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Choosing a Recycled House

Here is a bit of our journey with our recycled house. 

Now if you think that finding and buying a house in a town is a challenge.... wait until you go shopping for a recycled house!  There are at times so many options it's hard to decide, and then just as quickly, there are not very many options at all! You will drive all over creation looking at these homes in their existing location.  There are some important steps to keep in mind.

1.  Find a reputable company to deal with. 

We used Nickel Bros. House Moving company located on Vancouver Island and in the lower mainland in BC.  They are fantastic.  They've done this forever and know what they are doing.  Trust them and let hem help you choose.  Many houses may be moveable but not every house is worth moving.  Make sure you work with someone who knows the difference!  As we began our search we were constantly getting emails of 'check out this house, it's for free, all you gotta do is move it!'  Don't believe it!!!

2.  Be patient

I am not by nature a patient person.  But remember, this is your home, so go carefully and trust the experts.  You may not get the first house you fall in love with, but this is a journey of love, renovations and creativity.... so settle into it. 


It's also a journey of scheduling, which involves timelines that change often at the last minute.  House moving involves many factors including people, weather, barges and other transportation challenges.  I don't think a single thing happened exactly when we originally thought or even were told.  There have been many phone calls to Nickle Bros talking to Lynn who is the 'fount of all knowledge'.... asking 'Any idea yet when....... will be happening?'  Lynn, bless her heart, always knew who knew the answer but even still, many of those time lines changed.  Some things happened sooner and some significantly later.  This can be stressful, but it is still just a part of the journey.  Expect it and it won't be so hard to roll with.

3.  Make sure you have a place to live while the process is happening. 


It takes a while, just as it would if you build a home.  We decided to stay in our rv on our property during the process.  I'll let you know later if that was a good idea or a bad idea! ha ha

4.  Enjoy the Journey

Our Choices

Now keep in mind that choosing a recycled home is like opening a box of chocolates and thinking "Hmmmm, I wonder what's inside..."  Each house that they have on offer has it's plus' and minus'.  Again, trust the experts and be willing to alter your opinion

This 1930's Cape Cod stole my heart right off the internet.  On paper it looked like the perfect little home.  When we went to see it.... it was, except it was in a location that was going to add $10K in extra charges to move power lines to get the house out from it's current location.  That took it out of our budget.  I cried. 

Remember you are not just buying a house, you are buying a move, with all the details included.  Houses can be trucked, and or barged, but especially if it is a taller 2 story home, you will encounter extra fees for power lines, phone lines etc that have to be moved, often at night, so then there's over time to those companies to get your home out of it's current location.  Remember you need to leave room in your budget for the renos that will need to be done when it arrives to you.  Plumbing, electric, gas and water all have to be re established.  There is also going to be some cosmetic renos that will need tending to from the trauma the house goes through being lifted and moved.  (Chimney's can't move with a house as they are attached at the foundation, so if your choice has a fireplace and chimney, there will be a hole there when it arrives at your door step.). All of it is fixable and worth every bit, but you just need to go in with your eyes wide open.

You know that moment when you fell in love with your spouse.... it's like the angels all singing at the same time... 'ahhhhhhhhhh'.  This was that house for Jim and I.  It was a 1930's tudor cottage with original diamond paned leaded glass windows and a nicely done master with ensuite added onto the back.  Everywhere we turned there were beautiful little details in the flooring, the woodwork, the sun room.  It was amazing.  It was also 1 foot too wide to get past 2 trees in the neighborhood.  Yep, 1 foot.  When a house is going to be moved, it is up to the city council as to what 'adjustments' and tree trimming you can make to the neighborhood landscape getting it out.  So this little beauty was on a tree lined street in a tree lined neighborhood in a very exclusive community.  They said nope.  I cried, really really cried this time.

This cute little cottage is a 1920's tudor heritage home with a new roof, a family room added to the back and everything else original including the gorgeous paned sash windows.  It's adorable.  It's also going to be a lot of work to restore.  I love this house.  Jim sees more work, so we are negotiating on it currently.  Right now, it's pretty close to the top of our budget so we are proceeding cautiously.  As we have been learning, often heritage homes have a steeper pitch to the roof, which means again, hydro line charges to get it out to a barge location.  Remember, always proceed with your eyes wide open so you don't get the house of your dreams that has drained your bank account before it's what you hoped it would be.

Addendum.... If we had chosen this house, we would have been back to square one in late September.  This poor house had to be demolished.  They couldn't fit it out of the neighborhood within the tree cutting allowance the city would give.  So glad I listened to Jim!!!!

This is our current agreed upon favorite.  It's got a brand new roof, new thermal windows, new electrical and not as much character as I'd like.... but Jim assures me that he can put that character into it and we'll have a wonderful well built beautiful little home..... I know right now it looks like a mexican restaurant, but once it arrives to our property, it will immediately be painted white, and shutters and stonework will be added.  I do see the potential and I'm excited to see this humble little cottage turned into our 'Blackberry Cottage' home.  Even though it is a 2 story home now, it will arrive to us as a 1 story bungalow.  Homes are cut above the foundation point, so for most 2 story homes that means you are basically putting the basement or ground level story back in place and the house lowered onto that foundation.  We are wanting a 1 story, so it will go on a crawl space and it's perfect for us.

I wanted to show you this one because it was an 'ah ha' moment for me.  One of the Nickel Bros experts told me one time on the phone, 'pick a 2 story home and turn it into a rancher... no problem'.  I thought he was crazy.... so I promptly disregarded all the houses he had suggested.  Then we drove by and saw this one off it's foundation on the trailer ready to be moved..... IT WAS A RANCHER!  ha ha imagine that, Jimmy knew what he was talking about.  We laughed, then we seriously looked at it!  Not quite enough cottage element for us, but a nice little house none the less.

