A WARM REAL ESTATE CLIMATE
Summer has come to Bainbridge Island, and with it our traditional celebratory activities. We had an energetic Third of July street dance, a festive Fourth of July parade, and a successful Rotary Auction that grossed more than $600,000.
When we move our attention to local real estate statistics, everything appears to be equally sunny. Our median price is up 12.5%, home sales over $1,000,000 are up almost 28%, and condominium sales are up 36%! Still, if you talk to the experienced agents, they are detecting a shift. Let’s explore all the reasons why.
BUYERS BEHIND THE WHEEL
We talk all the time about buyers’ markets and sellers’ markets. But it’s really the buyers who drive any market. Even in an ascending sellers’ market, buyers (or lack of) create the excess demand over supply.
Bainbridge is blessed with a sophisticated and knowledgeable buyer pool. They are well educated and disciplined. These days, they’re also beginning to be more cautious. Maybe that’s due to world economics, a possible interest rate hike, or a general assumption that we’ve been on this run for more than a couple of years and we must be close to the top. You might ask, then, why are our statistics are so positive? There are several factors at work; signs that the market is not as heated as last year and is stabilizing. Here are a few specifics:
- Inventory, something we’ve lacked for a while, is creeping up.
- More price reductions and fewer multiple offers, with more buyers saying, “Let’s just wait and see what happens.”
- The number of homes under contract is down 17.3% from last year and hasn’t bounced back in the first part of July.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
We are hearing of a cooling in other markets, both to the east and the west. This is not a cause for great concern, as our market is dynamic, and this sort of shift requires adjustments in strategy rather than extreme actions. Knowledgeable advice will help both buyers and sellers negotiate the changes and still achieve realistic goals.
Speaking of the vitality of the market, statistical charts show vivid changes. In the first half of 2012, 48 homes sold in the 0-$400K price range. By 2014, that number was halved to 24 and has plunged all the way to 4 this year. These homes didn’t disappear; they just moved up into another price range. Right now, there is only one home for sale for less than $400,000 on Bainbridge. In 2014, 78 homes sold for less than $600K, while this year that number is only 19. Here is what’s happening at the other end of the pricing spectrum: In 2014, only 31 homes sold in the $800K-$1.5M range and this year there were 101 sales in the same price range. So as our market stabilizes, we must acknowledge that it has appreciated dramatically.
A BUSY CONDOMINIUM SEGMENT
With 62 sales in the first half of this year, you’d have to go back to 2007 to find a more active January-June period. The median was up 13.6% to $468K; matching the all-time median condominium price set in 2007. The condominium market has lagged the single-family residence market in price recovery from the peaks set in 2007, but the market has shown steady strength in the past year and a half. The condominium market benefits by offering residence on Bainbridge for less than most homes. It’s also shown an active upper end as people have downsized; which has been driven by success in the upper end of the house market. This success has happened despite low inventory.
The median price of land sales for the first six months also finally matched this segment’s 2007 peak. In 2007, the median was $406K and in 2018 it was $400K. As with condominiums, it has been a long road back to our previous highs, but they have arrived. The volume of 22 sales exceeded 2007’s 18 sales in the first six months but fell shy of 2015’s peak of 33 sales through June.
A POSITIVE TILT
All in all, we are giving our first six months of 2018 a very high grade. We detect some stabilization and cooling off in the home market, but Windermere is prepared to employ our strategies to guide both buyers and sellers toward their goals – regardless of shifts taking place.
2018 1st Quarter in Review
THE SPRING BOARD
Things We Know Are True
In the real estate business, we know never to count our proverbial chickens. Offers aren’t made until directed by a client, offers aren’t successful until they are accepted, inspections aren’t completed until everyone is satisfied, and we never take a transaction closing for granted. Every step forward is a cause for celebration. We view the market in the same way, especially after 2008. When we say that the first quarter of 2018 had many similar challenges as the first quarters of the past few years, we mean that there was strong demand, some supply, affordable interest rates, and a solid outlook.
