4 Upgrades to Boost Home Value

The median value of a single family home in the U.S. was $175,000 in September, according to data compiled by Zillow. The median list price was around $215,000, meaning buyers would likely walk away with something in the middle of those two figures upon close.

There are several ways to maximize the value of a home before placing it on the market. It's simply a matter of measuring the amount invested versus the return on renovations, additions, and other improvements to boost the value of the property. Here are four proven ways to squeeze a few more dollars out of the sale.

Energy-Efficient Windows

Single pane windows are common in older homes, and tend to allow heat and air conditioning to escape. Energy Star estimates that replacing old windows with energy-efficient, double pane windows costs around $10,000 for a typical single family home. But you can except to recoup up to 90 percent of those costs at close, and lower energy bills by up to $500 per year.

Most homeowners will qualify for tax credits and rebates on newly installed windows, depending on their state of residence and utility company. Alabama Power, for instance, offers a $300 credit for customers who upgrade their windows. Several utility companies also offer loan programs that help finance replacement windows.

Check out the Efficient Windows Collaborative to find out if your utility company offers rebates or loan programs for new windows.

New Roof

An old, leaky roof can not only cause further damage to the interior of your home, but can make an otherwise decent house look unappealing from afar. Roof repairs can be costly, so the decision to repair or replace it all together will come down to its current condition and your plans for the home.

It's best to have a professional come out and provide an estimate on costs. Companies like Champion Home Exteriors offer lifetime warranties on roof work, so neither you nor a potential new tenant will ever have to worry about it again. For sale by owner website ISoldMyHouse.com says a new roof adds curb appeal and allows sellers to add about $10,000 to the asking price. That amounts to about a 75 percent return on investment on the most costly repair and replacement jobs.

Landscaping

A 2009 study by Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex Niemiera found that sophisticated landscaping can increase property values by upwards of 12 percent. Real estate marketing firm Home Gain estimates that a $500 landscaping investment can return four times that amount upon sale.

House Logic recommends simple DIY projects like adding rigid flower bed edging, a flagstone pathway, and masonry surrounds around trees. All of these projects can be done over a weekend and add instant curb appeal to your property.

Solar Water Heater

The typical American household uses 20 to 30 gallons of hot water per day, according to the American Water Works Association. The Department of Energy says solar water heaters can cut water heating bills by upwards of 80 percent.

Solar water heaters are particularly useful for homes with south-facing roofs with no trees obscuring the sun's light. The return on investment will depend on several factors, including your city's climate and the rebates offered by the utility company. Granted solar water heaters will work in cold climates, but won't be near as efficient as they are in Miami, San Diego, or Honolulu.

Recover 30 percent of the costs to purchase and install a solar water heater through a federal tax credit that expires in December of 2016. Contact your local utility company to find out about rebates and state-level tax credits.