Dunbar House Moved To Vancouver Island – “Everyone asked if we really were knocking the old home down. We said we’d rather not, but to make money in the development world, you have to build a new home.”

CBC Announcer: “Moving is often a hassle, but moving a whole house takes some special expertise.”

Announcer: “And so the journey begins for a 97-year-old Dunbar heritage house, picked up, put on a trailer and [taken] out of town. It’s quite the sight for all the neighbors.”

Neighbourhood Lady 1: “I love these old houses. I really wish that we could keep it.”

Announcer: “However, it’s that typical Vancouver real estate story of a small house on a big lot. But, rather than the usual tear-down, this one was saved.”

Neighbourhood Gentleman: “It’s fabulous moving it..”
Neighbourhood Lady 2: “Nice to save it … Very good to save it.”

Neighbourhood Lady 3: “I wish it was in the neighborhood, I would feel less annoyed about having my power out if I’d known it was staying. It would have made a dandy lane-house.”

Announcer: “It’s too big for that, almost too big for this journey. Boulevard trees had to be cut back, Hydro had to down power lines to make way.”

Mover: “We have a lot of obstacles on the way, wires to drop and raise back up, and it is a little slower with all of the pedestrians that are here.”

George Puusepp, Former Owner: “You wouldn’t be able to afford to reproduce it that’s for sure. You can’t find the timber that they’ve got in it now.”

Ben Ford, New Owner: “We figure it’s about $140,000 for the house.”

Announcer: “That is some deal. Inside, stained-glass, old-growth fir moldings & floors. Only one room upstairs is painted. Jean Rouday’s grandfather built the house in 1915. She grew up there.”

Jean Rouday: “I painted the woodwork, so I’m the culprit… the nerve of me, right?! (laughs)”

Announcer: “The 4 km trip to the Fraser River took 5 hours. Next week it gets barged to Union Bay on Vancouver Island where, let’s face it, it will be a welcome sight.”

– from ‘Entire house moved out of Vancouver’, CBC News, 26 Jul 2012 [hat-tip to Nem]

The same story covered by the Vancouver Sun, with further perspective:

Heritage home makes incredible journey
Dunbar house transported by truck and barge to its new location on Vancouver Island

Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun July 27, 2012

When George Puusepp heard the Dunbar house he had lived in for almost two decades was being moved, he travelled from his new home in Kamloops to witness the event.
On Thursday, Puusepp was among the onlookers who watched as the pine green heritage house, which had been freed from its foundation at 3725 West 37th Ave., was loaded onto a transport truck to make its way to the Fraser River where it would be placed on a barge.
“It’s very strange, but very gratifying,” said Puusepp, as the 1,800-square-foot home inched through the streets of Dunbar.
“I’m really glad they didn’t tear it down,” the 69-year-old retired high school teacher told The Sun.
The house, built in 1915, was the first home in the area to be built out of lumber. “The inside is all first-cut fir – wide planks, no knots,” said Puusepp, who lived in the home between 1986 and 2003. “You never see that any more.”
Dozens of neighbours came out to watch the slow journey of the sturdy structure, which has original stained-glass windows on the side and a veranda out front. Crews from BC Hydro and Telus, as well as from moving company Nickel Brothers, came out to ensure that power and phone lines did not interfere with the truck and its cargo, which measured more than 10 metres at its height.
The salvation of the house is a triumph for all involved, said Guy Taylor, of Averra Developments, which purchased the house and lot in December.
“When we said we were going to build a new house on the site, everyone asked if we were really knocking [the old one] down,” said Taylor. “We said we’d rather not, but to make money in the development world, you have to build a new home.”
Averra contacted Nickel Brothers, who agreed to take it off their hands. As luck would have it, co-owner Jeremy Nickel knew just the right buyer.
Ben and Jen Ford had hired the company to move a house before, and had helped with a few others. The Dunbar house was exactly the kind of classic home the professional renovators were looking to purchase for their family.
“This is the kind of house we’d been hoping they could find for us for years,” said Jen Ford, who had come in to watch the move from Gabriola Island, where the couple now lives with their four daughters.
The family will move into the house once it reaches the community of Union Bay on Vancouver Island.
“It’s got all the period features and the character,” said Ford. “It’s in such good shape for its age. Usually at this stage a house is pretty rundown.”
Nickel Brothers sold them the house for the cost of the move, she added, an estimated $130,000. “You couldn’t build it for that, that’s for sure.”
The move wasn’t without its snafus. Spectators and technicians waited patiently in the July heat Thursday, while crews lowered a power cable that stretched across an intersection so the house could get through.
“I’ve been doing this about 25 years,” said Rick Picard, sales manager at Nickel Brothers. “It’s one of the most complicated moves I’ve been involved with.”
BC Hydro field inspector Bob Coulter was at the site to sign off on the temporary removal of power lines by a contractor. As the house once again began its westerly progress Coulter remarked, “Sure is a beautiful home.”

