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Adding a Fireplace to an Existing Home

With costs ranging up to $30,000 for a traditional brick hearth and mantel, adding a fireplace can be a considerable investment. If you’re wondering if you’ll get a return on that investment, the answer is: maybe.

While intangibles such as crackling flames and romantic ambience may make a fireplace worth the cost, consumer attitudes toward fireplaces have been in flux over the past decade. Here are the facts:

Fireplaces are Trending Up as Desirable Features

The National Association of REALTORS® 2013 survey of homebuyers’ preferences listed fireplaces as one of the most-preferred home features. Almost 40% of homebuyers said they would pay extra (a median of $1,400) for a house with at least one fireplace.

That’s good news when it comes time to market your house.

Those stats are supported by a 2012 homebuyers survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in which more than half of respondents said a fireplace was an essential or desirable feature, up slightly from a similar 2007 NAHB survey.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49% of new homes built in 2012 included at least one fireplace. That’s down from 57% a decade ago, although the numbers may also reflect builders’ attempts to save costs for development houses.

Match Your Fireplace Budget to Your House

A fireplace isn’t calculated separately in a professional home appraisal, so it’s tricky to assign value to your investment in flickering flames.

When you estimate how much a fireplace might add to the value of your house, take into account your home’s overall value. A $10,000 fireplace holds its value in a $1 million house because buyers expect this feature in an upscale home.

But a $10,000 fireplace won’t be such a crucial component of a $100,000 house, especially if other essential features that potential buyers consider more important are lacking.

How to Max Out Value

To maximize your enjoyment — and value — put a fireplace where you’ll get the most use from it: the family room, great room, or kitchen.

For smaller, easy-to-heat rooms such as an office, guest bedroom, or master bedroom, think about a small gas fireplace that’s easy to maintain.

Equip your fireplace with energy-efficient glass doors and an exterior venting system that prevents heated air from being pulled out of rooms.

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These articles are not intended to give legal or tax advice, and you should consult your attorney or financial advisor for additional information.

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