Will new countertops increase home value?
If you’re asking this question, chances are you’re considering selling your home or at least wondering if a countertop replacement will improve its value should you choose to sell down the line.
According to an annual report published by Remodeling magazine, kitchen remodels are one of the top five home improvement projects guaranteed to increase the resale value of your home (with the master bath following close behind). But what role specifically do new kitchen and bathroom countertops play in your home’s value, and what should you expect in terms of ROI?
Clearly, there are many reasons why one may choose to replace their counters, but it’s always sound practice to channel your inner-real estate investor and consider the impact of every improvement project on your home’s value. For the sake of this post, we’re taking desire, joy, happiness, etc., out of the equation to focus only on the cold hard economics of replacing countertops (my, what a steely-eyed capitalist you are…).
Countertops can be a great value-add (but don’t get too cute)
When you walk into a kitchen, what are the first things you notice? If you answered countertops, then according to Statista polling, you’re part of the 63% of all home buyers that identified kitchen counters as the feature that makes the most impact on first impression.
But what is a first impression really worth? Will new countertops actually pay dividends? Like most questions, the answer is nuanced, but here’s the high level:
If bad existing countertops => Smart investment
If you’re existing countertops are tragic— that is, they’d be better off decorating a landfill— then yes, replacing your countertops before listing is a sure bet. This includes dated countertops such as laminate and tile countertops, as well as countertops with noticeable damage such as staining, chips, cracks, or extensive scratching. You should expect an increase in home value and a positive return on your investment.
If borderline existing countertops => Sound investment
If your existing countertops show minor wear and tear (maybe a few small scratches and a finish that has dulled over time) while also clashing with the rest of the home design, you probably stand to benefit from new countertops. Though your home value should increase, new countertops likely won’t be enough to recoup more than the investment cost. However, it’s the tangential benefits that make new countertops a prudent investment in this scenario...
New countertops may attract additional interested parties through a more appealing listing or may tip the needle for a buyer on the fence. Most importantly, you won’t turn off prospective buyers or potentially decrease your home’s value by failing to act.
If good existing countertops => Invest elsewhere
It doesn’t matter if you think the countertops are ugly. If the material isn’t dated and the countertops are in good condition, studies show that replacement counters rarely provide financial benefit, so better to allocate your funds elsewhere. The calculus changes, of course, if you’ll be living with the counters for a period of time, but since we’re talking pure economics, it’s best to stand pat.
If replacing for resale, maximize the return
If you’ve gone through the exercise above and fall into one of the camps that stand to benefit financially from replacement counters, you need to be thoughtful in your selection if you’re to maximize the return.
Keep up with trends
The biggest mistake when replacing countertops for resale is failure to research trends. Remember, you’re choosing for the market, not for your personal consumption. Stay away from boldness, and gravitate towards subtle and elegant. Select for the broadest cross-section of potential buyers and investigate the countertops used in other successful area listings. Consider these trends:
Quartz countertops are in
Quartz is the fastest-growing surfacing material globally and is projected to replace granite as the most purchased countertop material by total SF in 2024. Homeowners are seeking durability. Give them what they want!
Always opt for lighter tones
This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to buy pure white quartz counters (though you probably couldn't go wrong); we’re just advocating for a lighter base color. If your design scheme is predominantly brown, go with an off-white or cream-colored base color that contains tones of brown. Lighter countertops reflect more light which makes a space appear bigger. Think “light and airy,” not “dense and suffocating” —bend with the trend.
Subtle beats bold
We love dynamic veining patterns… big swooping arches and intense swirls are cool but only if correctly executed within the context of a cohesive design. When choosing countertops for purely economic goals, you must appeal to the broadest cross-section of prospective buyers. It pays to understand this fact: 90% of all buyers will eventually remodel (Trulia Research). Whoever buys the home will adapt the space to their own tastes, so if you stick them with an eye-catching accent countertop, you’re effectively limiting the new buyer’s options. Give them a surface they can work with.
Work within the existing design
Consider how the look and feel of new countertops will function relative to the rest of a room’s aesthetic. 53% of all home buyers begin a home improvement project within the first three months of moving in (National Association of Realtors). But what about the 37% that prefer to settle in for several years before leaping into the fryer? And wouldn’t we be prodigal to forget about the 10% of homebuyers that have no desire at all to remodel?