So long; Adieu.

50 responses to “Dunbar House Moved To Vancouver Island – “Everyone asked if we really were knocking the old home down. We said we’d rather not, but to make money in the development world, you have to build a new home.”

  1. pricedoutfornow

    I half-watched this story on TV. Really? They were sold the house for a measly $140k? Meaning the houses in the west are worth less than $200k, and it’s the the land that is worth $1, $2 or $3 million? Crazy….I should start buying up Vancouver homes and moving them to places where the land is more reasonably priced, how about the Kootenays? Then I could finally say I own a “Vancouver” home! ;p

  2. More romanticization of housing. Each to their own, but I wouldn’t have paid a cent to salvage a 100-year-old home that is probably half-rotten, and may well have suffered structural damage en-route. They could’ve salvaged the “old growth” timber, if it was that special.

    Heritage homes: Too tall and narrow. Ancient materials. Small windows. Design reminiscent of an icebreaker. In the architectural desert that is Vancouver, however, they are considered beautiful.

    Man, am I in a bad mood today!

    • To each their own. In my 20 years in Vancouver, I’ve spent the majority of the time renting in 100 year old homes or nearly as old buildings. They’re solid, attractive, and haven’t had near the problems with mold as the two 80s places I moved into and out of in record time.

    • My home was built almost the same year. It is solid as a rock. It’s hard to drive nails into some of the timbers. But I would also be worried about structural damage from the move.

    • In the architectural desert that is Vancouver, however, they are considered beautiful.

      🙂 So true.

  3. Goodbye Heritgage Home, Hello Gaudy Stucco McMansion!

  4. Sounds like it still has some useful life left; good idea.

  5. “It would have made a dandy lane-house.””

    Bwahahahahaha! The Vancouverness in this comment makes my day.

    • $130k, moved … to the island! … these early century houses, if were well-maintained will stand another century, easy … how much did one of those lane-ways cost? … how much to shuffle it just to a lot in east van, burnaby, or surrey? $100k, $80k? that has got to f**k a lot of peoples’ s**t up 🙂

      • sir_nem, nice try dood … but i will not be baited into posting nair with short-shorts

      • Curses! Foiled again! And I was so sure you’d take the ‘bait’!

        “They may be drinkers, Robin… but they’re also human beings.” – Adam West [“KerPow!”]

  6. joe_blown_away_by_high_housing_costs

    I actually couldn’t read this story when it was in the newspaper because it’s too upsetting for me. I grew up on the west side of Vancouver and I love these old houses. I am glad they didn’t tear it down but I wish it could have stayed. I hate how Vancouver is losing so many old buildings. It degrades the sense of place.

  7. “to make money in the development world, you have to build a new home.”

    Congratulations on profiteering from BC’s record household debt levels!

    • There are a lot of hammers at construction sites.
      And, apparently, there’s a lot of money in finance.

      • Farmer… you’d better cover your ears.

      • Hunh? I love that tune. It’s the Barry Manilows that still make me crazy. How can anybody still be playing that crap after all these years….and enjoying it!!!

  8. Just shows that quality ain’t nearly what it was back then…..those old age fir timber, they sure are expensive to get nowaday.

  9. Wow. An old friend of my wife is the wife featured in this article. Although to be honest, I would save the house, too. Find a cheap piece of land, yes, but I do have a strong appreciation for a well-built century house that is still largely original and well-maintained. Many newer homes are just all pretentiousness and artifice… this old home is the Real Deal. Especially if it is in excellent condition.

