Earlier this year the Bay Area Air Quality Management District brought forth a proposal to the nine counties it serves. The proposal would ban open, wood-burning fireplaces in homes. This would mean requiring owners to either retrofit their fireplace with a cleaner gas, electric or wood burning option, or seal their fireplace up. At a series of public hearings on the matter, the people have spoken loud and clear on how they feel about the idea. The proposal is a bad idea. Homeowners, landlords and Realtors stepped forward in the charge to show how the proposed requirement would be too costly in many ways and take away from the aesthetics of homes. The proposal was put forward in the effort to help ensure families can live in a healthy environment. Open, wood -burning fireplaces have a greater risk of health hazards from exposure to too much smoke.
But to require pre-existing fireplaces to be replaced or sealed is a very expensive prospect. It is estimated that it would cost up to $3,000 and possibly more, per home, to have a cleaner unit installed or to block up the fireplace rendering it useless. This would be a prohibitive amount to many, and just doesn’t make practical sense. We want our homes to be safe and healthy, but there are other options to help ensure a home has a cleanly burning fireplace in operation, such as regular servicing on an annual basis. It is the responsibility of each home owner to be aware of the dangers of too much wood smoke in close quarters, and everyone agrees, to do the right thing in taking care of an open fireplace.
To require the changes proposed would take away the personal choice of how a home is heated as well. When it comes to the Real Estate market a fireplace is often a key selling point, even in warmer, drier climates, the ambiance of a fireplace adds charm and character to a home that many buyers seek. There has been a proposed amendment to require a disclosure statement on the hazards of wood smoke from open fireplaces any time a house with a fireplace is sold or rented. This is something that can easily be complied with; it would be simply one more item we regularly include on disclosures for a property transaction. Another proposal amendment would ban the use of open fireplaces in any new construction so these homes will begin life with a cleaner option.
I think these are great options that will help everyone support the idea of cleaner air in our homes and remain happy with the space we call home. The Air Quality Management District seems to agree, as not only did they drop the proposal and draft amendments, they are also going to provide home owners incentives to make the change for a cleaner option. A $3 million fund is to be established to provide rebates and subsidies for those homes that have open, wood-burning fireplaces replaced or sealed. I will be watching for the details of these incentives and will keep you updated. In the meantime the Air Board will review and decide on the proposed amendments on October 21, after the end of a public comment period. If you want your voice heard on the proposed changes, the BAAQMD website has a form you can complete.
Fireplace or not, when you are ready to buy or sell a home, we at Haylen Group are here to help you with all of your real estate needs! If you are unsure what your options are, call Helen Chong at (408) 800-LIST or email at Helen@HaylenGroup.com. You can also visit us at our website for available listings and additional information.