“The money is in the kitchen. Everybody wants granite countertops,” says Marie Collins.
She would know. She’s sold over 72% more single-family homes than the average real estate agent in St. Cloud, Florida—making her a rightfully deemed expert.
Eyeing your dated laminate counters, you jump to the conclusion that installing a gorgeous slab of this igneous rock would increase your home’s value and bring in more buyers.
Not so fast. Collins went on to explain that it’s not a simple “yes” or “no” decision for homeowners.
The reality is you can sell your house without granite countertops and there’s no guarantee it’ll sell for more with them.
With Collins’ expert advice and our in-depth market research on buyer preferences, we’ll help you decide: Will granite countertops increase home value in your market? Then, follow our 6 tips to maximize your ROI and invest in granite countertops with confidence.
Granite countertops take the cake for people’s choice
Let’s rewind for a minute. When in the world did countertops become such a big deal? Celebrities, designers, homeowners… anywhere you go, it seems people are obsessed with countertops.
Countertops have evolved from a mere fundamental kitchen surface to a sweeping design staple indicative of style and wealth. In the past 20 or so years, countertops took over as the focal point of homes, with open-concept floor plans partially to thank.
Through the 1970s, laminate counters were the choice, cheap option to satisfy American homeowners who needed a place to prepare pot roast. The simple white counters forfeited any demand for attention.
It wasn’t long before mixing-things-up became all the rage. Granite countertops entered the scene in the late ‘80s. Vox credits legendary graphic designer Deborah Sussman for leading the trend in 1986.
At the time, the unique granite stone was much too expensive for the average homeowner, so it was thereby regarded as a luxury material for the well-to-do—out of arm’s reach for millions.
But, in the 1990s, more countries began to quarry, refine, cut, and ship granite to sell in America for a lower price. With increased production, higher volumes, and lower costs, granite countertops quickly became the must-have trend throughout the 2000s.
Cost versus value: Are granite countertops worth it?
Granite countertops vary between about $40 per square for lower-grade granite and $100 per square foot for higher-grade granite, plus installation costs. The grade of the granite refers to the veins, markings, thickness, and other factors that characterize the quality of the stone.
According to the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors, 54% of Realtors have suggested sellers complete a kitchen upgrade before attempting to sell their home, although only 57% of the cost is recouped.
To cut the cost of a full remodel, a countertop upgrade could be just the ticket.
“I typically don’t suggest a seller to spend a large amount of money in order to sell their home,” Collins said. “It’s going to depend on the comparable homes in the neighborhood.”
If every other active listing in your area has granite countertops, it’s a wise choice to add granite countertops before you put your house on the market. Then you can price your home competitively to attract buyers and sell your house for more money.
If comparable homes don’t have granite countertops, the cost of adding them likely won’t recover as easily. New, modern countertops justify a higher list price—but if that makes your house more expensive than other listings in your area, it could be harder to sell.
Go even deeper and ask your real estate agent about the buyers in your area. Are they looking for customizable fixer-uppers or turn-key homes?
Some buyers prefer to choose their own materials when moving into a new home, so brand new granite countertops won’t push them towards making an offer, whereas buyers looking for move-in ready homes are willing to pay a bit more for upgrades.
Lastly, make sure granite countertops will match the rest of your home. If your kitchen is dated and in need of a full remodel, new granite counters are like lipstick on a pig. One expensive update won’t change the fact that your kitchen needs work and buyers won’t be willing to offer more for it.
To recap, granite countertops are worth the cost if:
- The comparable homes in your area have granite countertops
- Buyers in your area prefer move-in ready homes
- Granite countertops match well with the overall look of your house
5 ways to maximize granite countertop ROI
Granite countertops come in different widths, colors, patterns, and finishes. Choose the right one to secure the maximum return on investment when you sell your house. Remember these 5 tips when you decide to go for it with granite.