From This....

Our House

To this.....
Keep watching for more pictures and stories!

If you are thinking of purchasing a recycled house here is a link to Nickel Bros. website.

(This is not a paid advertisement, we just really liked working with them and wanted to make it easy for people to connect!)

How does it work and how much does it cost?

So now we get down to the nitty gritty of the process.  How much does it actually cost?  First off, generally, it's about 1/3 to 1/2 of building a home with a reputable builder.  Of course it depends on which house you choose and what you plan to do to it once it is yours.  Basically these homes come from areas where the value of the land, exceeds the value of the home.  Developers buy homes for the lot and want the home removed or demolished or families who love their neighborhood but want a newer / larger home.

1.  Find your land and talk to your building inspector.  Some cities do not allow recycled homes.  Make sure your cover this base first!

2.  Select your recycled home company.  We chose Nickel Bros who have been doing this for over 50 years.  They have a great reputation and have moved everything from little cottages to huge historic homes and buildings.

3.  Start looking on their website to get an idea of what kind of $ you are looking at for the kind of home you are wanting.  (Keep in mind that the listed prices are for a local move and prep of the house which is basically the 'base' price.  Once you see a home ready to move you will realize it is a huge job.  You're not really buying the house, you are buying the prep and move.  Moves involve lots of elements depending on where the home is going to.)

4.  Contact the home movers office once you are serious and ready to shop.  They will set you up with a sales rep to help walk you through the process and hunt down what you are looking for.  These guys are amazing.  We worked with Jim Connely and he was worth his weight in gold for knowledge and advice.  Be prepared to do some traveling to look at homes.  It's worth the trips and is a pretty fun process.  The pictures on the website don't do the homes justice in many ways, you really need to see them in person.  Also, once they know what you are looking for, they will show you homes that are not on the website yet.

5.  Choose a plan A and a plan B and write up an offer to purchase.  This is really important because once you put an offer in, there is a process that begins to happen that may take one house out of the running and you want to have a plan B.  We didn't and that threw the whole process into a much longer time frame that we had originally hoped for.

6.  Now the home moving company goes to work and sorts through all the aspects of the move.  They will come up to your property and do extensive route searches to find the easiest and least expensive way to get the home to you.  This includes whether the home will be trucked or trucked and barged and what obstacles there are in the way. 


Next they go to the city the house is coming from and going to, to meet with them and find what they will allow for the removal of these obstacles.  Most often these are trees that need to be trimmed, or cut.  This was the fail point for 2 of the homes we looked at.  Many of these homes are coming from beautiful old neighborhoods that have century old trees arching out into the street.  There is only so much cutting the local city will allow before it begins to encroach on the aesthetic of the area.

This also includes utility lines that must be lifted to get your house past.  Sometimes these can be huge costs because of the variety or logistics of these utilities.  Often times it has to be done at night which then means overtime for the utility company.  Look at the intersections around your chosen house and around your property.... Nickel Bros were really good at evaluating different route options to make the process the least expensive.... but it will just be what it is in the end.

If your house needs to be barged, then they also have to evaluate where it will load and unload and what kind of ramping must be brought or created.  This will include steel ramps, a small crane and a team of men with the house.  It's really neat to watch them work.... if it's your house, it's also terrifying!

7.  Next the moving company comes back to you with a price which includes everything necessary that they can predict for the move.  The price will now include the base house price, a commission for your sales rep for time spent with and for you.  A moving fee which includes the transportation of the home from it's starting point to it's relocation point.  Remember at this point that much of the price is the move costs.  When you see the process happen and the team it takes to do it, you will understand the costs more.  But again, it is still much less than a new build!... and if you are in the market for a heritage home, then there really is no better way to do it.

8.  If you are in agreement, then contracts are signed, a completion date is set (usually a 'delivered on or before.....') and money starts to change hands.  50% upon signing, 45% upon delivery and 5% when they come back and lower the house onto the foundation

9.  Once you have a contract, make sure you line up contractors on your end.  (Engineer, foundation, plumbing, electrical)

-You will need someone to build the foundation under the house.  (The house comes in first, is left up on blocks and the foundation is built underneath the house, then it is lowered and all your services - electricity, septic, plumbing, gas etc are connected.) 

-You will need a building permit from your city to do this and you will need an occupancy permit signed off on when all is done before you move in.

- You will also need an engineer to draw up the foundation plans.

10.  When your delivery date gets close, the moving company will come and inspect your property and give you direction on how to prepare the excavation for the house.  It can't just be a hole as with stick building, the entry to the hole has to be ramped at a specific angle for the truck to back the home into place. 

11.  Now you wait for your delivery which will likely be in the wee hours of the morning.  Most of the moves have to happen between midnight and 5 am because of road traffic and utility lines.  Our house arrived at our place at 3:00 am.  They were done unloading and blocking the house by 5:00am and on their way to their next job. 

12.  So now it's time to dive in with your contractors and get the foundation done, the water lines, septic, electric and gas started.  These get finished once the house is lowered onto the foundation.  There is a span of about 30 days for this process of getting ready to lower the house.  A little less if you are putting the house on a foundation that does not have 'crawl space' walls.

13.  When you are ready for the house to be lowered you contact the moving company and let them know your 'ready any time after....' date.  Then they will work on scheduling on their end and give you a date.  Remember, dates often change due to many factors.  Don't get emotionally involved with the dates.  I know it's hard, especially at this point but remaining flexible will help so much.  Your house may be lowered sooner (make sure you are ready), or later than expected.

14.  Now you are on your own and are left with the final hook ups of your utility services.  Electric, Water, Septic, Gas.... then it's time to get your last inspection and then move in!  You survived!  Yeahhhh!

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