Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Cash-and-Carry House

Still, Julie and Randy Olson decided it was worth it. In 2007, they had bought 120 acres of farmland in Brook Park, Minn., only to see the value of their property plummet, along with their hopes of ever getting a construction loan to build a house.

And while the 4,200-square-foot wood-frame house they bought for a buck had been slated for demolition, it was solid, Ms. Olson said, with “tight pine lumber and tongue-and-groove construction.”

Ms. Olson, 45, a game warden for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, had heard about the house from a colleague who had listed it for public auction, to make way for a wildlife refuge. And the Olsons, it turned out, were the only bidders.

But they are not the only ones to recognize that what might seem wildly impractical — picking up a house and moving it somewhere else — can, in fact, be the most practical thing to do when money is tight.

In recent years, more cash-strapped Americans have been doing just that: realizing the dream of homeownership on the cheap, by buying land and then hauling in inexpensive (or free) houses that would have otherwise been torn down. Many of these houses come from used-house lots, the domestic equivalent of used-car lots, where one can choose from a surprisingly wide range of styles, whether quaint shingled cottages or multistory houses.

There are no hard figures on how many homes are acquired this way, but while sales of stationary houses have been declining, sales of the peripatetic variety appear to be increasing. Learn More...

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