- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Friends of mine decided to sell their town house and immediately knew what they had to do to demand top-dollar if not multiple contracts: Get the house in shape.

A couple of weeks, two contractors and more than $10,000 later, they had new carpet; new kitchen appliances with white flooring; repainted walls including demolition of a mirrored wall; a power-washed and restained deck; and a few plumbing issues remedied.

Once all the work was done, they sat back in their newly revamped dwelling and sighed, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”

The investment was quite small when you consider the benefit, but many homeowners wait until it’s time to sell the house before they replace all the items of their home that have been bugging them for years.

Giving your home a face-lift could be more affordable than you think. This was especially brought to mind during a visit to one of my favorite restaurants.

Visiting the restroom, I was appalled at the condition: old plywood; an old mirror losing its reflective backing; mildewed caulking; and a stench very unbecoming this particular establishment.

A bathroom is probably one of the easiest and most affordable rooms to refurbish and provide a “wow-factor” for buyers coming into your home. I’m not even talking about a complete remodeling, just a face-lift that can change the room’s look and shift your personal feelings about the room.

Think about it. When you walk into a 20- to 30-year-old home, would you be more excited about one with the original vanity, sink, faucet, shower door, mirrors and lighting? Or would you prefer seeing fresh paint, upgraded hardware, a modern vanity, and a dual shower head like those found in most fine hotels? In addition, how would you like to create that kind of wow-factor for less than $1,000? It can be done.

Looking over a few large home improvement Web sites will give you a grasp of how attainable this face-lift can be.

What you want to spend on the bath is up to you. You can upgrade your shower head for as little as $6 for a low-grade plastic energy saver model or as much as $3,750 for a multiple-head shower tower.

We’ll keep our budget a little in the middle for a run-of-the-mill bathroom, that WarmlyYours.com says is about 100 square feet.

• Sinks, $150 to $400. This can be as bland or fancy as you want.

• Vanity, $150 to $900. For every bland or fancy sink, there’s a vanity to match.

• Faucet hardware, $30 to $100. There are hundreds of models from which to choose — from chrome to polished brass.

• Lights, $50 to $100. Again lots of choices.

• Towel racks and miscellaneous, $50 to $100.

• Paint and caulking, $50 to $100.

• Flooring, $45 to $100.

Obviously, you can push the budget up a lot higher. However, I’m talking about a budget-conscious face-lift, complete with a wow-factor, not gutting the bathroom for complete remodeling.

Your face-lift can cost a few hundred dollars or a couple thousand. But here are a few fix-its that are really, really cheap, require a very minimal investment and just some good old-fashioned elbow grease.

• Deep cleaning: Maybe all this room needs is just a good cleaning. Think sanitizing. Really get down to the nitty-gritty and cut the grease in all the crevices. Kill the mildew with a commercial spray.

• Recaulk: Remove old caulk and recaulk the whole bath.

• Regrout: Do the floor and shower tiles.

Before you invest a lot of money to make the next owner happy with your home, renovate so that you enjoy it yourself.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. Post questions or comments at his Web log (http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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