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Designer Felix Guyon shares a penthouse in a 25-storey building on Nuns’┬áIsland in Montreal, with a stunning view of the Saint Lawrence River. For some homeowners, home improvement isn’t about return on investment; it’s simply about making dreams come true. Architect Steve Straughan recently finished work on a $250,000 home theater room with a 12-foot wide screen and an elaborate sound system. “There’s not a home we’re doing that doesn’t have a home theater,” Straughan says. “It’s a common request across the board and typically it’s a big investment.” Most home theaters involve wiring speakers into walls and extensive built-in cabinetry, as well as soundproofing-“it’s not something you can take with you” if you move, Straughan points out. Still, a home theater is likely to have broad appeal, so you may recoup a large chunk of your costs at resale. “A home theater makes sense,” says realtor Ron Phipps. “A six-car garage does not make sense.” In the high-end L.A. market, Straughan also sees demand for wine cellars, massage rooms and yoga rooms.

The basics are always more important than fancy new fittings and fixtures. A beautiful new kitchen and bathroom will add no value if the roof is leaking or rising damp is a problem, for example. It is the basic improvements that will provide the greatest return on a home’s value. Homeowners who are considering selling in the next year or so need to start any home improvements by tackling problems with the home’s structure or systems such as the plumbing before installing a Jacuzzi, for example.

A welcoming front yard and an inviting backyard can go a long way into increasing your property’s value. By adding a patio or a deck in the front or the back of your house can make it look a hundred times more livable. In the backyard, you can set up a grill station, picnic stations (if it’s big enough for more than one), or a tiny playground for children. Maintaining this backyard could be difficult, but you can replace a part of the grass on the outer area of the backyard with gravel. You can reduce the maintenance plus have a bit of a design to it too.

How many bathrooms does your current house have compared to the bedrooms? If you have a three-bedroom house with just two bathrooms, you may want to invest in another one. Even just a half bath would work. If you’re looking to put another bathroom, you’ll have to analyze the space you’ll be using. Pick underutilized rooms or spaces. These could be in the form of closets or areas underneath the stairs etc.

Why it pays off: Adding central air to an average 2,400-square-foot house could cost upward of $10,000 and boost your home’s value by 10 to 20 percent, says appraiser Leslie Sellers. And central air-conditioning is energy-efficient too. Centralized units have an average energy-efficiency rating (EER) of 11.5, compared with an 8.5 EER in single-window models, making them less expensive to run. What’s more, central air won’t block the view the way a window unit does.