How Do You Move a House? And Why?

It can be hard to find a house to purchase in a lot of markets right now, so some buyers can’t afford to be too choosy. But what if the house you’re looking at could be moved? Mobile homes and sheds aren’t the only structures that can be relocated. Homes can, and often are, moved to a new location and occupied for generations afterward.

[Read: The Guide to Making and Accepting an Offer on a Home.]

Why Would You Move a House?

Moving a house is no small undertaking, so you might wonder why anybody would even try. There are lots of reasons for moving a home, be they historical, emotional or environmental.

“The reasons why people decide to move a house are various,” Danny Margagliano, real estate agent at World Impact Real Estate in Destin, Florida, and owner of website, said in an email.

“They range from a desire to preserve the historic structure to avoiding potential hazards, including flood zones or landslides. In addition, they also move a house to address a property line dispute or accommodate changes in zoning, among other reasons.”

The tie that binds here, according to Margagliano, is the desire to preserve a home that has some kind of value, even if that value is sentimental.

In Boise, Idaho, there’s a lot of house moving going on, according to Signe Kelly, co-owner of Kelly Moving & Rigging in Idaho. In Idaho, much of the home moving is being done to make better use of the land and recycle usable structures.

“As the community grows, somebody may want to upgrade or maybe divide a lot so they can add more buildings, but they don’t want to demolish the building,” says Kelly. “So they might give it away, which we see all the time, or sell it for a negotiated price.”

In other cases, Kelly says, homes are simply moved to one side of a large lot that’s to be divided. “That way, you’re able to have the one house that was originally on the property, it can stay, and now you can have a whole other setup right next door.”

House Moving 101

To say that there’s a lot to moving a house would be an understatement, but it’s not much to look at. According to Kelly, the process is pretty basic: Evaluate the structure; place metal support beams under specific points in the structure so it doesn’t break or crack; use special jacks, sometimes dozens of them, to lift the beams and the house; place it on a truck, and off you go. To put it back down, you do the same process in reverse.

This means a ton of people are involved in the process at times, with lots of different specialties, to ensure that the home makes it from Point A to Point B unscathed.

“You’ve got engineers, contractors, the people that are actually doing the work of hoisting that house up on jacks,” says Greg Batista, an engineer and president of G. Batista Engineering & Construction in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with a lot of liability.”

Batista explains that when moving a house, either up or down, a great deal of care has to be taken to ensure that it’s always completely level — otherwise, you’ll end up with cracks in the house and risk serious structural damage. The tolerances for lifting a house are incredibly small, just fractions of an inch between an array of jacks, he says, which is why it all must be so carefully orchestrated.

[Read: How to Look Up the History of Your House.]

Buying a House That’s Been Moved

That’s the how of house moving, but how does this affect you as a homebuyer? There aren’t solid numbers on how many homes are moved each year, but in some regions, it’s many more than you might expect. There’s cost savings in moving a home, rather than buying a new one, according to Kelly.

In Boise, where a very simple home can easily cost $400,000, she says a home can be moved and set back up, ready to occupy, for around $150,000 plus the cost of the land. But should you go that route?

“A moved home is pretty similar to a home that’s been built on site, but a moved home is not a brand new home and it never will be,” says Kelly. “So whether you’re moving, getting ready to buy a home that’s already been moved, or you’re thinking about moving one, you are going to have to take care of it a little bit. There will be a little bit of cost and remodel.”

[10 Home Renovations Under $10,000]

It may seem a bit obvious to point out that a moved home isn’t a new home, but there are parts of it — significant parts — that are new, and they really do matter. For example, the foundation and all the support structures that keep the house up off the ground are brand new. If you’ve moved a house built in the 1950s, for example, you picked it up off of a foundation that was built by 1950s code. But that code has changed and evolved, and new techniques have been developed for foundations that are built today.

“So in a sense, it’s bad that, you know, that house undergoes stress as it moves as it’s jacked up,” says Batista. “But at the same time when it’s at its ultimate resting place, the foundation that’s there waiting for it is made to the current code. So, although the house has moved, it has a stronger foundation, because it’s built to the current code.”

In many cases, according to Batista, utilities and mechanical items will also have to be brought to code. For example, if a house was moved from a location with aerial electrical lines to one with buried lines, the electrical system would have to be reworked to accommodate that, and in many jurisdictions, be brought up to current code in the process.

Ultimately, buying a house that’s been moved can be a unique opportunity to own a historic home that’s had some major upgrades to its most important systems. Make sure to have a solid home inspector out to check it top to bottom.

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How Do You Move a House? And Why? originally appeared on

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