The whole house was moving!

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      Well, not actually at the time of inspection—-but it WAS MOVED.

     Several times a year I inspect houses that were not originally built on the site where they now sit.  I am not talking about modular or mobile homes.  I am talking about houses that for one reason or another were built somewhere else and then moved to their current location.

     Some of the reasons homes get moved are: to put them on other parts of the lot, to get them out of the path of highways that are being built, or to move them away from where schools or other large scale projects are being built.  Some times it is simply because someone wanted to save a nice old house from the wrecking ball.

     A couple of years ago I inspected a house for a client that was going to have the house moved about a mile and he just wanted an opinion as to whether the house was structurally worth it.  In this case he could get the house for $1.00—-all he had to do was pay to have it moved.

     The construction of the 47,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System displaced hundreds of thousands of homes, and I routinely run into these relocated homes up and down the I-5 corridor.

     I thought my readers might find it interesting to see a list of some of the visual “clues” that can indicate a home has been relocated.  I have never seen any disclosure about this aspect of a house’s history and invariably all parties in the transaction are surprised to find this out—-even the sellers.

     Here are some signs one can look for:

  1. Crawl spaces under parts of a house that were a former garage (we all see garages converted to living space—-if there is a crawl space under the floor there is a good chance the house was moved).
  2. Foundations newer than the age of the house.
  3. Poured foundations with filled-in areas (these pockets would be left open so that the steel carrying beams could be removed after the house was set on the foundation and then were filled with either concrete or blocks).   Here is such a picture of a beam opening that has been filled with concrete blocks.
  4. Beam pocket of house that was relocated

  5. Depressions in the ground where jacks/cribbing were located under the main carrying beams.
  6. Chimneys removed and no evidence of foundation for the chimney in the crawl space under the closed in openings in the floor system.
  7. Beams cut off just short of the foundation with posts & piers to support the ends—-as opposed to sitting in beam pockets in the foundation.
  8. Beams and posts supporting the floor system that are not the same vintage as the rest of the floor system.
  9. “Field-treated” sill plates (previous to the introduction of pressure treated lumber there were “greenish” colored preservatives that could be painted on lumber—-areas where we would use pressure treated wood today).
  10. Changes to heating systems (ductwork, forced air to electric etc).
  11. Concrete block foundations under a house that originally would have been post and pier (these will still likely have the cut outs for the mover’s beams).
  12. Crawl space access is located at a typical location for the mover’s beams.
  13. Drainage plumbing in the crawl space that is not the same vintage as house plumbing.
  14. Relocation of electrical system from one side of the house to another.

     While no one of these things necessarily means the house was relocated (with the possible exception of the crawl space under the former garage), when we start to find several of these indicators going on, we might be able to conclude that the house was moved.

     So what good is this information?  Well for the buyer it will mean that the house, for its age, likely has a better foundation than when built (or has a foundation period), is better secured to that foundation than went built, likely has a newer water service, newer sewer line, and maybe even an upgraded electrical panel.  Generally speaking, the fact that the house was moved is a good thing.

Charles Buell


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