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Is your TV over the fireplace?

Posted by Rona Fischman October 2, 2012 02:10 PM

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Jon wrote:

I'm a regular reader (and occasional commenter) of the Boston.com Real Estate Now blog, and I thought that you or your contacts might be best placed to answer a question that constantly comes up (in my own mind) when I'm looking at any kind of new or renovated condo development. Namely, why do the developers/stagers nearly always mount a flat-screen TV over the fireplace?
I used to live in DC, and in 2004-05, I looked at many, many condos in the District, including model units staged by developers building new buildings (or renovating older ones). In virtually every instance, if there was a fireplace, there was a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall above it. And now that I've moved to Boston and started looking around in preparation for an earnest house-hunt this coming spring, I see the same thing. And it just doesn't make sense to me, even though I briefly tried to do that with my TV in the last place I owned. When the TV was above the fireplace, I was scared to use the fireplace (which was gas) out of fear that heat would harm the TV. (And I would have been even more nervous if I was dealing with a wood-burning fireplace and I had to worry about smoke and ash.) But the biggest problem is that unless you have a really huge room, the viewing angle is horrible when the TV is so high. I took the TV off the mantel after just a few weeks because of the constant crick in my neck from looking up from my couch (which was a reasonable 10 feet away from the TV).
If the point of staging is to give potential buyers thoughts on how they could use the space, it seems self-defeating, since I've known only a couple of people who actually mounted their TVs like this. And while I know that I'm free to arrange the room any way I'd like, seeing that a stager has done this makes me feel like a very clever designer couldn't find a better place for the TV, which makes me think that my options will also be limited if I move in.
I'd love to hear your thoughts (or the thoughts of some of the pros you work with).

I understand parking a television over the fireplace in an older construction property where they did not build it to accommodate a large wall TV. It was a last resort to find the wall space. What are they thinking when they design a new construction living room where the only wall for a TV is above the mantel? I closed on a five year old condo last week where the TV and all the ugly jacks are right over the fireplace. There’s another huge wall in the room! My clients don’t seem to mind.

Personally, I think mounting a TV over a fireplace is a bad idea. Two problems: heating up your electronics and watching a TV that is too high up. So, I am on your side on this. When I crowd-source my office, they agree with you. One of my agents has a less-than-ten-year old condo with a fireplace. Her TV is not above it; she has a picture there.

I spoke to a local listing agent, Thalia Tringo. She said that if she is staging an empty house or condo, she wants the TV someplace. If above the fireplace is the only option that works, it is better than nothing. If there is no TV in the living room or family room, it can turn off potential buyers.

When I crowd-sourced on FaceBook, people were less negative about it. Apparently a gas fireplace is not a threat to the electronics, according to someone who credited Best Buy with the information. No one mentioned the ergonomic issue that Jon and I noted.

One response stood out, Amy wrote:

There are rooms that are designed around a fireplace as the central focus, if the TV is going to be part of the central focus the only way to furnish the room may require the TV to be mounted above the fireplace... in older homes this is much harder to accomplish because it can be a challenge to get all the wiring done because of the brick chimney... new homes can be designed with the electronics built into the wall...

It begs the question. Do you have the TV as the central focus of your living room? How about as the central focus of you family room? Is the concept of the “TV room” alive and well, or is it going the way of the VCR?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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