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Should You Install Stone Countertop Before Selling a House?

Almost all the newer properties these days come with stone coutnertops. However, if your kitchen is really dated, it might not be worth the time and effort to put just a stone countertop in. Again, a neat and clean appreance is likely more appealing to the buyer then spending the money to install a new countertop over an old kitchen.

October 26, 2011

Market Ready

Q. Will installing stone countertops in my kitchen increase the home’s value?

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A. Granite or marble countertops will make a home more appealing to buyers than will older countertops made from materials like laminate or wood. “They do add value, most definitely,” said Mary Lou Currier, a senior vice president at the real estate broker Bond New York. “Beauty sells. A beautiful kitchen, with marble or granite, is all to the good. People hate dingy, dirty, old and things that look like 1982.”

But there are two things to consider before splurging on stone. First, “it’s not just the granite, it’s the entire kitchen,” Ms. Currier said. If your cabinets, tile and appliances are old and grungy, new countertops are likely to have little effect.

Second, stone countertops can be expensive, and it may be difficult to recoup your costs in a sale. “Granite is not a quick fix,” she noted. “It’s more involved because it’s custom-made.” Cabinets, she said, are typically an easier and less expensive part of the kitchen to change because they come in standard sizes and as prefabricated units. Even changing the knobs on the cabinets, she said, can help fine-tune a kitchen’s look.

If you do decide to install stone countertops, Ms. Currier said, granite may be considered timeless at the moment, but it “is probably on its way out in the next few years, because it’s been around for a while, and styles change.”

Evan Nussbaum, a vice president of Stone Source, a stone distribution company, said he has observed the same thing. “I think people have become a little sick of the traditional speckled granite look,” he said, even though the material is an ideal choice for countertops in terms of performance, since it doesn’t react to liquids like coffee, lemon juice or wine in the same way most marble does.

For those who prefer marble, he recommended a finish that is honed, rather than polished, to help disguise any etching that acidic liquids might cause. He also recommended Danby marble, a creamy white stone quarried in Vermont, because it has “tremendously low absorption” and is therefore not as delicate as other marbles.

For cutting-edge looks, Mr. Nussbaum said, many designers now use quartzite, “which tends to give you the drama and character that people are used to seeing in decorative marbles, but doesn’t have the acid sensitivity.”

Basalt and schist have a more subdued look, and are becoming popular, he said. “Those give you more of a monolithic-gray, minimal-looking countertop,” he said. “They typically have a higher absorption than granite or quartzite, but when sealed well, they’re a great kitchen countertop.”

Just spend carefully, Ms. Currier said. “I wouldn’t spend $30,000 renovating a kitchen thinking that you’re going to get that money out, if you’re doing it just to sell,” she said. But “if you’re going to live in it for a few years, it can be wonderful.” 

Questions about repairs or redecorating done in preparation for putting a home on the market may be sent to marketready@nytimes.com. Unpublished questions cannot be answered individually.