As you can imagine, moving a house is a herculean effort. To be clear, we’re not just talking about packing up your stuff and relocating. While that can be a pain, we’re talking about physically moving the home itself. That may sound crazy, but it’s a solution that homeowners can use in certain situations.
Moving a house takes a team of experts—a general contractor, structural moving company, electricians, concrete company—and a detailed plan to make sure the job is done successfully and safely.
Curious how this feat actually works? Let’s look at everything that goes into moving a house.
Benefits of moving a house
Moving a house can appeal to buyers for a number of reasons. Some older houses—like the historic $10 home in Montclair, NJ, we highlighted last year—may be dirt-cheap but need to be relocated. Doing this can save a historic structure from demolition.
Moving a house to a new location could also be worthwhile if you love the architecture but aren’t so thrilled with the neighborhood.
“If you have a new lot close by and there are not a lot of obstructions in the move route, it could be a very good deal,” says Michael Brovont, lead project estimator at Wolfe House Movers in Bernville, PA.
Some homeowners opt to move a house vertically—lifting it off its foundation—to remedy issues inside the house like flooding or a crumbling foundation. That also opens the door to a relocation.
“Once the decision has been made that the foundation must be replaced, it makes sense to consider moving the building, as the additional cost can largely be recouped by the increase in the home’s value,” says Norman Messier, owner of Messier House Moving & Construction of Barre, VT, whose company relocates a couple of homes a year.
Can you move any house?
Size and building materials aren’t the main challenges when transporting a home by road. Instead, the move depends mostly on ensuring there is a clear route between the locations. That means dealing with traffic, for one thing; a local or state police escort, as well as strategic detours, may be necessary.
One of the most costly elements of moving a house is dealing with the overhead utility lines and trees in your way. Brovont says for that reason, most moves on the East Coast are within several miles.
Even single-family homes might have trouble clearing overhead lines. You’ll need to contact electric, cable, and telephone companies to gauge what’s needed. Those companies will drive the route and give you a price for the work to remove lines from the route.
“This can be a deciding factor in some moves, so it would be wise to check into these prices before making the decision to move ahead with your project,” Brovont says.
Plus, the type of vehicle used depends on the distance and obstacles along the route, as well as its size relative to the building; a house can’t travel on a road with more weight on its tires than a dump truck.
How do you move a house?
Moving a house is a four-part process:
- Site preparation
- Building preparation
- The move
- Setting the home in its new location
Homes are usually lifted from under the sills, Messier says. Most professional movers use unified hydraulic jacking systems to raise the building to limit the chance of damaging the structure. Those jacks are supported by cribbing, and a network of beams keep the structure in place.
If it’s just a short move on the same lot, the building can just be placed on rollers and pushed or pulled to the new location, Messier explains.
“It is easiest to think of it as building a railroad, and the house becomes a railroad car,” he says.
Process to move a house
As you can imagine, moving a house takes tons of planning. Once you get a team in place, Messier says you must review zoning regulations.
Talk to local, county, and state officials about permits. Permitting for a house move can be quite expensive. Messier says special permits to use state roads in Vermont can cost from $2,500 to over $10,000. That’s often 10% to 30% of the moving costs, he adds.
When it’s time to move, you’ll have to remove items in the basement or crawl space, including appliances and utilities, as well as all plumbing and ducts. You’ll also want to remove decks and steps from porches.
How much does it cost to move a house?
The cost of moving a house varies greatly depending on how it’s moved, where it’s moved, the home’s size, and the length of the move. The labor cost of moving a house often starts at about $14 per square foot. That doesn’t take into account other costs, such as building a new foundation and permitting.
The total cost of moving a home ranges from as little as $15,000 all the way to $200,000.
If you decide to move a house, make sure you get a detailed breakdown of the scope of the work for each trade. Home movers differ in how they perform the job, which means vastly different prices.
Risks involved in moving a house
So when does moving a house not make sense?
“The building needs to be something worth saving structurally,” Messier says. “The route must be something reasonably feasible.”
Another word of warning: Messier says homeowners should expect to be out of the house for at least two months.
“You will not be able to live in the house while it is being lifted or moved,” Messier says.