Most homebuyers live by the classic real estate adage, "Location, location, location." But as Blog Cabin 2014 shows, if you love a house but not its setting, you can simply pick it up and move it.
Moving a house typically costs $25,000 to $60,000 (including a new foundation and utility connections at the new site), but that can be a terrific investment. Most moves involve houses that are given away free, or for a nominal charge, in exchange for getting them out of the way of a coming development, because that saves the developer demolition and disposal costs.
"You can get a classic antique home that might be worth $100,000 or $200,000 for just the cost of the move, plus the renovation," says Blog Cabin 2014 house-mover Pat Burdette, of Modern House and Building Movers. "And sometimes no renovation is needed." It's not uncommon for developers to give away brand new model homes—appliances, furniture, and all—when they discontinue a house design, he says. Here's what you need to know before you consider a house move.
To find houses offered for nothing—or next to it—contact your local historic preservation association, or just keep your eye out for uninhabited homes that are clearly unwanted—especially if they're directly in the path of a large scale construction project like a commercial building or a multi-home subdivision. "Contact the owner or developer and say that you'll take the home off his hands and save him the trouble of junking it," says Pat. "If you can move relatively quickly, chances are he'll be thrilled to give it away."
The good news is that many states and municipalities offer tax incentives to offset the costs of moving a historically significant house. Also, some nonprofit preservation groups offer grants to help pay those costs.
The bad news is that banks won't loan you the money to move a house, says Pat. Once the home is relocated, you can borrow to renovate it, but you have to find other resources—such as cash or the home equity line of credit on your existing home—for the move itself.
Before you take ownership of the house, of course, you need to find out how difficult—and expensive—it will be to move it to its new site. "Any reputable house mover will be happy to come out to look at the home and the route and give you a price, with no commitment or cost to you," says Pat. The size of the house and the obstacles along the route will determine the cost.
"Sometimes moving 100 miles down a state road is easy," Pat says. "And sometimes, going three miles across town is incredibly complicated." Also, a brick or stone building can cost twice as much as a wood one. Choose your house mover carefully. You can find members of the International Association of Structural Movers at iasm.org. Talk to a few to get a feel for different takes on the job, and always ask for—and check—references, insurance documentation, and licensing.
Combine the cost of the move with the cost of whatever renovations the building needs, and do the math. Is the house worth those investments? In many cases, says Pat, it'll be worth far more. "You're getting a piece of classic architecture that you simply can't buy new." You get to site it right, so it's not too close to a busy road like so many old houses, or on the wrong side of the tracks," he says. "And you're likely getting it for a fraction of the value it'll have when the job is done."
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