The kitchen is the focal point of any home. Whether you are renovating a property for sale or rent, it’s where you, as a rehabber, are likely to spend the most money and effort. It’s also the place where your buyer or new tenant will be spending most of their time basking in the warmth, security, and domesticity of their “hearth.” So much of their decision to make an offer or fill out that rental application depends on whether they like that “hearth” or not. So let’s talk about how to make it more appealing by choosing the right countertops for your new kitchen.
When choosing a kitchen countertop material for an investment property, it’s essential to strike a balance between durability, cost-effectiveness, and visual appeal. Cost-effectiveness is always a major consideration in real estate investing. However, whether you place your emphasis on visual appeal or durability depends on what you are planning to do with the property after you renovate it.
If you are looking to sell, your emphasis must be on wowing your buyer with the best-looking kitchen you can afford to build while staying within your renovation budget. If you are operating in high-end real estate markets like Washington, DC, Northern Virginia or parts of Montgomery County, it might mean using marble countertops since its character is highly praised by urban buyers. In contrast, if you are renovating a small townhouse in Baltimore or Washington Counties and keeping it for rent, you might opt for laminate countertops, popular for their affordability, stain-resistance, and ease of maintenance.
Factors to consider when selecting a countertop material for an investment property:
- Type of Renovation: Flip vs Keep. If you are looking to sell, your emphasis must be on wowing your buyer with the best-looking kitchen you can afford to build while staying within your renovation budget. If you are operating in high-end real estate markets like Washington, DC, Northern Virginia or parts of Montgomery County, it might mean using marble countertops since its character is highly praised by urban buyers. In contrast, if you are renovating a small townhouse in Baltimore or Washington Counties and keeping it for rent, you might opt for laminate countertops, popular for their affordability, stain-resistance, and ease of maintenance.
- Cost: As an investment property, cost-effectiveness is often a priority. Consider materials that offer a good balance between price and durability. While luxurious options like granite or marble may attract the right buyer, they may not provide the best return on investment for a rental property.
- Durability and Maintenance: If you intend to turn the property into rental, choose countertop materials that are durable and require minimal maintenance. Tenants may not take as much care as homeowners would, so choose materials that can withstand daily wear and tear, resist stains, and are easy to clean.
- Resistance to Heat and Impact: For rental properties, select a countertop material that can handle the heat and impact. Look for materials that are heat-resistant, allowing tenants to place hot pans directly on the surface without causing damage. The material should also be resistant to impact, reducing the likelihood of chips and cracks.
- Consult with Professionals: Seek advice from countertop specialists or real estate professionals who have experience with investment properties. They can provide insights on cost-effective options, market trends, and materials that have proven to be durable and appealing to tenants.
Now that we can narrow down everything we are looking for from our new kitchen countertops let’s talk about different kitchen countertop options and their pros and cons.
The most common kitchen countertop materials include:
Natural Stone Countertops
Marble countertops are known for their elegance and timeless appeal. They have a smooth, cool surface and come in various colors and patterns. However, marble is a porous material, which means it can absorb liquids and stains. It is particularly vulnerable to acidic substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and wine.
Marble requires regular maintenance to keep it looking its best. It needs to be sealed periodically to protect against stains and etching. Special care should be taken when cleaning to avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing that could damage the surface. Marble countertops tend to be more expensive than other materials, especially for high-quality and rare varieties.
While marble can be the rigth choice in a high-end remodel, we do not recommend using it in any rental properties. I do have marble in my master bathroom and not only it’s beautiful but did hold up well after years of (careful) use.
Granite countertops are popular for their durability and natural beauty. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, allowing you to find a style that complements your kitchen décor. Granite is heat resistant, so you can place hot pots and pans directly on the countertop without worrying about damage. It is also relatively resistant to stains when properly sealed, making it easier to clean and maintain. With proper care and maintenance, granite can last for many years, adding value to your property.
While granite is generally low-maintenance, it does require some care. It should be sealed periodically to protect against stains and bacteria. Granite is also very heavy, so make sure you have proper structural support or additional reinforcment when working with it. Last but not least, granite is expensive, so you need to budget accordingly.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that forms from sandstone under high heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust. It is primarily composed of quartz grains, giving it a similar appearance to marble but with the durability of granite.
Quartzite is very similar to marble in its appearance due to the depth, luminosity, and unique pattern of the natural stone. Because of its superior durability, many experts recommend it over marble, especially in highly used places such as kitchen countertops. Remember, however, that it is a natural stone that is more porous than the composite materials we will discuss below.
Composite Materials Countertops
Quartz countertops are engineered stone surfaces made primarily from natural quartz crystals, which are one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. The manufacturing process involves mixing quartz crystals with resin binders and colorants which creates a solid and non-porous slab. The addition of resins in the production of quartz countertops improves the durability, strength, and resistance to stains and scratches. The resins also give the countertops a consistent color and pattern which to some may lacks the depth and caracter of marble or granite but does allow for a wide range of colors and designs. Durable and extremely low maintenace, quatz countertop are well-suited for high-traffic kitchens and families with active lifestyles. It’s also one of the most expensive countertop options available.
Porcelain countertops are a type of surface material used in kitchens and bathrooms. They are made from porcelain, a ceramic material that is composed of clay, minerals, and other natural materials. They are durable, non-porous, heat-resistant, and come in variety of colors, designs, and sizes.
On the negative side, potcelain countertops are heavy and may require additional support during the installation. Though highly durable, their Achillie’s hill is their susceptibilit to impact as they chip and crack easier than other natural and artificilal stone that we’ve reviewed.
Dekton countertops often referred to as the next generation of porcelain countertops. Dekton countertops are made using a proprietary process that involves combining raw materials such as glass, porcelain, and quartz particles under high heat and pressure. The result is an ultra-compact surface with a dense composition. Despite being made of the composite material, they have look and feel of natural stone.
Dekton countertops are highly durable and resistant to scratches, stains, heat, UV rays, and freezing temperatures. The sinterization process used in their manufacturing creates a material that is very resistant to wear and tear, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. They tend of be priced at the top of the range. Just like porcelain countertops they tend to chip a bit easier than quartz, granite, or marble.
Laminate countertops are made from layers of materials bonded together under high pressure and temperature in a manufacturing process called lamination. This process ensures that the layers are securely fused and form a solid and sturdy surface. Laminate countertops are known for their affordability, wide range of colors and patterns, and ease of maintenance. They offer a durable and non-porous surface that is resistant to stains and easy to clean. However, they are not as heat-resistant or scratch-resistant as some other countertop materials such as quartz or granite.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen our borrowers use laminate countertops in any rehab, especially in a fix-and-flip. They can look really good, and their quality varies by manufacturer, but we need to follow the market, and the real estate market in DC is moving away from laminate in its kitchen.
Other less popular options include butcher blocks, stainless steel countertops à la Top Shef and even concrete. Many designers are starting to creatively mix-and-match placing the most durable materials in highly used areas (for example, by the sink) and using more porous materials such a marble as splash back.
The best way to identify which countertop material you might want is to carefully study recently sold homes in your neighborhood. Your personal design preference, the overall style of the house and the material availability will drive the final decision. In our experience, granite appears to be the material of choice for rental units, while more upscale properties feature quartz, quartzite, and marble.
New Funding Resources is a private lender that finances promising real estate investment opportunities in the DMV area. Using our private loans, our borrowers make money and revitalize the community by renovating distressed homes in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.