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VOL. 39 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 27, 2015

That old fireplace? No, its strictly decorative

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There is a new trend developing in the sale of homes in the area.

In the mid-1930s and up to World War II, then in the period immediately after the War, there was a housing boom in Nashville, especially in Green Hills, Belmont, Hillsboro Village and Historic Richland.

Almost all of these houses had fireplaces and many used them as a source of heat.

As the years have passed, the knob and tube wiring has given way to Romex, a non-metallic, sheathed metal produced by the Rome Wire company and now produced by Southwire.

As pipes clogged with the galvanized plumbing rusting and corroding, PVC and copper made their way into most homes of that era. Insulation began appearing in attics and basements.

Certainly, the kitchen designers coordinated styles in appliance colors and counter surfaces that have kept kitchens in a constant state of flux for all of these years.

With all of this transition, one thing that has remained untouched for the most part – the fireplace.

At times after the surprising entry of birds, squirrels and, in some cases, raccoons, opossums and even reptiles, there have been some exterior covers added.

In the eyes of most homeowners, the fireplace’s purpose is aesthetic. They like the sounds, smells and radiant warmth created by the burning of wood.

Home inspectors do not share that appreciation and, for the past several years, have cracked down on fireplaces, usually deferring to a higher power, the chimney sweep. Think Dick Van Dyke’s Burt character in Mary Poppins, only these sweeps don’t dance or sing, and Julie Andrews is nowhere to be found.

These sweeps scare the daylights out of people, and rightfully so. As wood burns, creosote can coat the interior of the chimney and can cause a chimney fire that could produce such a fierce heat that the house could be consumed faster than some could say 9-1-1.

Even if the creosote is removed, the age of the mortar and the exposure to the elements can cause failure of the joints as moisture begins to penetrate. More mortar falls until there are cracks that allow the heat and the fire to reach lumber – old, dried, seasoned wood – behind the chimney.

That obviously is not a good thing, as the lumber is behind a firewall and can burn for some time before being detected.

After the home inspector recommends the chimney sweep’s evaluation and following the sweep’s horror stories, the buyers always request that the sellers repair chimneys. Such repairs consist of tuck pointing the bricks, perhaps installing new flues and dampers where appropriate.

The price for these repairs seems to always come in at $3,000 to $4,000. This number surprises sellers, many of whom have never had a fires in their fireplaces and they refuse to pay. Others relent, but pay the $3,000 to $4,000 in the form of closing costs to alert the underwriters the house is likely to burn to the ground during the loan.

So how have Realtors decided to deal with the trend?

In most older homes that have not had the fireplace issues addressed, the fireplaces are “decorative,” meaning they are not meant to be a source of heat or a place where logs are burned. With that disclaimer, buyers cannot request repairs.

So let the buyer beware when buying a house with “decorative fireplaces.” And for the rest of us, it’s a good time tend to our chim chimineys.

Sale of the Week

All of the hubbub caused by new downtown condos with their shiny floors and hip, loft ceilings has left the older condos in outlying areas in the lurch.

As investor money flows into Nashville, there are some bargains out there, and the condominium at 3901 Whitland is one of those. These condos have Montgomery Bell Academy as their backyard and are two Peyton Manning – when he was at UT – throws away from the hospital formerly known as St. Thomas.

This area is highly desirable for renters and can command as much rent for one and two bedrooms as condos in The Gulch.

Additionally, these two bedroom units sell for nearly $100,000 more than the $174,900 price for the Whitland Avenue condo.

Unit #28 at 3901 Whitland sold in 167 days, a lifetime in this market, for the $174,900 sales price after Carolyn Adcock, the venerable veteran from RE/MAX Elite listed it for $185,000.

Adcock noted that the condo has “updated carpet, tile in baths, cabinetry, countertops, appliances vanities, sinks, and point throughout.”

In a nutshell, it was a new unit.

Sheila Lambos Reuther of Neal Clayton Realtors worked a sweet deal for her buyer as she knocked more than $10,000 off the price and landed an additional $1,200 in closing costs and prepaid items for her buyer.

The condo consisted of 980 square feet, or $178 per square foot, and has two bedrooms and two full baths along with a living room, dining room and kitchen, of course.

The seller had purchased the property in 2005 for $135,000, so he pocketed a little cash, although he may have invested $20,000 in his upgrades.

In 1990, if anyone had argue that downtown condos would sell for three times the amount of a Whitland Avenue condo, they would have been deemed insane, but it has happened.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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