This is actually a very good question. And one that I wish more of my clients would pull me in on when they make improvements to their homes. You should always be aware of which items will bring the best return when making changes to your home. Oftentimes, it will vary depending on where your home is located. For instance, it's usually considered a bonus to have a pool in a warmer year-round environment like Florida, but not such a great feature in a northern state where you can only use it a couple months of the year. A pool is not on this infographic that I obtained from Floria Realtor Assoc., but I will have a blog post specifically addressing this.
Another thing to keep in mind when making renovations is what is expected vs preferred. When someone buys a home, it is expected that the home will have a roof, HVAC, windows, lights, electricity, etc. While it is true that many home improvement costs may offer a return on investment, it is important to distinguish the differences in Home maintenance vs. home 'improvements'.
Most of the time, banks will not loan on a home in need of significant maintenance or upkeep, so it is very important to keep systems in good condition/working order. On the other hand, remodeling a dated home will often provide a better return and much quicker sale. Watch HGTV and see what a difference remodeling a dated home can make. The key is to get the work done for the most reasonable price, but always be sure to pay for quality workmanship. It is better to err on the side of paying a little more for a quality job versus going cheap with poor results. People can tell the difference, so don't kid yourself. Buyers consider it is much worse to try to 'fix' a poor remodeling project and would prefer to have had the home in the shape 'before' it was cheaply modified. You know the saying: 'putting lipstick on a pig'?-well cheap doesn't work so save yourself the trouble if you can't spend the money to do a quality job.
If you don't know the difference, be sure and call your Real estate professional to be your guide when spending substantial funds for home projects. Most Realtors will be happy you asked. I'm more than happy to offer this service to my clients- for free, of course! I'm in it for the long haul, so I prefer to provide insight that will help protect your valuable possession. *Please share in the comment section if you have had an experience with returns or losses on home improvements or maintenance...I would love to hear.