This is particularly true of inventory, which experienced new lows. At the beginning of April, there were only 40 available (active) single family home listings on the island. This includes all prices, pre-sale homes (which haven’t even been finished yet), and your typical cadre of homes that are woefully overpriced or in a condition or location the typical buyers shy away from. (Bainbridge is different from Seattle, where these types of things tend not to deter buyers.) Nevertheless, 66 homes sold in the first quarter, which surpassed our sales from the past two years! Those additional sales also confuse the lower inventory numbers because homes were essentially selling faster (some might call it “velocity” or “higher turn”) so there would have been more homes left on the market if we sold homes at last year’s rate. (The average cumulative days on market fell from 85 in 2017 to 70 this year – a 17.6% drop!) Combined with a 20% increase in both average and median prices (for the first time, our average price for a quarter is over $1 million), you would have to conclude that our market is very strong. Granted, buyers are paying more with fewer choices, but we are still seeing buyers looking west from Seattle and finding a far saner market with much better values. This surge is not limited to single family. Condominium sales matched last year (technically, up by one) with the median price growing 12%, from $515K to $575K. Land sales, unimpressive last year, burst out of the blocks in 2018 with a 50% increase in lots sold and a 100% increase in median price ($217,500 to $435,000)!
The Supply Chain
We know that demand is strong this year, but what about supply? The construction behind Harbor Square (between Cave and Ferncliff) called Bainbridge Landing will consist of about 107 rentals and 25 residential condominiums. The DR Horton project on Sunrise and Torvanger (11 homes) is about 50% complete. Quadrant is building 19 homes on Weaver (the model is under construction). The Reserve at Winslow on Finch Road features 12 homes, Madison Grove off Duane Lane includes 8 homes, and Madison Landing will feature 24 condominiums. The Roost has begun their second phase of live-work structures and The Residences at Pleasant Beach Village is going in for permit on their second tier of 12 homes. These projects are being built within the geographic boundaries of our current comprehensive plan, which has pushed density into specific neighborhoods on the island, leaving a majority of our landmass with its much lower density zoning. Beyond these projects, it becomes a bit muddy with the city’s moratorium and impending changes to design rules. It is still unclear what the result of the moratorium and new restrictions will be, but it appears building will be more difficult and expensive; likely having an impact on the affordability of housing on Bainbridge.
How about our neighbors to the west and north? The North Kitsap market (Hansville to Poulsbo) is also active and fast-moving. There, 167 homes sold in the first quarter, with an average of 46 days on market, and at a selling pace 34% faster than ours! Since 2015, the median price (currently $385K) has risen 23%, almost 17% of which was this year over last. Things are popping across the Agate Pass Bridge!
The Value of Local Knowledge
If the first quarter is an indicator of the rest of the year, it appears we are in for an active year in Bainbridge Island real estate. To keep things moving in the right direction, our local experienced real estate agents bring a lot to the table. In an environment when buyers need to make decisions on sometimes short pressurized timeframes, a good agent will have sellers’ listings prepared in a fashion where the potential buyers feel more comfortable stretching their budgets. When representing buyers, it’s as much about preparing them to be able to act as it is about advising on locations, limits and putting things in the proper perspective. This guidance to both sides may sound “simple” but often makes many thousands of dollars’ worth of difference in transactions (to say nothing of the peace of mind it provides all parties).
Overall, the outlook good – occasionally stressful, but good. We need to celebrate this current strength and not take it for granted. While we do, we’ll enjoy the beautiful flowers and the sun’s warmth as temperatures and optimism rise together!
While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. These are products and whole ecosystems that help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite technology gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.
While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are some of the more diverse home gadgets we have found, beyond thermostats and security cameras:
GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER
Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.
LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL
More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smart phone into an additional remote.
PETZI TREAT CAM
Missing your pet while you’re away? The Petzi Treat Cam provides a way to connect with them through your smart phone from anywhere. Dispense treats, watch live HD video and speak with your pet using the 2-way audio.
FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER
A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smart phone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR
A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5 inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.
MEMORIES OF YEARS PAST
A History Lesson
The one constant in our real estate market is change. Ten years ago (yes, it has been 10 years!), we were in a very competitive market. Inventory was tight and prices were going through the proverbial roof, setting new highs. Then, in September 2007, that came to an abrupt end and we began a downward trend toward the largest correction since the 1980s. It took until 2012 for the market to shift yet again and gradually pick up speed toward recovery. By 2015, we returned to familiar territory: an extremely competitive market with record low inventories and rapidly rising prices. On July 1, 2015, there were 58 active listings on the island. Now, just one year later, data suggests a potential market transition with inventories rising and price reductions becoming increasingly common.
We in the industry do not view this as a repeat of 2007. There are too many positive factors in our financing infrastructure and regional market that separate this climate from its predecessors. (Indeed, the financing environment is so much more conservative now that securing funding can actually be a hurdle in some transactions.) We are still in a very competitive market and the statistics bear this out. While we may be slowly moving towards a more “balanced” market, we are not there yet. Let’s look at some of the leading indicators that give a glimpse at where we are.
