Recently considering A move, my husband and I threw caution to the wind and invited a pack of Realtors into our home to determine what, if anything, it's worth. Locusts could not have been more thorough. Afterward, the head honcho gingerly delivered the news that our otherwise perfect home has a tragic flaw: no fireplace.

This is a negative, he said, despite the fact that less than half the people who own a fireplace ever use it. In fact, he droned on in that amusing way real estate agents often do, he knows of a house in the area that's never once had a fire in its fireplace in its entire 40 year history.Since then, my own research has yielded the information that with red and green "burn" and "no burn" days confounding everyone, gas fireplaces are steadily gaining in popularity. There's no wood to haul in, no burn marks on the carpet and no lingering smoky embers to give you away should you be running from the law or simply hiding from your in-laws.

Most important, squirrels can't infiltrate your home and hold your family hostage in the middle of the night when you're an impressionable 9-year-old, which actually happened to someone I know: me.

We had just moved into our new house, which was actually an old house, the focal point of which was a huge stone fireplace in the living room. Having lived his whole life in apartments up until then, my father was fairly naive in terms of fireplace know-how, and so on our first night in the house, we all just said goodnight and went to bed.

At three in the morning we were awakened by loud and incessant barking from the family dog, who we discovered running around the living room in circles, a squirrel clamped onto his front leg. We stood there terrified for quite a long time, strains of "The Twilight Zone" theme song emanating from the floorboards. Finally my father opened the front door and pointed to it, hoping the squirrel would take the hint.

"How did he get in?" Dad wondered aloud. My mother put the whole thing together quickly, answering, "Mr. Einstein, you forgot to close the flue."

"What do I know from a flue? To me, a flu is when you don't feel so good, you cough, you sneeze a couple times, you take an aspirin. Who knows from this kind of flue?"

"What are you gonna do, Daddy?" I asked, confident that of course he would fix everything since he was the Daddy. Instead he turned to my mother and said, "So, Mrs. Einstein, what are we going to do?" Mrs. Einstein was cowering in a corner behind a chair.

My older sister sprang into action, hitting the squirrel with a broom. Outraged, he ran up the broomstick, across the front of my sister's nightgown, and onto the piano, where he somersaulted a few times before coming to rest on my foot. Which he bit, just before exiting through the aforementioned front door.

My memory of what happened next is hazy, thanks to the onset of middle age, but it definitely involved an emergency room, and people saying things like "painful series of rabies shots." With the squirrel gone, our dog was the only buffer between me and the rabies shots. Thankfully, they were unnecessary for both girl and beast, since neither ever started foaming at the mouth.

That experience added squirrels, rabies and hospitals to my already impressive list of fears. And to think it could have been avoided, had we simply not had a fireplace.

So I told our Realtor that when we decide to sell our house, we want to capitalize on its lack of a fireplace. This can be seen as a strong selling point! Maybe run an ad that says, "Buying a house is stressful enough without worrying about squirrels in your living room."

Being into details, which is of course what you pay them for, he said, "But there aren't any squirrels in your neighborhood. Just skunks."

Even better! No raccoons in the living room should be worth a lot more.