- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

When you are considering a move, one of the first things you will end up doing is taking a fix-it inventory of your house to see what you'll have to do to prepare the house for sale.

After all, you may be OK with the worn spot in the carpet in the den, but your buyer may not.

What I've discovered in the past few years after helping people get their houses ready for sale or preparing my own property for the market is that the owner wishes he or she had done the fixing long before putting the house on the market.

It's hard to recount how many times I've heard homeowners say, "I should have done this a long time ago," once they've completed a paint job or refinished the hardwood floors.

The problem with waiting until you want to sell your house to dive into the Honey-Do list is that by that time, it is overwhelming and you may need to call in the professionals (read "write checks") to get the work done. Fix-ups don't have to be expensive. Here are a couple that you can handle when you're pressed for time and money.

• Bathroom: This room is the one that can be rejuvenated for the least amount of money.

A new medicine cabinet, for instance, with better lighting and larger storage capacity can give your bathroom a complete new look. Cost: $150 or less.

If you're like me, the shower is for more than just keeping the dirt off. It also provides a wake-up call, gives you relaxation and a place for pure, hot satisfaction.

A new shower head can do wonders. I once had a shower with water pressure so high that it pretty much would smash you up against the wall.

Then I moved into a house where I had to nearly run around in the shower to get wet. At first I thought it was the water pressure, but then another shower on the same floor had ample pressure. The replacement shower head (complete with four settings) was $39 and it took less than 10 minutes to install.

If you're in a 25- to 30-year-old home, more than likely you have those pseudochrome-plated towel racks that are more fitting to a gymnasium than a home bathroom. Towel racks run as low as $10 and can help you refit the whole look.

With these few changes in the bathroom, this part of the house is ready for when you want to sell, but, more important, you'll get a chance to enjoy the new look before you hand over the keys to new owners.

• Painting: Applying a new coat of paint to the interior can do wonders for the look and feel of your house. Painting is one of the most inexpensive do-overs, yet one of the most effective.

A couple of cans of good paint run about $50. Additional equipment (brushes, rollers, drop-cloths, etc.) will cost between $30 and $50, and, in a day, you've given one of your rooms a complete new look.

Every homeowner ought to budget the time and money to paint the exterior on a regular basis. Painting your house every two to three years keeps the exterior in good condition and provides you with the opportunity to inspect more closely the parts of the house you normally would not get access to on a regular basis, such as the eaves and overhangs.

While it would be difficult to paint the whole house for under $200, try attacking the trim first. With a couple of cans of paint, you could probably take care of the shutters and door.

A fresh coat of paint on these items does wonders for the look of the rest of your house.

In addition, who says you have to paint the whole house at once, anyway? If time is part of the reason you may procrastinate, save the window trim and eaves for another day.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Comments and questions can be sent to him via e-mail ([email protected]).

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