Countertop Choices

Real Estate is a people business.  An agent’s job is to connect with their client, listen to their needs and concerns, and provide guidance and service.  That being said, it often surprises me how little some real estate agents actually know about houses and the materials used to build them. If you ask about the flooring, the cabinets, or the countertops, often you’ll hear, “I’m not sure.” Some are content to judge a home based on its appearance but for others, more information is needed. Over the next couple weeks, I will share with you the different options available for home finishes and the pros and cons of each choice. Today we will start with countertops.

Laminate (Formica).

DSCN0860 Easily the most common and cheapest choice for a kitchen countertop.  Made from a plastic laminate of paper or fabric with melamine resin, laminate resists stains, impacts, and heat.  It is easy to clean and comes in a variety of colors, finishes, and textures.  On the con side, Seams are visible, it can be scratched and nicked, and isn’t repairable.

Solid Surface (Corian).

imageComposed of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, solid surface counters are heat and impact resistant, stain resistant, and seamless.  They come in a variety of colors and although they can be scratched or cut easily, scratches can be buffed out and repaired.  It is non-porous and waterproof and doesn’t require any maintenance or sealing.


granite-countertopNothing looks as lux as natural stone, featuring rich veining and specks in a wide range of colors. Though strong and heat resistant, granite requires special care to maintain its appearance.  It must be sealed to prevent stains and chips can only be repaired by a professional.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarble is a natural stone with white brightness not available in granite. Unlike granite, marble can be nicked or scratched easily, but those marks can be polished out.  Marble requires sealing to prevent stains, but it stays cools, making it ideal for rolling out pantry dough.  Rare varieties can be very expensive, but more common marble like Carrera is usually cheaper.


Providing the look of natural stone without the maintenance, quartz is an engineered material made from stone chips, resins, and pigments.  It’s waterproof, doesn’t require sealing, and comes in a variety of colors. Like natural stone, it can chip and has to be repaired by a professional.


concrete-countertopConcrete provides endless customization.  It can be cast into complex shapes and colored, textured or patterned. Depending on the mix, it can be stronger than natural stone but quality is dependent on the installer.  Concrete must be sealed with both a topical sealant for stains and a penetrating sealer for heat.


A cheaper alternative to solid stone, tile countertops come in a wealth of colors materials, sizes, and patterns. They are easy to maintain and clean and the surface is heat- and stain-resistant.  However, grout lines stain even when sealed and tiles can chip or crack. It’s a good idea to have extra tiles to repair localized damage.

Now you are ready to decide for yourself the material you prefer. Call me when you are ready to find the kitchen counter you want in a new home.



De-cluttering 101


One of the most effective ways to make your home feel larger, newer, and cleaner is to remove excess items.  Often we collect things over time and don’t realize how much we have until there is no more room for anything new.  Here are some tips to get started on your journey to a clutter-free home.

  1. Start small.  Don’t try to tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed.  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  The same principle applies to de-cluttering.  Start with one category (clothes, books, movies, craft supplies, etc.) and allow yourself enough time to sort that one group of items.
  2. Keep what’s used and appreciated, toss what’s broken or guilt-inducing.  Do not keep something because it was a gift or belonged to another family member.  Memories can be held separate from objects.
  3. Don’t hold on to objects that make you feel bad like clothes that no longer fit, home decor that is no longer in style, or towels that are frayed or smelly.  Make room for things that make you happy.
  4. Don’t feel like you need to keep aspirational items, things that represent the person you aspire to be, rather than who you actually are. For example, I purchased a yoga mat and instructional guide, thinking I might take up yoga.  I didn’t.  I bought a food processor thinking I might make bread.  I haven’t.  I bought craft supplies to make cards and scrapbooks.  I did, but not so much now.  It is okay to let go of past goals if they aren’t present goals.  You don’t need stuff reminding you of what you used to want to do.
  5. Enlist the help of a brutally honest friend with a minimalist streak.  I am that friend for a lot of people.  They will give you the courage to let go of things you feel like you should keep but really shouldn’t.
  6. Consider how you can share what you have and borrow what you don’t.  We all have things that we keep because we use them seasonally or sporadically, like the 6 foot ladder to get on the roof or the air compressor to blow out the sprinkler system.  If you don’t have something, rather than buying it, consider borrowing from a friend.  Then return the favor when your neighbor is in need.  This way you can build a friendship rather than a storage unit.

Look Before You Leap

cliffIt’s Open House season and many of us have caught home shopping fever.  It’s easy to see why.  It’s so much fun to dream about what you will do to make a new and different house your own: plant a garden, host parties on the deck, or enjoy a relaxing night by the fire, but hold on!  Before you get too emotionally invested, here are a few things to take into consideration before leaping into a new home purchase.

  1. Take the time to shop and qualify for financing before you start looking at homes.  Unless you have a pile of cash sitting around, you will need a loan to pay for your house.  By securing financing ahead of time, you can make strong offer, knowing what you can afford.
  2. If you qualify for a traditional mortgage with a 20% down payment, a commercial bank may offer you the most competitive interest rates.  However, if you are self-employed, have a smaller down payment, or wish to use a government program, consider using a mortgage broker.  They work with multiple lenders and can find the right loan to fit your situation.
  3. Meet your potential neighbors.  They can be a great resource for information about local activities, businesses, and public services.  You can also get a first impression of what they are like and whether you want to live next to them. You can have a great house but it’s not worth it if you have unpleasant neighbors.
  4. Research the cost of utilities.  The gas or electric company can give you historic usage for the property and applicable rates.  The city can tell you what the average rate is for water, garbage and sewer.  Recycling may be included or an extra fee.  Check to see what companies provide phone, internet, and cable services.  You’ll also want to see if your cell phone works and how good the cell coverage is in the area.
  5. Visit the property at different times of day to get an idea of lighting and noise levels.  Traffic may be non-existent during the day, but busy in the morning and early evening when people are coming and going. A home that is bright and sunny during the day could be a dark dungeon at night if there isn’t adequate lighting.
  6. Check the physical markers of your lot boundaries to see what is actually included.  You don’t want to assume ownership of what actually belongs to your neighbor.  You’ll also want to know if there is something, like a fence or outbuilding, encroaching on the property you wish to buy.
  7. Make sure you know about any deed restrictions, community covenants, or conditions placed on the property.  There may be rules about any number of things including outbuildings, paint colors, building materials, lawn care, landscaping, or noise levels.  Even if you are okay to conforming to these rules, it is always better to know ahead of time.
  8. Find a good real estate professional to guide you.  The internet provides a place start your home search, but the information it provides is often outdated and/or inaccurate.  A good realtor has access to the most accurate and timely information regarding the market and can guide you in making the right decision. She will answer your questions and make sure there are no unhappy surprises.  Please call me when you are ready to start your home buying adventure.