One year ago, there were 112 home listings, 54 of which were under contract. For a market the size of Bainbridge, 58 active listings in the middle of summer is a crazy small number. On July 15th of this year, inventory had ballooned to 162 listings, 64 of which were under contract (leaving 98 active). Yes, this was a substantial improvement from last year. But when compared to the absolute top of our last market peak in July 2007, the 162/64 stat still looks very tight compared to the 2007 numbers, which were 289 listings with 62 under contract.
The percentage of pendings to listings is 40% today compared to 21% in 2007. This year’s second quarter median cumulative days on the market is still a brisk 11 days, equal to what it was for the same period in 2015. (In 2007, it was 52 days.) It is still a very competitive market. Our inventory is growing because our price levels are finally bringing in more people from the sidelines. When you look at the history of the sold listings, there are scant few people who are “flipping” or who have bought recently and rapidly selling for a profit. Instead, many of the homes that recently sold were last sold in 2001, 2004, or even 2007 and 2008. It’s also interesting to note that people who have held onto their homes for a more extended period of time (since before the boom years) are realizing very healthy increases over what they paid.
We have finally drawn even with and are even beginning to pass our peak prices of 2006/2007. When we checked the history of all the homes sold in the second quarter, all those that sold in 2006/2007 did better this year. Our year-to-date median is $755,000, a 14.4% increase over last year. This number is exacerbated by the price ranges of the homes sold. Overall, sales were down almost 17% and almost all of the decrease came in homes below the $600K price point. This phenomenon can be partly explained by our old nemesis: lack of inventory. On July 15th, there were 13 homes available on the whole island for less than $600K. Not many choices …
However, we are now seeing more price reductions than even in the first quarter. This is another indication of a healthier market. Pricing still matters, as sellers can’t just ask for anything. As we mentioned in our last newsletter, this is one of many areas where professionals can really help. Overpriced homes usually end up selling for less than properly priced homes, a statistic that has been borne out in all types of markets. This becomes especially important when a market is going through a gradual shift. The bottom line is that prices are rising and healthy. True, the rate may change and is very neighborhood and property specific. But the competitive nature of our current market will help bolster prices.
Condominiums and Land
Interestingly, the increase in inventory has not yet been felt in the residential condominium market. Due to low inventory the volume of condominium sales are down almost 21% from last year. Prices are up 8% from 2015, but the median price is still 13.7% lower than in 2007. In addition to the shortage of available condominiums buyers face potential financing challenges specific to that type of property. In the land segment, sales are down more than 30%! Median price for land is also off 6.5%, which is 47% of the 2007 median. This is perplexing as land sales improved quite a lot between 2014 and 2015.
So our changes are subtle at this time, but in process. On the residential side, the greater inventory gives buyers more choices and potentially more sales. Sellers are seeing price levels that entice people to return to the marketplace and support a competitive environment. The regional economy outlook continues to impress and our position in that marketplace remains strong. (What other community can still claim the same commute time to downtown as twenty years ago?) The outlook ahead is all very positive!
This summer, we are opening a satellite office on Olympic Drive and Winslow Way. There we’ll be able to greet ferry passengers as they first arrive to the island. Our goal is to give our clients more exposure to pedestrian and vehicle ferry traffic and have agents on hand to answer questions. We hope to have our doors open soon, so please stop by.
Windermere In The News
To say that Windermere has a lot of Seahawks fans would be an understatement. That’s why we are so excited to announce today that we are now the “Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks”!
At the center of this partnership with the Seahawks is a new #tacklehomelessness campaign in which the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 for every Seahawks tackle at home during the 2016 season. On the receiving end of these donations is YouthCare, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that has been providing services and support to homeless youth from across Puget Sound for more than 40 years. Since 1989, the Windermere Foundation has donated over $30 million to non-profits that support low-income and homeless families, so partnering with YouthCare and the Seahawks on the#tacklehomelessness campaign is a perfect fit for us.
“We are proud to partner with Windermere, an iconic and locally-based company with a deep commitment to this community,” said Seahawks Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Amy Sprangers. “Windermere’s brand and values align perfectly with our commitment to this region. It is wonderful that this partnership will make a positive impact on homeless youth throughout the Seattle area.”
In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would have a little tribute to the color green. While a pale, almost neutral green is common in design, it takes guts and color savvy to really sock a punch to a room with green. These are a few great examples where the designer is a green maven.
