Rick BissonThe phrases “Where there’s a will there’s a way” and “A penny saved is a penny earned” have been the mantra for the adventuresome of yesterday, today and tomorrow. These are also appropriate messages for those who tackle picking up a house and moving it from one location to another.

House-moving is not a common, everyday means of acquiring a home. However, for those willing to take on the process, the rewards can be great. Especially when the house involved is “free” or relatively inexpensive.

However, the concept of a “free” house opens the conversation to a couple other old adages: “There’s no free lunch” and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Finding a house to move for “free,” for sale for just $1, or at any price well below the home’s market value should give anyone reason for pause. Careful consideration should be given to the cost to move the house, the logistics and time involved and the resale impact of the home after it’s moved.

On one hand, it’s relatively inexpensive to move a house. According to an article from the New England Association of Structural Movers, depending on a home’s size, its condition and how far it has to be moved, the cost can range from $15,000 to $60,000. That’s about 40 to 60 percent of what it would cost to build the same structure from scratch.

However, there are many variables involved that can impact the cost and practicality of moving a house. The structure’s age, historical status, size, structural integrity, location, proximity to where it is going and the width of the road or roads to the new location need to be considered. Whether the house is located on a foundation or is going to be moved onto a foundation at the new location, will also affect the price.

Other variables impacting the expense of moving a house are the costs to raise or lower overhead utility lines such as electric, telephone, cable TV and traffic signals. Relocating buildings may also require moving and transportation permits from cities, counties, and/or the state.

The most affordable moves involve short distances of homes with simple, basic floor plans such as a ranch or colonial-style matchbox home. Large or tall homes must be modularized into movable parts and then reassembled, increasing the cost.

The logistics of moving a house are, in theory, relatively simple. If the house is on a pier-and-beam foundation, which most homes in Maine are, structural movers slide steel beams under the ground floor to lift it. If the house is on a concrete slab, the mover will jackhammer tunnels in the slab where support beams can be inserted. Then the house is raised on jacks, dollies are maneuvered beneath it, and the beams supporting the house are lowered onto the dollies. These dollies have integrated hydraulic suspension systems that adjusts to the road to minimize stress to the house while it’s being moved.

House moves can take anywhere from one day to several weeks, depending on the size, location, age, and the homes structural limitations. As long as there is a good travel route, a building can be moved practically any distance.

To find a “free” home to be moved, scour local newspapers and the internet for town websites, Craigslist, Uncle Henry’s or search “free homes to move in Maine.”

A recent search such as this would have revealed the Town of Cumberland was accepting bids on Sept. 25 for the sale and removal of a ranch-style home with a two-car garage at 21 Drowne Road. The minimum bid was $25,000. The winning bidder is required to remove the house at their expense by 3 p.m. Oct. 25. The home was sold “as is” with no warranties.

When considering the process of moving a “free” home, give careful consideration to the home’s future resale value once it rests in its new location. The relocation site must be carefully considered when planning the move. In most cases the house will be worth more because the building will be moved to a more desirable site that the owner has chosen for that very reason.
Seek professional advice from your trusted Realtor in determining the final, future value of the home once its moved and completed.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.