliver the same robust performance as a traditional showerhead, but with a flow rate of 1 gallon per minute as opposed to 3.5 gallons a minute.
On-demand water heater
Depending on your climate, an on-demand (or tankless) water heater is an excellent choice. It does cost more, but instead of heating water at a constant temperature 24 hours a day, the energy-saving unit only activates when there is a need. Plus, it installs on a wall (inside or outside) and frees up space, which is especially important in the smaller, lower-priced homes that buyers appear to prefer in the current economy.
If a tankless water heater is a little too edgy (and costly), you can still give your home buyers instant hot water by using a high-efficiency conventional heater and a water re-circulator. With the push of a button, the device circulates ambient-temperature water from the line so hot water is instant and nothing is wasted down the drain.
In 2007, four out of the most popular 10 products among BUILDER readers were folding patio-door systems. Here's why: When closed, these doors look like any other, but they fold up like an accordion to provide access to the great outdoors. Full-wall installations are pricey, but you can reduce cost with a two-panel system.
A central vacuum cleaner is a built-in system consisting of a power unit, collection canister, and hose. Connected by special pipes installed within interior walls, the system collects dust and deposits it in the centrally located canister. Five times more powerful than an upright, it’s quiet and efficient. Plus, an entry-level system can cost as little as $800.
Insulation isn’t sexy, but when it’s 95 degrees in the summer or the mercury dips below freezing in the winter, your buyers will thank you for this, even if they didn't see the perceived or real value when they first signed the sales contract. Forget the entry-level insulation, and go for something that will really stuff the wall and the roof. While you’re at it, don’t forget the attic.
Nigel Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.