Fireplaces are Not a Hot Household Item

Filed in Design, Economics by on September 26, 2019 10 Comments

Spurred in part by affordability concerns, more consumers are turning a cold shoulder to fireplaces in their homes, according to NAHB tabulation of recently released data from the Survey of Construction, which is produced by the U.S. Census Bureau with partial funding from HUD.

Only 41% of single-family homes started in 2018 included fireplaces, which is the lowest percentage on record since NAHB began tabulating the data in a consistent fashion in 2001.  Moreover, the share of single-family homes with fireplaces has been declining steadily since 2015, setting a new post-2001 record low each of the past three years.

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. Keeping new homes affordable has become a considerable challenge lately, and fireplaces are generally a desirable amenity, but not one that all home buyers must have.

According to the 2019 edition NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want, 55% and 48% of home buyers rate gas and wood burning fireplaces, respectively, as at least desirable. By this measure, fireplaces fall in the middle of the list of decorative features in the NAHB survey in terms of desirability. However, only 16% of buyers say either type of fireplace is essential (meaning they are unlikely to purchase a home unless it has one).

NAHB Senior Economist Paul Emrath provides more analysis in this Eye on Housing blog post.


Comments (10)

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  1. mark worley says:

    I would not build a spec without one. Unless it was a starter home…in fact we find that all buyers appreciate the fact that we are using Isokern with hand laid fire brick for the look of the Real Deal.

  2. Tom Rogers says:

    Here in the southeast I also have not had any customers (either with my design work or through our construction) that has asked for no fireplace. I have the opposite where they specifically do ask for a fireplace. While the trend maybe they don’t use them, they are a focal point of a room and added more as a design element (similar to soaker tubs in master bathrooms). Any spec home I would always add, an only not do one only when customer specifically requests

  3. Nice Post…Thanks For Sharing..

  4. Joe says:

    Interesting. While I myself love a wood-burning fireplace, I can see many new home buyers not wanting the expense or the work of using and maintaining a fireplace, on top of the work required to gather wood for a wood-burning fireplace. I’m surprised many are foregoing even a gas fireplace, though. For me, nothing beats a good fire with real wood in the fireplace during the winter months.

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