Fireplaces, the original HVAC system, are apparently on the wane, reports the National Association of Home Builders' Eye On Housing blog. The primary reason for this, the group believes, is cost. A moderately elaborate masonary fireplace can easily cost tens of thousands, and though gas fireplaces are far less costly, they may be less must-have than they were in the past.

On Sept. 18, the city of Del Mar, California approved the creation of an ordinance banning the installation of wood-burning fireplaces in any new residential construction.

Only 41% of single-family homes started in 2018 included fireplaces, according to NAHB tabulation of recently released data from the Survey of Construction produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. This percentage is the lowest on record since NAHB began tabulating the data in a consistent fashion in 2001. Since 2015, the share of single-family homes with fireplaces has been declining steadily, 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, as highlighted in last week’s post. 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).