By Bud Coburn
House-moving is the process of picking a house up off its foundation and transporting it elsewhere, sometimes many miles away. While it may seem that moving hundreds of tons of fragile building materials is impractical, there are, in fact, many legitimate reasons to relocate a whole house:
- to escape environmental threats, such as flooding;
- to rescue houses from planned development, such as encroaching highways, railroads or shopping centers. Many historical houses are rescued from destruction in this way;
- to save the owner the cost of demolition. In some instances, it might be more cost-effective to move a house elsewhere and have it re-occupied than to dismantle it and dispose of the parts;
- because it’s environmentally friendlier to recycle a livable house than send its many parts to a landfill;
- to increase the home’s value by moving it onto a more valuable plot of land;
- to subdivide a property so it can accommodate more homes; and
- to escape the view, the neighbors, the odors from a new garbage dump nearby, or countless other personal and practical reasons.
And, occasionally, a homeowner just wants to give their house away to a friend. In one publicized instance, old friends offered their old home to a couple in Avalon, New Jersey, because it was in the path of the construction of their planned new home. The New Jersey couple also received $20,000 – the price that the original owners would have had to pay to have the house demolished – to help transport it off the lot. The three-bedroom ranch-style home found grateful new owners, while the home’s original tenants freed up their space for new development without excess expense.
Nevertheless, moving an entire house comes with its share of challenges:
- Some jurisdictions require a moved house to meet the same building codes as new construction, such as inspection for asbestos and lead paint. Be sure to hire an InterNACHI inspector to help the house comply with local requirements when the house-move has been finalized.
- A structural engineer may need to be brought in to make sure that the house is safe to move.
- Contractors will need to be hired to remove wiring, plumbing, drywall and foundation supports before the move, and then set everything back up in the new location.
- The expense of the move itself can be prohibitive, depending on the size of the building and the distance of the move. Other factors include:
- the condition of the roads. Ideally, the roads between locations will be wide and straight enough to accommodate the house-truck combination. A house might not make it to a plot of land at the end of a narrow, winding country road;
- utility companies will likely need to lower or raise power lines and other public utilities to make room for the house move;
- some parts of the country are too crowded to permit cost-effective house relocation. It’s difficult to come out ahead financially on the East Coast, for instance, where the maze of traffic, traffic lights, utility wires and buildings make such a large move difficult. The West and Midwest are generally easier places to relocate a house; and
- special insurance may be required, in case the move causes property damage or injury.