If your replacement countertop doesn’t mesh with your existing design scheme, you ignore these prospective buyers to your own economic detriment.
Your listing photos pay dividends
New countertops have the ability to take your listing’s photos from average to HGTV-worthy. A study by VHT Studios, a leader in home listing photography, indicates that properties with high-quality listing photos sell on average 32% faster than those without. That’s a huge disparity, and it should intuitively follow that the subject matter in your listing photos plays an equally impactful role. Replacement countertops should serve as a showstopping feature to get your prospects in the door. Maximize the investment and put your new countertops front and center in the photos.
When countertop investments go wrong
If the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, then what about the “so-so” plans? We don't need a Scottish poet to answer that one; it’s easy to get upside down (or plowed over?) on an investment project if you venture in blindly.
Fortunately, In the grand scheme of value-add home improvement projects, countertops are one of the most cut and dry but follow the boy scout motto and protect yourself against the following pitfalls:
Spending more than you anticipated
Many factors go into how much a countertop replacement will cost you. I could give you the generic nationwide average, but I won’t because it probably won’t apply to you, and investing is an empirical art, not a game to be played using broad assumptions (and yes, of course, we know the answer— we run a countertop company!). The reality is that all countertops are custom, and there is an infinite combination of inputs that will affect your price. Here is an incomplete list of the factors that will affect your cost…
- The material you select
- The SF of your countertops
- The type and quantity of sink cuts you’ll need (under-mount, drop-in, vessel, or farmhouse)
- The edge profile you select
- The quantity and size of backsplashes
- If you need existing countertops removed
- The margins the fabricator needs to make per job
- The price of additional cutouts (stovetops, downdraft vents, electric outlets, etc.)
- Additional supports for overhangs
- How pleasant of a person you are
Since we’re only talking dollars and cents in this post, here are a few critical pieces of advice for maximizing your return:
- Get multiple quotes (the range of prices across countertop fabricators can vary greatly)
- Identify a material you like and ask your seller to show you lower-cost options with “the same look.”
- If you’re interested in quartz, ask which quartz line the fabricator gets the best prices on. Fabricators typically concentrate sales efforts on a single brand to maximize their buying power, and that’s the quartz line you’ll want (so long as that line has an acceptable style, which it probably will)
- There are tens of thousands of options on the market, and you’re almost certain to find a similar stone at a better price point.
- Review your quote and if you have questions, ask for details. You should be comparing quotes on an apples-to-apples basis when it comes to your project details, i.e., the scope of your project (the total SF, type of sink cuts, etc.)
If the project inputs aren’t the same, one of the fabricators has made a mistake on your quote. Catch it before it becomes an issue.
Unexpected installation delays
Take it from someone who deals in the countertop supply chain for a living; it's a mess. You may be quoted a lead time only to find out one week prior to installation that the material you purchased is back-ordered. Whether it’s the fabricator’s fault, or the fault of the distributor who sold to them, your concern should be your investment (we’re talking ROI here, remember?)
Here are a few tips for ensuring your project gets installed on time:
- When selecting a material, ask the fabricator to verify its availability before placing the deposit.
- Give preference to materials that are in stock at a local distributor (ask the fabricator how reliable the stock is and then ask them to verify stock)
- Fabricators tend to stock certain types of materials in their own yards. Typically it’ll be a material that they sell frequently. Ask the fabricator if they have existing material stocked that might fit the “look” you’re after, and if so, prioritize it.
- Discuss your responsibilities and be prepared for the onsite measurement and for the day of installation. You can’t get mad at the fabricator for a delay in your installation if your sinks weren’t onsite at the scheduled template time.
Countertop replacements can be a quick way to add value to your home but consider your circumstances and decide if the investment makes sense for you. If you’re not looking to list your home on the market immediately, go ahead and account for factors that you otherwise wouldn’t, namely the enjoyment you’ll receive from living with your new countertops— it may just change your calculation.
If you decide to move forward with investment counters, ensure those new countertops provide the most significant value and choose trending styles that speak to the broadest audience while also matching the countertop with your existing design scheme.
Move forward with your investment confidently but be mindful of common pitfalls that can turn your potential gains into a loss.