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Fire Facts

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Posted On: 02/01/2017

Question: We have been looking at several homes in our area and wonder how much value is created with fireplaces and chimneys?

Answer: Fireplaces are entirely common and they can add value and increase ease of sale. A 2013 study by the National Association of Realtors, the latest available, found that “more than half of homes purchased had a fireplace. Fireplaces were most common in higher priced homes, homes in resort or recreation areas, and in detached single-family homes.” The same study also showed that 40 percent of all buyers were willing to pay more for a home with one.

In fact, younger people tend to prefer fireplaces more than older buyers. Research from the National Association of Home Builders shows half of all new homebuyers want a gas fireplace while 45 percent prefer wood. However, among those who prefer wood-burning fireplaces, 61 percent of Millennials (those born after 1980) consider it “essential/desirable” while the percentage falls to 53 percent among Gen X buyers (born between 1965-1979), 45 percent among Boomers (born between 1946-1954), and 40 percent among Seniors (individuals born in 1945 or earlier).

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In terms of buying or selling a home several fireplace-related issues should be considered.

Before marketing a home to sell, have it checked out by a chimney sweep. The sweep’s report can be shown to buyers. If repairs are needed, it’s best to have the work done before marketing the property rather than have a concern that takes away from the home.

Buyers will want a home inspection. According to Trulia.com, “If you or your home inspector suspect instability or hints of structural damage, it’s important to hire a chimney specialist. The specialist will be able to use a ‘chimney cam’ (a small video camera used to inspect the chimney from the inside) to uncover hidden damage.”

Strangely, the problem that worries everyone most is not fire or smoke. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America explains, “water, not fire, causes most chimney damage.”

“Whether masonry or factory-built,” it says, “prolonged water exposure can result in cracks or gaps in chimneys where creosote can collect and increase the risk of fire or where noxious gases can escape into your home and expose your family to carbon monoxide.”

“Rust stains in the fireplace area are of serious concern. Like the tip of an iceberg, by the time you see the evidence down in the fireplace, water damage to the damper or upper chimney structure is likely very critical,” says Ashley Eldridge, the CSIA Director of Education.

While uncontained fireplace fires may seem like a rarity they do happen and they are dangerous. There are more than 22,000 fireplace and chimney fires per year according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, enough to make inspections a sensible and necessary precaution.

Peter G. Miller is author of "The Common-Sense Mortgage," (Kindle 2016). Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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