Thursday, September 4, 2008

About That Granite

At the top of the housing boon era television was awash home buying, home selling, house flipping reality shows. The most atrocious of was Probably Flip This House! I expected it to be a This Old House meets the 21st century deal, but I was wrong. The shows were pretty much in one vein: flipping crew purchases run down property without proper inspection. They start working and discover that all kinds of things are wrong. They scratch their head, bitch at each other, and try to figure out the cheapest and fastest way to cover up the problems. The end result is a house that looks good on the surface but has shoddy workmanship. The whole thing was nauseating.

Ironically, at the same time there was another show on, a Canadian import, Holmes on Homes. This excellent home improvement show was centered around Mike Holmes, a general contractor extraordinaire. He took houses ravaged by lazy, incompetent or hack contractors, extensions, renovations gone horribly wrong, and fixed them up the way they should have been done on the first place. I have a feeling most of the houses from the other show would have qualified for this one.

But what does it all have to do with granite? I'll tell you. It seems that on every house flipping show I've ever seen the highlight was putting the granite countertop in the kitchen. The Sell This House type of shows too. "Having trouble selling your home? No, it's not because the pice is horribly inflated. You just need granite countertops!" One day people will look back at the granite countertop fixation of the early 21st century with the same horror as at wood paneling and shag carpeting.

I personally don't care too much for granite. I don't hate it, but can do without it just fine, and actually prefer butcher block. There is also this small issue of granite being more or less radioactive. One another alternative I'd like to try out is recycled glass countertops. Just look at these, they are awesome.

But the reason why I started obsessing about this is this: Last weekend, driving around Burbank I dropped in an Open House.

741 N Lima St Burbank, CA 91505 ( MLS#: F1765113)
Beds: 3
Baths: 2
Sq. Ft.: 1,958
$/Sq. Ft.: $327
Lot Size: 6,615 Sq. Ft.
Almost the first thing I saw upon entering was the remodeled kitchen complete with stainless steel appliances, and of course granite counter top. It was in sharp contrast with the rest of the house, none of which have been touched in decades. The online photos actually make it look better than it does in reality. For starters it didn't have any furniture. This half bathroom had peeling linoleum floor.
The main bathroom made me gasp. I suspect most of its parts date back to the original construction - in 1939.
There are no photos of the living room and I know why: It had a dirty carpet and yellow and purple walls. Seriously, is it so hard to buy a bucket paint and repaint the walls? There are also no photos of the small back yard paved over with concrete. This house is not a REO, an older person must have lived here. On a shelf of the closet of one of the bedrooms I saw stack of very old records, possibly gramophone records.

Overall, the house was not bad, but needs a lot of work, I don't think it's worse the asking price, no wonder it's been on the market for 127 day. So I guess granite cuntertop is not the magic bullet. I can't believe they spent money on that, but not on a bucket of paint.

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