Little extra touch-ups give house well-cared-for-feel

#584 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2009, Hills Newspapers

Anet was determined to firm up the wobbly toilet paper holder in a bathroom in our new listing, so set on it that she spent at least an hour in her first try. I thought the amount of time being spent on this was ridiculous. “Why not just replace it?” I asked when I found her lying on her side on the tile floor, the only position in which she could get at the underside of the holder where the tiny set screw had been placed.

“Dumb design,” I added, “but maybe we could find another toilet paper holder just like this one.” Anet, sounding annoyed, answered, “Can’t get it off, it’s attached to the wall tile.” She’d been trying to turn that teeniest of screws for some time by then but it was stuck, wouldn’t budge. She’d called out several times “Almost got it” but in truth nothing was happening.

Impatiently, although I didn’t know much about it, I suggested that she drill the screw out. Amazingly, she thought this a good idea. Back at the house the next day, Anet had with her drill and assorted little drill bits, a few about as big around as a hair. In no time at all, the set screw was extracted and this allowed her to separate the holder part from the backplate. Now she could see what had caused the wiggle.

When first installed, Anet diagnosed, the backplate had not been screwed down tightly. In attempts to right things, the set screw on the holder part had been tightened too far making it very difficult to get out. Adding to the problem was the size of the set screw and its position on the underside of the holder. But she fixed it finally and moved on to changing burnt-out lightbulbs.

There are at least a couple of dozen recessed lights in this house. Probably they were added during different remodels and so in different rooms the models vary. To change a lightbulb in some, you reach in and turn the bulb just as expected. For others, the whole fixture drops down. Some take flood-type bulbs while others have spotlights or rectangularly-shaped florescent bulbs.

While Anet was looking at various types of sockets and bulbs and their “undoing”, she cracked one of the fluorescents. The fixture opening was not large enough to reach a hand in to grab the bulb at its base and she wasn’t sure if it was the type that turns or pulls out. What to do? At our second visit to the electrical department at Grand Ace Hardware in Oakland that day, she asked the clerk for advice. He had no magic but he did tell her that the cracked bulb was surely a pull-out type, a very helpful tip.

Back to the house. With closely-fitting rubber-fingered gloves and using both forefingers, Anet successfully wiggled the bulb out. Even better, the replacement light for this fixture is currently made slightly smaller and will be easier to grasp the next time it needs changing.

Anet moved on to replacing face plates on some of the light switches. She’d ordered them online so she could get exactly what she wanted in single, double and triple face plates all at once. Most are brushed nickel finish to match other colors and finishes in the house, a few are shiny chrome, new and beautiful.

When people go through the house, they probably will not be consciously thinking about the face plates but they make a difference in overall perception. They “say” that this is a well cared for house with most every detail well considered.

This house has had a good deal of updating and remodeling and it looked very good when we first saw it. But you know how it is when you move furniture out and empty closets and drawers: there are chips, dust, fading and scrapes. Cleaning and paint make everything fresh again, and so we had painting, floor refinishing and cleaning expertly done.

We cleared out miscellaneous leftovers from the garage and under-house storage and we made lists of small tasks that, when accomplished, made this house close to perfection. We’ll be putting it on the market this week.

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