Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A home + moving expenses = $1

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Michael Rebhan recently bought a beautiful 1917 Phinney Ridge Craftsman house for $1. The catch was moving the home five blocks, where it would replace the smaller, older house already on his property in the neighborhood.

"It all started with me walking my dog one night in late January," Rebhan explained. He saw the house was slated for demolition and tracked down the owner, who agreed to sell -- if Rebhan took it away within two months.

House moving isn't a particularly new business, but it's becoming more common in Seattle and other cities as denser development displaces nice, old houses. Several Puget Sound companies move houses, but one is now seeking out such endangered homes to resell before they get demolished, and Seattle officials are considering rule changes to make house moving easier.

"Sometimes the grandest of the houses are the ones that are on the main avenues," said Jeff McCord, the Seattle representative of Nickel Brothers House Moving, a British Columbia company that set up Washington operations about a year and a half ago.

But in Seattle and other cities, these main streets also are allowing higher-density condominiums, apartments and townhouses, McCord said.

Seatle has permitted seven houses to move within the city and two to move out of the city in the past few years, with five of those moves coming in the past year, said Michael Dorcy, a senior land-use planner for the city. Nickel Brothers has moved about 12 houses in the Seattle area since its local office opened about two years ago, and it moves or raises more than 300 houses a year in Washington and British Columbia.

Advocates for moving threatened homes say it keeps a vast amount of waste out of landfills, saves a developer about $10,000 in demolition costs per house and preserves beautiful old houses for new owners who pay less than it would cost to build something new.

Rebhan's house includes classic Craftsman features such as stained-glass windows and ample wood, including wainscoting, columns, box-beam ceilings and built-in bookcases.

"I think a lot of the stuff that goes up these days is not built as sturdy and craftsmanlike as houses were built around the turn of the century and in the first decades of the 20th century," he said.

Source : seattlepi




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