This room has such a fun vintage feel without the burden of all of grandma's clutter. Keeping all of the other major pieces a stark white really showcases the green color.
I LOVE this room; my eye was immediately drawn to the Egg Chair in that gorgeous shade of green!
I think I'm drawn to this room because it looks like it was inspired by the Farnsworth house. The green accent mimics what is going on outside the structure.
The designer of this bathroom understands color and balance. The green is allowed to shine against the white while a little punch of orange provides great contrast.
Speaking of orange and green – being fearless with color can be intimidating but rewarding and well worth it when done properly. The balance of the orange and green is so refreshing and exciting.
Also, chocolate brown looks fantastic with green.
This calm traditional room probably would have seemed like the same old, same old without that brilliant hit of green provided by the duvet and throw pillow.
Here the green tiles add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise very modern kitchen.
And finally, who says wreaths are only for Christmas? A living wreath planted on a moss ring provides lovely greeting at your front door.
Grand porches get more press, but you can pack just as much style into a small space. Whether you have a city stoop, an apartment building landing, exposed exterior stairs or a small porch, these 10 ideas will help you make the most of your home’s entrance.
1. Add a quirky planter. Done with that umbrella stand? Tuck a plant pot in there for an instant transformation. Or take a funky vintage find, like an elephant-shaped stool, and use it as a plant stand beside the front door. It’s sure to make guests (and you) smile.
2. Paint your door a bright color. A cheerfully bright, mood-boosting hue is a great way to light up a small or dark entryway. Try yellow, lime green or aqua.
3. Paint pots to match your door. This is quite possibly the easiest way to make your front entrance feel put together: Cluster flowerpots in the same hue as your front door on the stoop. Stick with odd numbers and vary the sizes of the pots for a more casual look. For a formal entrance, choose two giant, identical pots to flank the door.
4. Roll out a big rug. Why stick with itty-bitty doormats when you can offer guests a big, cheerful outdoor rug instead? A larger rug on a small stoop will help the area seem more spacious — a tiny doormat tends to break up the space. A big rug on the porch also does wonders for hiding imperfect floors!
5. Position trellises to frame the entrance. Positioned at each end of the porch or front steps, trellises provide welcome privacy and shade to the entrance. If the area gets good sunlight (and the climate allows), why not plant something fragrant, like jasmine, so you can enjoy a delicious scent each time you return home?
6. Style some beachy finds. Driftwood, shells, glass lanterns, striped beach blankets and woven seats create a laid-back vibe on this front porch. If you have only a tiny amount of room, try arranging a single chunk of driftwood, a big shell and a glass lantern beside the door.
7. Plant a window box. When you hardly have a stoop, let alone a full porch, it can be difficult to find ways to personalize your space. Try hanging a window box from the front window and installing a handsome lantern beside the door.
8. Invest in topiary. A pair of topiary trees or neatly trimmed potted shrubs flanking the front door makes for an elegant entrance. You can’t miss with classic blue and white ceramic pots, moss-covered concrete or black urns, or square wooden planter boxes. If your stoop gets zero sun, consider investing in high-quality fake topiary — it’s really hard to tell the difference, and you can’t kill it!
9. Draw the eye up with hanging baskets. Big hanging pots of ferns look bountiful and lush, and can handle the shade under an eave. Be sure to choose pots that are on the large side, and hang them about two-thirds of the way up from the porch floor — small pots hung too high look awkward.
10. Swap plain numbers for an address plaque. A custom address plaque imparts more sophistication than plain house numbers. If you like, personalize it further by making up a name for your house.
4479 Pleasant Beach Drive NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Offered at $1,150,000
Luxury seaside living in the heart of Pleasant Beach Village, just steps to restaurants, arts, theater and parks. Incredibly light this beautiful home features open gracious living with 9 foot ceilings, hardwood floors and propane fireplace. Wonderful low maintenance, single-family home features 3 bedrooms including Master bedroom with private balcony overlooking the water, sweeping views, walk-in closet and Jacuzzi tub. Incredible amenities include a bright gourmet kitchen with pantry and private patio, skylights throughout, central heat and cooling and a 2-car garage. NWMLS #893331
Singing a Familiar Song
In 2015, we watched as a trend that began in 2012 continued. For the past several years, we’ve had a steady decrease in available homes accompanied by increased values. In 2015 we saw more of the same – or less of the same, depending on one’s perspective. We are living and working in an ongoing environment of real estate scarcity. Still, we keep our eyes on the future rather than the past to see what the market will do next.
