This woman tells how she painted and sealed her counters to go from the laminate in the top to the natural stone look in the bottom picture. About 120 bucks. I'm not a big fan of painting laminate but this tutorial intrigues me.
The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in the house, so it's a good use of time to get the space looking and working at its best. That means adding storage and lighting, but also changing out counters or cabinets... without jeopardizing your security deposit.