Do buyers care about fireplaces if they can’t be used much?

This might sound like a really liberal idea to friends in other parts of the country, but we cannot use wood burning fireplaces every day in the Sacramento area. What do I mean? It is illegal on certain days to burn wood or pellets depending on the air quality, which essentially means you can be fined if you burn on a “no burn” day.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District states “Residents and businesses are restricted or prohibited from using indoor or outdoor fireplaces, wood stoves, fire pits and chimneys that burn wood, pellets, manufactured logs or any other solid fuel, when fine particle pollution is forecast to be elevated. It is your responsibility to Check Before You Burn.”

Photo used with permission from Realtor Micah Baginski

Photo from Realtor Micah Baginski of a recent house he flipped.

Real estate questions: Whether you agree or disagree with the rule for burning, there are some implications for real estate, which leads us to ask the following questions. Since wood-burning fireplaces cannot be used as often in light of “no burn” days in Sacramento, are they still an asset? How much weight are buyers giving fireplaces in today’s market? Is it a good idea to ever remove a fireplace? I asked a handful of local real estate pros to share some thoughts on the topic, and here is what they had to say. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Kyle GrovesKyle Groves – Realtor  Fireplaces are truly subjective. I have clients who want a wood burning, some who would remove it, some who would stick in an insert. Some want a fireplace just to put a TV over. I don’t think there is an overwhelming majority either way. Personally, with the limited ability to use wood burners, they’ve become obsolete, and more of a nuisance. Buyers can easily build a fireplace, with an insert, wherever they want, and it’s a much more efficient, usable option.

Bruce_Slaton_reasonably_smallBruce Slaton – Realtor  Fireplaces define a room for Buyers. There is nothing better than attending a family holiday and everyone gathering around the fireplace to socialize. I would say a fireplace in most Buyers profiles are preferences but not always necessarily a deal breaker or a must have. An HPBA Survey in 2012 said “In 2012, 36 percent of homeowners said their fireplace or stove was a major factor in choosing to purchase and/or live in their current home”. That’s up from 12 percent just 10 years ago, according to the HPBA report. The issues Sellers come across when reselling is they do not maintain the chimney maintenance and burn the wrong type of materials, which contributes to build up and possible fire safety issues. Sellers should always have a qualified chimney cleaning and inspection done months before placing their home on the market in order to remedy any issues with the chimney prior to any Buyer inspections. Maintaining documents and/or warranties are another thing a Seller should do as many homes have older fireplace inserts with no information or maintenance suggestions.

Kellie Swayne – Realtor
Kellie Swayne - RealtorIn the older neighborhoods in Sacramento where I specialize, like Land Park and East Sacramento, a fireplace is a fixture that is a part of the “traditional charm” that draws people to these areas. While many homes in these neighborhoods have been built without a fireplace, there is certainly the feeling that something is “missing”. I have worked with several buyers over the years who insisted on a fireplace as a feature in their home, even when they did not always intend to use the fireplace. I believe that fireplaces are an asset to these homes, even when they are not being used much. A fireplace can enhance the charm, ambiance and feel of a home. I have seen many fireplaces that have become a part of the decor in a home by adding candles, candelabras, and other creative pieces when they are not being used for fires. In most cases, I would recommend against removing an existing fireplace.

Tamara-Dorris-RealtorTamara Dorris – Realtor  The new burn laws are certainly something that people are unhappy about, however, I recently sold a home in Auburn and they’ve had special wood burning stove laws in effect for a while now. In my experience people still like fireplaces, and I would go so far to say that in the luxury market, people practically insist on them. I think in median price ranges, especially in this competitive market, that buyers will “settle” for no fireplace if they have to sacrifice something. And, in a seller’s market, sacrifice or compromise is a given. I would never recommend taking a fireplace out; mostly, due to the expense, and structural impact. Regardless of burn laws, something about a fireplace and a mantle with family photos on it just seems to make a house more of a home.

Jeff-Grenz-Sacramento-Real-Estate-BrokerJeff Grenz – Realtor  Fireplaces are a focal point for homes in higher price ranges. Much design time and money goes into these features. At the affordable level, there are definitely higher priorities for the money, so these features can certainly be bypassed, especially now that wood burning fireplaces have restricted use.

Erin Stumpf RealtorErin Stumpf – Realtor  I think the majority of Sacramento home buyers prefer homes with fireplaces. In fact, I have had several clients pass on purchasing nice homes without fireplaces in favor of other homes that do have them. The fireplace frequently is the center piece or focal point of a living room – often adorned with photos and such, holiday items, family heirlooms, etc. Additionally it can provide an additional source of warmth during cold weather, and makes for a nice place to gather. Most folks I work with do not mind the “Check Before You Burn” program in Sacramento, and I direct my clients to sign up for “Air Alerts” so they know which days they are permitted to burn fires (by the way, Erin has a post on the importance of chimney inspections that you might want to check out).

Questions: How important is a fireplace to you when purchasing a home? What do you think of the “check before you burn” campaign? Anything you’d like to add? Comments are welcome below.

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook


  1. says

    Many of our buyers still ask and get excited over a fireplace. There’s still an emotional draw to the fireplace even with the “no-burn days” limitation. A few of our buyers (now owners) have taken advantage of past incentives / rebates with inserts. Which I think is a good route to check out with county or city incentives and programs, and hopefully getting a few dollars knocked off to make it a functional item (if not being used otherwise).

    • says

      Good insight, Heather. I think you’re so right about rebates. I’m really glad you mentioned that. Home owners can always upgrade to a set-up that is able to be used every day. That’s ideal.

  2. says

    I agree with Bruce. I think the quaintness of a fireplace is appealing, even if you cannot use it. I have been in many homes in my market area (Birmingham, Alabama) and people have had fireplaces for years without using them, or using them very infrequently, even though we do not have such laws.

    • says

      Well said, Tom. You are so right that many people do not use their fireplaces. I know we like to use ours inside (as well as our outdoor pit). I actually want to build a bigger pit in my backyard where I removed some sod last year. We’ll see. Thanks Tom.

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