The Ebbs and Flows of an Island Market
As with all markets, we are subject to demand (buyers) and supply (sellers). The majority of our buyers come from two sources: island residents seeking to change their Bainbridge addresses (>40%) and people moving here from the Seattle environs (~30%). We are all aware of the craziness of the Seattle marketplace. Seattle is experiencing phenomenal economic and job growth, a lot of it right downtown. Seattle Metro real estate is also a fairly closed system, with little room for additional housing unless you want to live in an apartment tower or spend a lot of time on the freeways going east/south/north. The consequence of this growth has created some serious traffic issues and prices (for those who succeed in the multiple-offer frenzy) are a lot higher there than here. Once you factor in the great reputation of Bainbridge schools, it is little wonder families of downtown workers look to the island as a real estate alternative to Seattle.
Movement on the Rock
Then there are the Bainbridge buyers. Many island residents have been holding on to their homes purchased between 2006 and 2008, waiting for prices to come back up so they can move without taking an equity hit. In general, prices have gradually risen since 2012, which has brought home values closer to the peak prices of 2007. (Prices have grown >35% since the beginning of 2012 but certain areas/locations/amenities have outpaced appreciation relative to other island neighborhoods.) At the current rate, we should surpass the average price peak of 2007 at some point during 2016. (The average price in 2007 was $820,569; in 2015 it was $790,534.) The “upper end” segment (>$800K), which has been the slowest to recover, had a strong 2015 with sales up 35.6% from 2014 (137 versus 101). It is interesting to note this segment accounted for 36% of all the sales in 2015.
The Challenge of Choices
The only apparent impediment to local people moving around the island is a lack of choice. Bainbridge residents are reluctant to put their homes on the market because they cannot find alternatives that justify moving (and their current homes appreciate the longer they stay in them). The current demand is outstripping current supply, which creates price increases and buyer frustration. The demand comes from the fact that Bainbridge is a pretty great place to live so people want to move here. As long as Bainbridge Island is perceived to be a desirable community there will be demand from people wanting to live here. There aren’t many alternatives for families wanting great access to downtown Seattle, fabulous schools and a more relaxed lifestyle than Seattle provides.
Low Supply and High Demand
The effect of this demand will be continued buyer frustration, higher prices and a demand for more inventory (growth of the number of homes available, otherwise known as new construction and development). If our demand stays the same (and there is no reason to doubt that it will, at least in the mid-term), prices will rise more than if there is new inventory. For those of you who have been here for a while, you’ll remember how quickly our prices appreciated in the last decade (2002-2007).
The good news is that there are new construction projects being built and being planned. As home prices and demand have increased, builders have re-emerged. We had 68 land sales last year (with a median price increase of 27%, from $185K to $235K), the most in over a decade (and a long way from 2008’s 15 sales). Some of these are for single family; some are for developments. Grow Village, developments on Wing Point, Wyatt Way and Lovell, Weaver, Sunrise Bluff on the mid to north end are actively being pursued by builders. Pleasant Beach and “The Roost” on Point White in the south end want to move forward and will, just as soon as some issues with the local sewer infrastructure are answered. Some of these projects will come on line this year, and some in 2017. Last year, we recorded 21 new construction sales, a 31% increase over 2014 and a 420% increase over 2013.
The Word on Condominiums
Condominiums were dramatically affected by the lack of inventory. Active listings (listings not under contract to be sold) went from a peak of 16 in May down to only 4 in mid-December. That’s right. In mid-December, there were only 4 condominiums available island-wide. With that in mind, it is surprising that sales were only down 11% (90 versus 101). The median price, however, grew 11.2% ($372,500 versus $335,000) which surpassed the single family median increase. This was due primarily to sales between $400K-$500K increasing from 19 to 25 in 2015. (In both years, 86% of all sales were less than $500K.)
A Fresh Take
We expect 2016 to be an interesting year. There is little evidence to a slowdown in demand so the challenges sellers and especially buyers experienced in 2015 will probably not abate. There is a “buzz” that more people are thinking about selling this year, which will help. However, there appears to be a resurgence of a “no growth” attitude, which will drive prices higher. The trick is enabling growth so it maintains the qualities we currently have and allows Bainbridge Island to retain its distinct personality and charm.
