Gaining some mobility -- housewise

Buy a house and take it with you? Well, why not? If the house is desirable, yet is situated in an unpleasant neighborhood or an area that's about to be cleared, you can buy the house and move it to a place where its value will go up.

While moving a house is not a simple process, it's certainly possible, though it does require an extra step or two. You must, of course, acquire the future site before having the house moved. You can't simply ``park it'' till you find ``just the right site'' for its relocation.

Finding a desirable site for a movable house should be governed by the same rules that apply for selecting developed property. You must consider the price you pay for the lot in your overall estimation of profitability.

Next, determine whether the house you have selected is, in fact, movable. You will want to check into all regulations in the community in reference to home relocation. You will also want to confer with a house-moving company before you close the deal. There will be height, width, and size restrictions, for example. Obtain clearance on all required permits before entering your bid.

Assistance with these problems will be part of the services offered by the house-moving company. Listen to the company's opinions. Many thorough estimates should precede any bid you make to buy the house.

The cost of moving a house varies with the size, distance to be moved, type of structure, number of power lines that have to be dropped or raised, and the section of the country in which the move is to take place. Roughly speaking, an average 1,500-square-foot, one-story frame house can be moved for $3,000 to $5,000, a two-story frame house for $5,000 to $8,000. For a brick residence, add from $2,000 to $5,000.

A new lot may cost at least $20,000, depending on its size, neighborhood, and market value. You can pay a lot more, of course. To all this, add the $3,000 to $5,000 cost of preparing a foundation at the site.

The cost for moving an eight-room brick house could run as high as $11,000 or $12,000, or even more, plus the cost of the new lot and site preparation. But if the cost of a comparable house in a preferred area is higher, then the relocation is worth pursuing.

Sometimes there are houses that are literally given away to save demolition costs when the land is to be cleared for commercial building, highway construction, or a parking lot. To render the transaction legal, it may cost you only a token fee of $10 to $25. In other cases, even though an owner may not give the house away, excellent prospects can be found for $1,000 or less.

Homes marked for demolition are frequently diamonds in the rough, featuring the superb craftsmanship and high-quality materials of yesteryear. Here, too, relocation may be feasible and will often cost less than buying a house and renovating it in its original location.

How can such houses be found? Here are some ideas:

Write a letter to the right-of-way engineer of your state department of highways and transportation, asking that your name be placed on its mailing list to receive notification of any house in your area that will be placed on public auction.

Get in touch with moving companies and demolition firms that may have information on houses scheduled to be demolished.

Watch the newspapers for stories about new highway construction. Then look for advertisements of the houses that must be sold and removed from the right of way.

Note newspaper stories of such large-scale construction projects as airports, stadiums, parks, civic auditoriums, lakes, reservoirs, and shopping malls. Look over those areas to see if there is a house worth moving.

Colleges and universities are good source areas of old homes that have outlived their institutional usefulness and must be moved or razed for construction of dormitory or classroom facilities. Call the college construction department and explain your interest.

Watch for zoning hearings involving residential property being rezoned as commercial. You may find a house you like in the newly rezoned area. If so, find out the name of the owner and offer a price, based on your promise to remove the structure from the site.

Communicate with a historic or landmark commission, expressing your desire to buy, renovate, and, if necessary, move an endangered historic house.

The most discouraging aspect of buying and moving a house is that the larger, older houses, the best built and least expensive to obtain, are often the most difficult to move. Normally, they cannot be moved very far because of various legal restrictions.

Even if a moving permit is obtained, you may find that a large house does not travel well. For one thing, it tends to clip telephone and power lines as it goes by (the mere cost of dropping or replacing these lines can make the move prohibitive).

In addition, often the roof and porches must be removed to meet height and width requirements. Their replacement costs run up the price of renovation.

But despite these obstacles, house relocation is often a creative, worthwhile alternative to buying a new home.

Besides old houses, some commercial buildings are suitable for relocation. The same principles apply, with the added step of double-checking with the moving company as to a structure's relocating feasibility and with the zoning board for location approval.

``If you move it, you can have it'' was the recent billing for this building in Salisbury Township, Conn. More than 75 inquiries from as far away as California kept the town hall phones jingling. About l5 of these parties made serious offers, according to Charlotte Reid, First Selectman of Salisbury. The rest expressed interest but were unable to meet moving requirements. The best offer came from a local businessman, who wants to relocate the building about two blocks away. He is now waiting for approval from the township's Board of Selectmen.

The three-story wood structure, dating back to the early 1900s, recently housed stores on the ground floor and apartments above.

Future plans are to convert it to office space.

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