The Key Role of House-Moving in Whole-House Donations

July 19, 2023

A hundred years ago, moving a house to make way for growth and development was a fairly common occurrence. I can recall two specific homes being moved out of the downtown area of my own town, many decades ago. One was large and ornate, and is now being used as an historical museum. The other was a simple 1,100 square-foot California bungalow, basically a scaled down craftsman-style home, popular in the early 1900s.

Many people in the California Bay Area have heard of deconstruction, where you carefully dismantle a home, salvage the parts, and potentially benefit from a tax deduction for donating those parts. That’s what TRP is all about!

But did you know that you can donate a house intact? Did you also know that when you donate a house intact, the donation value can be quite a bit higher, because absolutely nothing is lost? Sounds pretty awesome! So why aren’t more people doing it?

Clearly, if you’re donating a house, you want it to be removed from your property, which is where house-moving comes in. The first present-day challenge is timing. Kathy Robinson, TRP Regional Associate in Austin, Texas, has found a niche market for house-moving and offers her insight on the process:

Plan on six weeks for the disconnection of utilities at the current site. Book the house movers six to eight weeks out and allow a similar amount of time for the owner of the land to which the house will be moved, to have new utility hook-ups lined up and ready to go. In fact, in order for this to play out seamlessly, the new owner must be ready to go when the idea of donation begins. The house movers themselves are a good resource for these folks, through their own word of mouth. Facebook marketplace is also a source, with the associated challenges of dealing with a large audience, some of which is uneducated in the house-moving process.

Once you master the timing, considerations of cost and logistics come next. With recent cost inflation across all markets, Kathy estimates $20 per square foot to be a good average figure. Depending on overall square footage, the house may need to be cut into sections in order to be moved. How tall is the house? Will the roof need to be lowered in order to move under power lines? What sort of terrain will the movers be dealing with– hills, trees or elevation changes? In Kathy’s case, the mover’s estimate is good for an 80 mile range, which I thought was quite generous.

Once you have all the details hammered out, the house mover will drive the route to the new destination, noting all the logistical challenges, and apply for a permit from the highway department.

And just as it was a hundred years ago, the driving force behind house-moving is growth and development.