Housing Traditions Include Lighting the Fireplace With Dry Leaves

PEOPLE, IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY. Why are you reading this? (unless you don’t celebrate) You should be getting ready for the family to come over for dinner, exchanging gifts (socks and underwear, obviously) and cleaning up the wrapping paper scattered all over the living room floor.

Here’s my family’s Christmas meal tradition (skip over it if you have no culinary soul):


Christmas eve lobster dinner – my wife and I and whichever of our 4 sons are in town go to the seafood market and pick up fresh lobsters. They return in the evening to help cook them. It’s a community effort – give everyone a chance to hold the lobsters before steaming them to their inevitable fate. After dinner we read an old copy of “The Night Before Christmas” – it’s been a tradition since 1989 when our first son was born and I am surprised how strongly they all feel about keeping the tradition alive. Each of us reads a page, complaining about who gets more to read and belly laughing for a long forgotten reason when we get to the page with the page that mentions “dry leaves.”

Christmas day breakfast – my wife and I are the first up and our kids come over. We get dressed and make breakfast and open presents. Our traditional fare has always been Eggs Benedict (Julia Child’s Hollandaise Sauce).

Christmas day dinner – In the evening, more family comes by and everyone packs into the kitchen as the meal is prepared: Beef Wellington is the tradition and then another round of present opening. It’s a special time.

And speaking of tradition, my weekly tradition since March 6, 2015 has to write this Housing Note series. Since you hopefully have a dinner to attend to, I’ll keep the rest of this brief.

Super Talls and the Ever Evolving City Skyline

While I had blogged about the Matt Chabin article in the New York Times As a New High Society Climbs in Manhattan, It’s a Race to the Top and associated GIF, I didn’t realize that this was actually on the front page (A1) of the New York Times!

It’s the 13th time since my first in 2000 (and average of 1 article every 15 months) but it never gets old (and who’s counting or analyzing this).

And the fact I related the view of Super Talls to a song by The Who makes it even better:

“It’s like the Who song,” said Jonathan Miller, president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. “You can see for miles and miles and miles. Until you look into your neighbor’s building.”

The greater heights yet smaller foot print that define the super tall is mind-boggling.

Valuing Fireplaces

As an owner of a single family home, I think fondly of our prior home and the tradition of using our wood burning fireplace in the evenings. In our current home we have 4 fireplaces but discovered that two of them (living/dining room) shared their flues with our two furnaces (our house was built in 1825) and can’t be used. We also have a fireplace in the playroom over the garage that has never been used. We also have another one in the master bedroom which sounds like a good idea in a listing description, but we’ve never used it. Recap: 4 fireplaces and none have been used in the 11 years we’ve owned the home.


Fireplaces tend to provide some form of contributory value to a home. The recent New York Times article on the fireplace amenity, talks a lot about the experience. I touched on the valuation aspect, referencing a published research piece I co-authored that was shepherded by the NYU Furman Center: The Condominium v. Cooperative Puzzle: An Empirical Analysis of Housing in New York City. The study looked at about 100,000 sales my firm had collected (before co-op sales were public record) and one of the amenities we delved into among many was the fireplace in an apartment. I think of the fireplace amenity as part of a suite of amenities and it is very hard to isolate the value.

In Manhattan apartments, fireplaces tend to be found in pre-war apartments (built prior to WWII as well as penthouses of all types. Here’s a great valuation piece by New York Magazine that I contributed to, appropriately titled: What’s a Hearth Worth?

Ok, that enough fireplace talk for now.

One last thing…

The Smallest Property Triangle in NYC

There was a terrific piece on the Hess Spite Triangle, The Smallest Piece of New York City Real Estate.

It’s a cartoon-based article that gives you yet another reason to subscribe to the New Yorker.

Source: The New Yorker

Now that you’ve got something to talk about, lets get back to the relatives in the living room and resume the holiday festivities.

And remember, if you need to hear sleighbells in your life as you roast marshmallows in your fireplace (particularly on Friday afternoons), sign up for my Housing Note here. And be sure to share with a friend, colleague, elf or even a reindeer. They’ll feel good, you’ll feel better and I’ll have a red nose.

See you next week.

Jonathan Miller, CRP, CRE
Miller Samuel Inc.

Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants

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