Granite vs. a View

Jun 23, 2015 by

granite countertopI like granite. I especially like it in a form like the amazing dome known as Stawamus Chief near Squamish, British Columbia. And I think the now ubiquitous (and thus passé) granite countertop is attractive too. And it’s very, very hard, that’s for sure. But mostly granite countertops are expensive, and therein I think lays their popularity. I shall explain myself.

Why I Quit Watching HGTV’s House Hunters

I follow several HGTV shows, marveling at how the network’s execs are able to explode what is essentially two themes—1) people search for house – people buy house, and 2) people own house – people renovate house—into myriad series that feel different.

I used to watch a show called House Hunters, both the domestic and international versions. In this series a typically youngish couple searches for a home to buy. The cameras record their reactions as they tour three homes accompanied by a realtor who does a herculean job of holding his or her tongue and maintaining a happy face as the couple makes insipid comments, almost always beginning with “I’m not a fan of…”. In the end the couple apparently is obliged to buy one of the three homes they’ve devoted their 15 minutes of fame to insulting.

I still watch the international House Hunters version when the locale is a country where I fantasize living (Belize, yes; France, no). But the domestic House Hunters began making me crazy, so I had to quit watching or risk developing a prejudice against youngish couples. Why? Granite countertops, that’s why.

Some People Are Ashamed to Live in a House Lacking Granite Countertops

An aside: Based on what I think I know about the world as channeled through HGTV, marble apparently has displaced granite as the material of choice among those who want rocks serving as their counters’ tops. But for the sake of this piece, I’ll stick with granite.

Evidently, many people can no more imagine living in a house without granite countertops as they can imagine living in a house lacking a toilet. A small sampling of what House Hunter realtors smile through:

  • “I need my granite in this kitchen, so that’ll be an extra cost.”
  • “This house has everything we want. Except granite. Can we see another house?”
  • “These will have to be replaced with granite, of course,” while disdainfully waving off a beautiful but non-granite countertop.

As I mentioned, House Hunters’ house hunters are usually youngish couples. Maybe I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but based on what I glean from the always reliable Internet and the Federal Reserve Bank’s data on Americans’ credit card debt about the financial habits of the average youngish couple, my guess is most House Hunters are not just off the retirement security rails—they’re unaware a track exists. And so they can’t endure the thought of 20-something life without granite countertops. Hmmm. I think I’m beginning to understand where Engels was coming from.

A View: My Own Granite Countertop?

Okay, I’ve been a smug bastard so far. Now a mea culpa.

Ms. Money Counselor and I are lucky to live in a house with a spectacular (I think) view of water, mountains, and the shallow valley sheltering our neighbourhood. If you picked up our house and put it in another location in our community but without any special view, my guess is its value would drop by about $40,000. So we’re paying $40,000 for a view, and we did so consciously. We would not have considered buying a house without a view, and we told our realtor as much.

So is a view our granite countertop? Are we crazy to spend an extra $40,000 on a house when we could have bought one with great views a short walk away but no view from the house?

If you answer ‘yes,’ I accept your judgment. But I’d also surmise that a view is unimportant to your quality of life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In our case, we appreciate and enjoy our view every single day. I feel our view meaningfully boosts my quality of life. This, not a tendency toward laziness, explains why I waste devote so many hours sitting in my fake Eames / real Ikea lounge chair staring out a window in our house.

Views vs. Granite Countertops

Our friends enjoy our view too, but that’s not why we insisted on a house with a view. We insisted because we really enjoy views.

In contrast, here’s what I think about granite countertops: people insist on them mainly because they make an impression on their friends, all of whom of course have, or aspire to, granite countertops. Granite countertops and similar “upgrades” with little or no inherent value send this simple message to every visitor: We Have Money. Sadly (I think), having money = status and respect in our society. And everybody wants status and respect, so it seems.

But maybe I judge too harshly. Maybe your granite countertops elevate your mood every day like my view elevates my mood. If so, tell me about it in the comments if you please. Feel free to make the point in your own non-four letter words that my head is full of rocks. No worries, I’ve heard it all before. 🙂

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