It would cost a lot of money. But she renovated her kitchen in her old house, back in the mid-2000s, and it really improved how the place looked, and paid off when she sold the house in 2007.
|The sign on the fridge says: "Out of Order. Do Not Use."|
Can you see the cracks in the tile floor?
B and I bought this house together in 2007, just as the real-estate market was rolling over. Okay, we both sold our old houses, and had made money from them over the years, but it's still hard to watch the value of this house keep sinking like it's stuck in quicksand. We know what it's worth, because our old real-estate agent sends out a newsletter once every two months, updating us on the price of homes in town, and what's sold in our neighborhood. Besides that, there are these sites on the Internet, like zillow.com, or trulia.com, where they list the market value of your house. I know I shouldn't look at these sites. We're not about to sell our house. Besides, their so-called market price is just an estimate ... a wild guess. But I look anyway.
That's just the point, B tells me. We're not going to sell the house anytime soon. She wants a new kitchen because we hang around the kitchen every day of our lives, and she wants to make our surroundings look a little nicer. Not so we can improve the sale price of our house, but so we can enjoy it while we're here.
But B is a reasonable person. After we got an estimate to replace the kitchen cabinets, without my even prompting she quickly decided it wouldn't be worth it. "Are they kidding?" she said. "Over $20,000 for cabinets? That's way too much. Besides, our cabinets are perfectly good."
But she doesn't like the design of the cabinet doors, and even I'll agree that a lot of the door hinges are not working properly. Some of the doors are crooked. The doors are supposed to close by themselves, but a lot of them don't. So we looked into refacing the cabinets. But that would cost almost $15,000, and that seemed outrageous as well.
So we "tabled" the question of the cabinets. But B was more insistent when it came to the countertop. She doesn't like our countertop. It's not worn out or scratched up or anything. She just thinks it's ugly. It's made out of Corian, which I think is pretty fancy. But it's not as fancy as granite. I suggested to B that she didn't think the countertop was ugly when we bought the house.
"Yes I did," she replied. "I just didn't say anything about it."
So we went shopping for granite countertops. They range from about $50 a square foot, to over $100 a square foot. Guess which one B liked the best. And you don't have to have a lot of countertop to start adding up to major dollars -- $3000 or $4000, easy. Then you have to buy a new sink and a new faucet, which ain't cheap either. (I know, because when we moved here in 2007, we replaced the old faucet with a new faucet from Home Depot, for around $200 -- and at $200 it's a cheap faucet that never has worked very well.)
We were both taken aback by the price of the countertop. I said to B, "You know, I wouldn't mind spending a fortune on a countertop, if I thought we were going to get some of it back when we sold the house. But our house is worth, probably $100,000 less than what we bought it for in 2007. Do you think a new countertop is going to make the house worth any more?"
"No, I don't," she replied honestly. "But we will enjoy the countertop for as long as we live here. And when we do get ready to move, a nice countertop will make the house more saleable. We probably won't get more money. But we will be able to sell it."
I thought about the issue for a few moments. "Yeah, we will enjoy the countertop. But I don't think I'll get $3000 or $4000 more enjoyment out of granite than I would out of an old-fashioned Formica countertop. I mean, either way, you set your dish on the counter. End of story. They both work equally well."
B looked at me balefully. "You don't want a Formica countertop."
"You know, I don't understand it," I said. I was getting exasperated. "My parents weren't rich, but they were solidly middle class. They were satisfied with their station in life -- in fact, they thought of themselves as pretty well off. But they never had a granite countertop. They never had anything but Formica. And they still managed to get through life quite comfortably."
B looked at me. "I know what you're saying," she replied understandingly. "But that was then. This is now. Don't you remember when we were looking at houses? You were the one who looked down your nose at a house that had Formica countertops."
"Yeah," I laughed. "But that was in 2007. That was then. This is now!"
And I meant it. Back in the housing boom, everyone wanted a granite countertop ... because they never really thought they'd have to pay for it. But now, when homes do not appreciate, you really do have to pay for the countertop -- and I wonder if Formica won't become fashionable again.
The same goes for linoleum floors, versus wood or tile floors. I think my parents did finally have a tile floor in their kitchen -- when they moved to the retirement complex in Florida. But it's not as if they required a tile floor in their kitchen for them to be happy. They were perfectly satisfied with linoleum floors. I grew up with a linoleum floor. I never felt disadvantaged because of our linoleum floor. I never felt like we were the poor people in the neighborhood. I never suffered injury or aesthetic insult because of our linoleum floor.
Yet when we stopped by the floor store and asked to see linoleum, the clerk looked at us as if we were on welfare. Still, I wonder if linoleum floors will make a comeback ... you know, now that people actually have to pay for their floor.
Finally, we have the appliances. We bought a new dishwasher when we moved here -- the old one gave up the ghost. But B had a vision of a new cooktop and a new oven -- the one we have, according to her, doesn't heat evenly and the temperature gauge isn't accurate. But when we gave up the idea of the new cabinets, she gave up the idea of a new oven.
We still need to get a new refrigerator. The old one is ... well, it's kind of old (duh). And it's small, and the icemaker doesn't work.The problem is, if we want to get a full-size refrigerator, then the cabinet above it has to be changed -- and we're back to changing the cabinets again!
Yesterday, B's son came home from college for the long weekend. This morning B and I were standing around the kitchen, trying to decide if we needed to make a trip to the tile store. "Oh, you're still talking about redoing the kitchen?" asked B's son. I think he was smirking as he made his inquiry.
"Yes, of course," answered B.
"I thought you'd given up on that idea," he said. He looked around. "I've been gone for quite a while ... but nothing's happened."
"There are a lot of decisions to make," said B defensively.
"I know, I know," he said dismissively. "It's just that you guys seem to be moving even slower than usual."
"Well, it's complicated!" we both said, in unison.