MSN suggests 5 "recession proof" home improvement tips:
- paired back kitchen upgrade
- paired back bathroom remodel
- in-law apartment/s
- new exterior siding
The focus of their article is on improving a house, but almost all are cosmetic in first nature, with other functional/amenity benefits as well (kitchen upgrade means better appliances, right?)
But what would make more sense for someone who is struggling with their budget (and may not be able to make their new mortgage payments? A more efficient furnace, A/C or water heater; filling holes/gaps in your walls/foundation that leak in air; and increasing the insulation in your attic. In an increasingly energy costly future, these improvements will save you X now, and X*1.10 in 3 or 4 years.
And since it's next to impossible to sell a house these days, you better make your house more livable and cheaper to own.