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Buyers’ desire for fireplaces has been extinguished

09/17/2019

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There won’t be any chestnuts roasting by an open fire in a majority of homes this winter, according to a survey released by the National Association of Home Builders on Tuesday.

Only 41 percent of single-family homes built within the last year include fireplaces, continuing a four-year decline. Only 7 percent of starter-homes (<$150k) built in 2018 included a fireplace, while 60 percent of luxury homes (>$500k) had the feature.

“An obvious explanation for the declining trend is that builders are foregoing fireplaces in some of their homes so they can bring them in at prices their customers can afford,” NAHB noted. “Keeping new homes affordable has become a considerable challenge lately.”

Where fireplaces are most common.

The decline in fireplaces doesn’t mean buyers don’t want them. Fifty-five percent of buyers said gas-burning fireplaces are a “desirable feature,” while 48 percent of buyers said the same about wood-burning options. But when it comes time to cut costs, buyers are most willing to forego a fireplace — only 16 percent of buyers’ list fireplaces as a “must-have.”

The popularity of fireplaces is likely to turn to ashes in the upcoming years as builders strive to meet the demand for affordable housing. In their latest monthly measure of market conditions, the National Association of Home Builders said builders are grappling with inadequate labor and supplies, something that’s likely to be exacerbated by a trade war with China.

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“Solid household formations and attractive mortgage rates are contributing to a positive builder outlook,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. “However, builders are expressing growing concerns regarding uncertainty stemming from the trade dispute with China.”

Email Marian McPherson

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