Granite Counter-tops or Laminate?
Ask a banker if adding granite counters to your house is a good investment and they’ll tell you “When doing comps (comparable property analysis), a counter is a counter.”
However, if you ask a seasoned real estate professional if adding granite counters is a good investment, they’ll tell you, “Hell yes!”
Bankers are historians, not buyers or appraisers. They base the value of a structure on the past selling prices of other structures in the area. They have no idea what the other houses in the area look like or in what condition they were in when they last sold – and they certainly don’t know what condition they’re in RIGHT NOW. They strictly look at the PAST selling prices of those structures.
That’s not very helpful.
Bankers never goes inside a house before they put a value on it. When bankers do comps, they look at average sales prices of homes in the area and comparable amenities, but they don’t look at the quality of those amenities or the condition of the house. Isn’t it bizarre that if someone on your block puts a new roof on their house or upgrades their kitchen, and then sells it, everyone on the block’s home value increases? Area home values didn’t increase because of the improvements, though. Home values increased because your neighbor invested money into their house, and the buyer of that house saw the value of those improvements, thereby resulting in a higher price paid for the home.
The banker has no idea what just happened.
Common sense tells us that a new roof and kitchen will fetch a higher dollar amount for a home. The banker on the other hand has no idea that the kitchen was remodeled or a new roof installed. They just know that home values in your neighborhood are increasing.
History of Polished Granite
Whoever came up with the idea to polish a rock is a genius.
It was probably an ancient Egyptian. No, really.
Pyramid of Amenemhat III
The Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III (Dahshur, Egypt) looks today like a mound of rubble, but has a history of being the first to house both the deceased pharaoh and his queens, and once had a polished granite pyramidion or capstone, which is now on display in the main hall of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (see Dahshur).
Around 1987, there were really only two colors of granite, and granite counters used to be a very local business. If you lived in the Northeast you got granite from Vermont, in the midwest from Minnesota, in eastern Canada from Quebec. It is heavy stuff, and the main markets were architectural stone, cut by craftsmen to exacting specifications for the commercial building industry.
Taking it out of the ground was dangerous work; granite quarries were often ecological nightmares. However the industry provided a local material, and well-paying skilled jobs.
Why Granite is Better for Investors
While Formica can be created and manipulated quickly and easily, it’s not really the best alternative for real estate professionals who want to sell a property quickly. Granite lasts significantly longer, because, frankly, it’s a rock. Formica is a laminate, usually laid on particleboard, fiberboard and hardboard. Particleboard, fiberboard and hard board are all “engineered wood products”.
Formica has been used for over 100 years (recently celebrating their century birthday) by builders and decorators world wide as an inexpensive alternative to more expensive, natural alternatives, like granite, marble, and travertine. It’s a “decorative product composed of several layers of kraft paper impregnated with melamine thermosetting resin (or, later, a unified core as described below) and topped with a decorative layer protected by melamine, then compressed and cured with heat to make a hard, durable surface.”
While Formica is cheap and simple, Americans are spending over $6 BILLION dollars ANNUALLY on stone counter-tops.
How to Make them Say “Yes”
When a potential buyer walks into a house, they’re looking for every reason to say “no”. The best place to say no is in the kitchen. Even if a kitchen has brand new cabinets and appliances, Formica counter-tops make the entire picture look like the cheapest rehab solution.. and it actually is.
However, when granite counter-tops have been installed, the kitchen is raised to a new level of quality and class. Granite says that “no expense was spared”, and shortcuts in other areas are dismissed as the best solution available, (funny how that works.).
What Makes Granite so Valuable
Seeing the value in granite is as simple as wrenching your back trying to lift a 2×2 remnant slab of it off of the garage floor. That shit is HEAVY. Shipping granite from India, Italy or Brazil isn’t like importing plastic bowls or microchips from China. Granite is mined from huge rock quarries that blast and chisel out huge 10′ x 10′ blocks that weigh TONS, and are then loaded onto barges and shipped thousands of miles across the ocean.
Upon arrival, to the U.S. mainland, they’re then shipped via rail cars to granite and stone districts throughout the country. Granite is art that literally took MILLIONS of years to create, and requires a lot of hands-on attention to turn it into a masterpiece. No piece is the same, even if it’s cut from the same exact boulder.
Then the real work begins.
Once unloaded and inventoried, the blocks are sliced up like bread into 1 1/4″ slabs, then grinded and polished to a perfect glossy finish. At this point, the slabs are put on display for the en consumer to choose from. Once chosen, the slabs are then cut into shapes to be installed on counters and for sinks to be mounted under.
Formica on the other hand is not nearly as heavy, is much more versatile, and can by manipulated in 1/10th the time of granite.
For not other reason…
For arguments sake, let’s say that both Formica and granite require a good amount of craftsmanship. You’d want granite for the sole reason that every granite stone is unique, so your counter would be 100% unique. Even though New Venetian Gold is a very popular pattern of granite, the pattern of a slab of New Venetian Gold granite is still unique to every other slab of New Venetian Gold.
On the contrary, Formica patterns are computer generated, so a Venetian Gold Granite Formica laminate pattern will be the same for every counter-top. That means that your counter is just like every other laminate counter.
Spend more to make more.
So, in summary, if you invest in a little more money up front and upgrade to granite in your kitchen, you’ll sell your house for more… and sell it faster.