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You may have seen the articles in the news about Vancouverites getting a “free” home, by moving a structure from elsewhere.

And while the structure itself may be free, the label is far from the truth.

Here is what a “free” home really means, and how much a free house in Greater Vancouver really costs.

What are the true costs of getting a “free” home with relocation?

1. Site Research

Before you can even begin the relocation, you will have to research if the Lot your are hoping to relocate the house to will allow for it. Does the house meet the Lot’s Zoning requirements in terms of size, shape, height, and style?

2. Variance Application

If your free house with relocation would not be allowed on your Lot but you still want move it, you have two choices. The first choice is to move the house to another Lot. The second choice is to put in a Variance Application with the City. While a Variance Application can be expensive, it is the only way to have your relocation approved if your house does not meet the Zoning requirements for your Lot. However, keep in mind that your Variance application may not be approved so have a fall back option: even if it is approved there will be an extended Permitting period.

3. Development Permit Application

Once you deal with any Zoning issues or if your house already meets the Zoning requirements for your Lot, you will need to apply for a Development Permit.    

4. Building Permit Application

Once your Development Permit is approved you will then need a Building Permit for the work being done on your Lot. Once again, this Permit needs to be in place before you begin any work. Why is this so important? If you do not have a Building Permit and you break ground anyway, you can receive fines and a Stop Work Order.

5. Permit Drawings and Plans

In order to apply for all of the Permits you will need, you have to have Permit Drawings and Plans. You  should also work with design professionals, like Draft On Site, to create a design plan that lets you take a free home with relocation and make it your own.

6. Land related costs

When moving a house, the house is not the only source of costs. There can also be costs associated with your Lot. These can include getting a Topographical Land Survey done, having an Arborist in to deal with trees on site, and even hazardous material removal.

7. Foundation

When moving a free home with relocation, you still have to lay a new Foundation on your Lot. This will require bringing professionals in to excavate. Then, once an area has been dug out, workers will have to lay forms and pour concrete for your home’s new Foundation.

8. Relocation costs  

It is not cheap to move a house. You will have to hire a specialized relocation company to handle the job, which can become expensive. You also need to think about where the house will be stored if there is any time between when it needs to be moved off its current site and when your Lot will be ready for it.

9. Engineering issues

There are a number of engineering issues you may have to confront, especially if your free house with relocation is particularly old or in poor shape. You may have to bring in Structural Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Geotechnical Engineers, and Envelope Engineers.

10. Upgrades and meeting current standards

When getting a free home with relocation, the house comes as is. That can leave you needing to upgrade things like the home’s insulation. Your home may also need additional sprinkler design and clearance from a Certified Energy Advisor. Why is all this necessary? They are all to ensure that your historic home meets current BC Housing Standards. Confused about why a historic home has to meet these Standards? When you are relocating a house, it actually is treated as a New Build – and must meet all the related Standards.  

11. Repairs

Your free home with relocation may also require repairs to be livable or comfortable. The most common repair we undertake in these homes are to the roofs, which have often degraded. The challenge is that the cost of repairs can add up quickly. Worried about the amount of work you could be taking on? Have an inspection done of the historic home at its original site before agreeing to relocate it. That way, you will know what you are getting yourself into.

12. Utilities

There are costs associated with disconnecting your utilities from your current location and reconnecting them at your new home – and that is assuming that your new home is already up to code! If not, you have the costs of upgrading things like the Gas and Electricity. Do not forget that you likely need to hook up your Water and a Storm Connection.   

13. Finishings

Again, many free homes with relocation have not been kept up-to-date. This means they often have old, rundown finishings. Before you move in, you may want to do an update. This can also be a great way of bringing your style to your historic home.

14. Finishing touches

Just like any other house, you will need to get appliances for your free home with relocation. You also may want to add stylish fixtures. Also, do not forget about furnishing your home, which can be another significant cost.

In the end, is a free home with relocation worth it?

About half of the free homes with relocation we see are great houses with a Lot of character. Many of them also have solid wood frames, which would cost you around $200,000 to $300,000 today.

At the same time, the houses are not free once you factor in all the associated costs.

Ultimately, we recommend approaching free homes with relocation this way: If you were planning to build a new home anyway, take a look to see if a historic home appeals to you. If so, take the savings on the framing and enjoy the style of your historic home. Do not, however, get a historic home on a whim or if you did not plan for the expense of a new house.