If you’re looking to upgrade your home with new countertops, you’ve probably already had more than a few people suggest getting granite ones. This is not bad advice. Granite has been pretty popular for the last several years, and it likely won’t go out of style any time soon.

But hopefully you’re doing your homework (like reading this post) before you commit your money to anything. Just because granite is a popular material and stylish doesn’t automatically make it the best choice for you. There are a few things you’ll want to think about before writing a check:

  • How long will you live there
  • Where you live
  • Your budget

How long will you live there

Why are you looking at granite countertops in the first place? Are you looking to remodel your kitchen or bathroom to increase your home’s value so you can sell it in a few years? Thinking about renting out your condo and wondering if granite countertops will help you charge a bit more each month? Or are you just looking to update your kitchen because you hate the way it looks?

If the game plan is to increase your property’s value to sell or rent it out, you should really take a good look at your neighborhood first. We go more into this in the next section, but the basic rule is to be on the same level as everybody else. If yours is the nicest house on the block, that shiny new granite addition to the kitchen won’t bump up the price as much as it could.

If just hate the way your kitchen looks and you’re planning on staying put for a while (10+ years), then don’t count on a return on your investment to justify the cost. Put it down as a project you wanted for yourself. If it happens to bump up the value of your house? Congrats! You lucked out.

Where you live

The Wall Street Journal ran a great story a few years back about what home renovations were worthwhile, and they summed up the goal of any home improvement in one sentence: “The trick is to bring your home up to neighborhood standards, but no higher.”

“Location, location, location,” is the mantra of real estate. This is what decides whether you get a McDonald’s or a Cheesecake Factory in town. The more the homes in the neighborhood are similar, the more similar prices will be for them. Outliers can help or hurt home prices in the area, but if you’re on the high end of homes in the area, you can only improve the price so much by remodeling your home. Eventually, everybody else in the area has to step up their game, or you get stuck in how much more value you can add.

If adding granite countertops to your kitchen or bathroom helps bring you in line with the rest of the area, then go for it. If you’ll be the only one with them, don’t do it as an investment. Do it as something nice you’d like to have for yourself, but don’t expect a return on it.

Your budget

Be realistic about what you can afford. If the housing bubble taught us anything, it’s that going overboard on your house is not a good idea. Set aside at least 10% of your budget for extra costs, if not 20%. The cost of granite can escalate very, very quickly. If the cost is looking too high, don’t be afraid to check out other options.