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