With so many choices at homeowners' fingertips, picking out a kitchen counter is no easy task. Since this surface area ends up influencing many kitchen palettes, it's important to choose something that looks good to you, will hold up under the kitchen activity of your household and has a price tag that suits your budget.
I've gathered a selection of 15 popular kitchen countertop materials handily in one place to help you find the choice that suits you best.
Soapstone Kitchen Counters
Often used in laboratories for its resistance to stains, chemicals and bacteria, soapstone is a durable and natural choice for a kitchen. At $80 to $100 per square foot installed, it might be on the more expensive side, but it can be a lifetime investment.
Granite Kitchen Counters
There are plenty of reasons granite is so popular — this natural stone has plenty of character, with unique grains, colors and customizable finishes. When properly sealed, it's one of the most durable options out there. While it can cost as low as $50 per square foot installed, prices can go up quickly with more exotic slabs and difficult installations.
Copper Kitchen Counters
It certainly isn't common, but a copper countertop is surprisingly easy to clean and maintain. However, it's not for perfectionists — since it's a "living" surface, it reacts to different substances, creating a blend of matte reds, browns and greens. But for those who love the look, the minimum $100-per-square-foot cost is worth it.
Engineered Quartz Kitchen Counters
Perfect for the customized home, engineered quartz comes in just about every shade imaginable. This engineered product combines ground quartz, resin and pigments for a tough, nonporous material. Great ecofriendly attributes makes it a safe bet for green homes, too. Get ready to pay up, though, since costs range from $95 to $105 per square foot installed.
Tile Kitchen Counters
One of the more affordable counter choices (starting at $30 per square foot installed), ceramic or stone tile is incredibly durable, and one of the few DIY countertop options. Maintenance can be difficult with all that grout, but choosing a durable and dark grout can make things easier.
Ecofriendly Kitchen Counters
A little research is really all that's required today to make your new kitchen ecofriendly. The wide variety of material styles and costs — from salvaged wood to Bio-Glass to bamboo (shown in this photo) — means you can find just the right green countertop material for your home.
Zinc Kitchen Counters
You don't see zinc countertops in many modern kitchens, but this metal exudes warmth that has made it popular for centuries. Zinc's tone darkens with time, adding patina. Its antimicrobial properties make it a smart choice for a cooking space. This beautiful material typically costs $100 and up per square foot, installed.
Recycled Paper-Based Kitchen Counters
Recycled paper sounds like the worst possible material for a kitchen countertop, but this ecofriendly choice has surprising durability. When blended with resins and pigments, it has the look and feel of soapstone — but at $40 to $80 per square foot installed, it's a fraction of the cost.
Plastic Laminate Kitchen Counters
Although it's sometimes scoffed at by stone lovers, plastic laminate still has a serious fan base. The wide range of customizable edges and finishes means it can work in any design. At $8 to $20 per square foot installed, its affordable price makes it a winner for many. However, it's not the most durable of countertops, so it may not be best for heavy-duty cooks.
Recycled Glass and Cement Kitchen Counters
Although it's expensive ($100 to $160 per square foot installed), this unique combination of glass and cement is a surefire way to add character to your kitchen. Ecofriendly, durable and customizable, this countertop material is a top choice for a "forever home".
Marble Kitchen Counters
Marble has an unrivaled, classic look that always seems to be in style. For lovers of white kitchens in particular, marble offers more variety than almost any other material. Marble is known more for the patina it develops with use than for its durability. It's a softer stone than granite, and can scratch and stain easily; the cost typically ranges from $70 to $100 per square foot installed.
Concrete Kitchen Counters
Pigments, stains and dyes can create concrete counters with color and visual texture. With the right sealer, a concrete counter can be well worth its cost — at least $100 to $150 per square foot installed.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Counters
Professional chefs love stainless steel because it's non-staining, heat resistant and easy to clean. While it certainly makes fingerprints and scratches stand out, it's a great choice for hardworking kitchens that don't need a perfect look. A price tag of $80 to $90 per square foot installed means it's more affordable than most stone counters, too.
Solid-Surface Kitchen Counters
Is it stone, wood or plastic? This miracle material has the ability to emulate just about any look without the same damage risk or maintenance. Prices range from $50 to $100 per square foot, depending on the manufacturer.
Wood Kitchen Counters
For some, wood and countertops just don't seem to mix. But a high-quality wood with the right kind of sealer can make for a beautiful, warm and long-lasting countertop. The price varies substantially depending on the type of wood you choose, but butcher block counters tend to range from $30 to $85 per square foot, for materials only.