Victorians are saving tens of thousands of dollars by recycling homes rather than building them from scratch.
Savvy buyers are picking up houses on eBay, Gumtree and listing sites like realestate.com.au for a few thousand dollars, and sometimes for free.
The only catch is the residences don’t come with a block of land — so they’re carved into pieces, have their roofs removed and braces installed, loaded on to trucks, moved to a vacant spot and put back together.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which works closely with VicRoads, issued 671 permits last year allowing “vehicles to transport houses and other buildings on Victorian roads”. The figure was 1543 nationally.
The practice was flung into the spotlight when five period houses were trucked to Elsternwick to be renovated on The Block’s 2017 season, and when a Strathmore house that was Darryl Kerrigan’s home in cult film The Castle was shifted to Beechworth.
Transporting a house generally costs between $55,000 to $80,000, according to Phil Butler of Phil Butler House Relocation, who’s worked in the industry for 44 years.
“That’s about a third of building a new home,” Mr Butler said.
Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures put the average cost of building a home at $1270.80 per sqm (excluding design, planning permit and site work expenses), equating to a total of about $320,000 for an average-sized 251.7sq m house.
Mr Butler typically transports 15-20 homes per year. With the rebuild taking two to three weeks, he said the “popular” practice kept him busy.
He said he shifted residences all over Victoria — with hot spots including Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Horsham — and sometimes into New South Wales and South Australia.
His furthest move in recent years was “from Melbourne to Richmond on the other side of Sydney and back”, which took him six days all up due to speed restrictions and a capped 12-hour driving day.
Mr Butler also transported a 1904 weatherboard from Williamstown to Clunes for James Hardy and Jack Hastings.
The pair bought the historic “station master’s residence” on eBay, saving it from demolition.
The charmer was cut in half and driven about 135km to the town north of Ballarat, where it was put back together over two weeks and then renovated over nine months.
It now functions as popular holiday rental The Lodge, earning about $800 per weekend.
Mr Hardy said after he and Mr Hastings bought land in Clunes, he perused Gumtree and eBay to find plenty of relocatable houses “for free or just a few thousand dollars”.
“There’s quite a market for them,” he said.
“From an investment point of view, we’ve been told it’s a lot greater value than a contemporary house (because) there are fewer and fewer period homes around.”
A permit from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is required to transport a house.
VicRoads director of heavy vehicle services Eric Henderson said permission was only granted to those “with comprehensive safety plans”, which took “all the necessary steps to minimise the impact on other drivers and the surrounding road network”.
-671 permits allowing the transportation of houses and other buildings on Victorian roads were issued by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator in 2018
-1543 permits were issued nationally
-Homes for relocation range in cost from a few thousand dollars to a few tens of thousands of dollars, and are sometimes given away for free.
-Gumtree has Victorian listings ranging from “free for removal”, to $5000, up to $50,000. A house in Charlton, near Bendigo, is also listed for relocation on realestate.com.au for $20,000.
-Relocating costs start at about $55,000 for “a run-of-the-mill three-bedroom house in a two-part move”. This doesn’t include hooking up power, water and sewerage.
-In comparison, the average cost of building a home was $1270.80 per sqm (excluding any design, planning permit and site work expenses) in 2018, equating to a total of $320,000 for an average-sized 251.7sq m house.
-Weatherboard houses are simpler to transport, and houses with concrete slabs can’t be moved
-Blocks that slope from the front are ideal for moving houses on to, as they help hide the new stumping
-Asbestos can be a problem
-Make sure you call around and choose a well-regarded relocation business, as there are “cowboys” out there
-Be aware banks can be reluctant to lend for the relocation process
-A NHVR permit is required to transport a house, and permission is only granted to those with comprehensive safety plans
-Ageing weatherboards from Pascoe Vale, Moonee Ponds, Brunswick, Preston and Brighton were cut in half and transported to Elsternwick to be renovated on The Block’s 2017 season. The priciest of them later sold at auction for $3.067 million, to comedian Dave Hughes,
-The house made famous by 1997 film The Castle sold without its Strathmore block for $40,000 in July 2017, and the following December was carved up and transported to Beechworth. It was revealed last week the house has been sitting “as a wreck”, in four pieces with no roof since it arrived.
Sources: VicRoads, NHVR, Phil Butler, ABS, James Hardy, Gumtree, realestate.com.au