1. Opt for neutral colors and patterns that complement your cabinetry.
Brown, black, or gray color variations are the safest and most popular options for granite countertops. A standard, neutral color palette will appeal to more buyers and increase the potential ROI when you sell your home.
If you have lighter wood or white cabinets, a dark gray or black granite countertop adds eye-catching, modern contrast. Similarly, dark wood cabinets go well with light cream, beige, or gray countertops.
2. Select the slab in person to confirm the pattern and colors.
When you invest in granite countertops, you need to make sure you’re getting exactly what you pay for.
“Granite is a natural stone and each piece is unique, so it’s important to see the slabs that you are selecting in person and be happy with how they appear,” says Katie Peralta, the president of one of the largest importers of natural stone and other building products in the country, Tritan Stone Group.
She adds, “You want the slabs to be free of any defects and make sure that the movement that the natural stone has is what you are looking for.”
Many times, the slab you see in a showroom isn’t the same one that’ll be delivered to your house. Request to approve the exact slab before it’s delivered so you know exactly what you’re getting.
3. Prevent visible stains with a darker color selection and consistent sealant.
Granite countertops are prone to staining when they come in contact with heat or moisture. In a kitchen with a lot of activity, a darker color granite with less complexity in the pattern will show less staining over time.
Apply a sealant from your local hardware store at least once a year, and more frequently if large spills or strong chemicals are often touching the surface of your countertops.
4. Pick 3-cm thick slabs for aesthetic appeal.
Stone slabs come in different thicknesses—typically 2 centimeters, 3 centimeters, or even up to 5 centimeters.
The thinnest slab at 2 centimeters is typically used in bathrooms and smaller surface areas.
At the low budget end, it often comes in short slabs, so it isn’t recommended for large counter spaces. Thin slabs also require extra support from a layer of plywood, which adds some extra cost and installation hassles.
The most common choice (and our recommendation) for a kitchen countertop is to go with a 3-centimeter slab because it:
- Doesn’t require extra support
- Won’t run you as much as the thicker options
- Creates the kitchen aesthetic buyers are looking for
“The durability isn’t reflected in the thickness,” Peralta says. “However, most kitchens are done in 3 cm for the aesthetic appeal of a thicker edge.”
5. Select a polished finish for easy maintenance.
There are a few different finishes you can choose for your new granite counters, but a polished finish is the best choice.
For starters, polish makes the stone pop. A shiny, reflective surface will make your kitchen look cleaner, newer, and bigger. It’s also the least porous finish, so it’s the easiest to clean and maintain.
Other finishes, such as honed, leathered or flamed, require more specific and consistent maintenance. They add a unique touch to granite countertops, but it’s not worth the risk of buyers not liking the style or not wanting to take on added upkeep.
6. Work with an experienced granite fabricator and installation company.
Find experienced professionals to cut, finish, and install your granite countertops. If granite counters aren’t installed correctly, they are more prone to cracks, chips, and stains.
You can find highly recommended granite countertop fabricators and installers in your area through these websites:
- HomeAdvisor provides rankings, reviews, and screenings on the contractors in your area.
- Yelp presents reviews and ratings from past clients to help you choose the best granite fabricator.
- Thumbtack offers free custom quotes and a Thumbtack Guarantee so you can hire professionals with confidence.
Granite countertops add value—but only if the market says so
When it comes to style and function, granite countertops are the way to go. They’re affordable, easy to maintain, and always in style.
But when you get ready to sell your house, you need to make sure that money spent on upgrades are recovered in the sale price. Otherwise, the cost of new countertops will be money down the drain—and you won’t even get to enjoy them!
Talk to a top-rated real estate agent in your area before you decide to install granite countertops. Your real estate agent can tell you if comparable homes on the market boast upgraded finishes and if buyers in your area favor granite countertops over a customizable, blank slate.
If all signs point to yes, choose a neutral granite pattern with a polished finish that matches your cabinetry and the rest of your kitchen. And as always, work with experienced professionals who can get the job done right.