Looking for a reason to feel optimistic about 2015? Look no further than REMODELING’s latest Cost vs. Value report. Once again, replacement jobs—doors, windows and siding—led the pack for adding the most value to a home. Not only that, but replacement jobs held their value better than more traditional remodeling work. Overall, replacement jobs showed an average return of 73.2%, just .5 % below 2014 averages. Compare that to remodeling jobs, which dropped 3.8% to an average return of 60.8%, according to the report.

Here are the top five replacement jobs by national averages of replacement value:
1.      Midrange Steel entry door replacement: 101.8%
2.      Midrange manufactured stone veneer: 92.2%
3.      Midrange garage door replacement: 88.4%
4.      Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement: 84.3%
5.      Upscale garage door replacement: 88.2% 

These numbers are great news to Tom Callen. “The Cost vs. Value report is one more tool in a salesman’s book that he can use to make a sale,” says Callen, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s Milwaukee chapter. “And in the case of this year, it’s a very strong tool.”

Like other contractors, Callen points to three main reasons for the ongoing strength of replacement jobs:
1. The Recession and continued lag in home values. “A part of the resurgence in our industry is that people can’t get the money out of their house, so they’re going to invest in it,” says Neil Sciacca, president of New Jersey Siding and Windows, Inc.
2. Curb appeal is becoming even more vital to home values. “I have people who will drive up to a house, and if it doesn’t have curb appeal, they won’t even get out of the car,” says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors, which helps REMODELING produce the Cost vs. Value report.
3. Manufacturers are offering more variety of replacement products. “There’s a better overall roofing system available today than 20 years ago,” says Callen. He points to the many varieties of shingles—those that look like shake, tile or slate. Sciacca adds that doors and windows offer similar options.

In his East Coast market, entry doors were the big surprise of the year. Sciacca estimates that his business was up 60% over the previous year. Again, he chalks that increase up to pent up demand from the lingering recession. But Sciacca cautions that contractors who go after doors, with their precision racking, need to be prepared for the exacting work. “Doors aren’t as forgiving as some of the other replacement products,” he says.

In the Midwest, roofing and siding remain strong. Some of that business has to do with the rough winter of 2014, which highlighted leaky roofs and drafty walls. “When we side a house, we’re not only improving the appearance and curb appeal, but insulating as well,” Callen says.

Once again, however, the demand for better curb appeal is a powerful seller. Callen says that’s why manufactured stone veneer—new to the report this year—adds so much value. “When you use stone veneer in combination with either fiber or vinyl, it’s dramatic,” he says.

That drama also is what helps make windows a valuable upgrade in any market. “Just replacing single pane windows add a hell of a lot of value, especially when they look better and are more efficient,” Polychron says.

But no matter what the job, when it comes to selling, it’s the combination of curb appeal, comfort and efficiency that homeowners value the most—and convinces them to spend the money on a job. And that’s where the Cost vs. Value report really shines. “Today, everything costs a lot of money,” Sciacca says. “Anything you can use to justify your pricing is a benefit. And that’s really what this report does.”