  10. The lumber in that place, even today’s lumber, is worth more than $140k. The stuff that’s actually in the house, from the studs to the millwork to the siding, is gold. The siding will be clear, 1st growth cedar, and the framing will be clear Douglas fir. It’ll survive the journey just fine, and any damage will be easy to fix. Good for them!

    • But it cost 130 grand just to move it. That is INSANE!! Does anyone else here not think “hey, I am in the wrong business”?. I mean who makes 130 thousand dollars just to move a building on a three day gig? They did not build it for Gods sake. They did not renovate it. They just “mooooooved it” No biggie. People move houses out here on the prairies all the time. They spend like 10 grand tops and travel a 100 kilometers or more to plant an old 3 bedroom house in an empty field for a grain storage bin. Only a complete idiot would pay that much money simply to move a building from spot “A” to spot “B”. Even the barge fee does not justify the expense. I know guys who do it themselves. It is simple as 1,2,3. You just lift up the structure with car-jacks and rail ties, put some steel beams under the main supports and away you go. A complete fool can do it. Plenty do it too and it is legal as well. I am stunned by how foolish people are in Vancouver. Doesn’t money have any value to anyone anymore??????

      • They mentioned having to drop hydro lines and other overhead wires, so potentially BC Hydro and Telus charged an arm and leg for that privilage. Add in government taxes, permit fees, and other taxes they can tack on, I’m not really surprised anymore at the price tag.

        Remember, a laneway that’s also prefab and just assembled on site have over $50K in various fees, permits, inspections, and taxes tacked on.

      • You can buy a whole damn house where I live for under ten thousand dollars. Big yard, garage, garden, septic system, picket fence and the whole damn nine yards. Even a cold room in the basement to store veggies throught the winter. And it is liveable but usually needs hookups and a paintjob to get it going again. How twisted is the Vancouver market from that perspective? A friend just offered me one of his houses for a grand total of 3000 bucks!!!!. That was yesterday.

        So here is the deal.
        Prairie house —three grand everything included…
        Used Vancouver home –130 grand just for a damn move.
        The difference between the two………???


  11. Froogle Scott

    Nickel Brothers is the outfit that did the move. You can go to their web site and see interior photos of the house (http://www.nickelbros.com/1237521b.html). You can also see the other ‘recycled houses’ they currently have for sale.

    Regarding cost, here’s what their web site states:

    Q: What does the price of the house include?

    A: Our listed prices includes the purchase of the house, the moving of it, the sales fee and the lowering of the house [on to a foundation at the new location – F.S.]. There can be extra charges for delivery based on the location. Most houses are priced for a local delivery. Barging fees, wire fees, tree removal can be extra. These extra costs (if applicable) are listed in the Offer to Purchase Contract prior to signing any final contracts. Taxes are extra.

    Given that new construction costs about $250/square foot, and that’s for mid-level quality, moving a house could make a lot of sense.

    • Hi Froogle, good to hear from you.
      Does this story lead you to consider what it’d have cost to have this house placed on a new basement on your lot, rather than having done the renos you did?
      Are there stories of these houses being shifted from one lot to another within Vancouver?

      I’m trying to get my mind around what this story means for our market.
      I’m leaning towards it being an indicator that our market is undervaluing a structure such as this while overvaluing the land on which it sits.

    • Froogle,
      That house still has knob and tube. Probably needs another 150-175K to bring it up to modern standards. I love the character though – so for me the 300-350K total price might be worth it. And judging from the prices on some of these restored heritage home I think others agree

      • Froogle Scott

        There is a picture of an old-style light switch. Doesn’t necessarily mean that it still has knob-and-tube, unless you saw that elsewhere. However, your general point is taken. There probably is a lot of additional work to be done once the house gets to its new resting place.

    • Short answer? That is complete bullshit. Nobody earns that much money for doing nothing more than a simple building move. The buyers are complete idiots (no offense to you Froogle but it burns me up how foolish home buyers are even where used, old buildings are concerned). What a ripoff.

      • The reason I mentioned this is that I talked to some guys about this today. They were just stunned by how much money was being taken for a house move. Now we are talking good old farm boys that think they can do the same job and still make an excellent profit at a fraction of those costs. Back of the napkin shit. They want a piece of the pie and so they were working out the details of setting up in BC. If idiots will pay that much for a house move they are coming out with equipment to compete. They all know that an old house is only worth a buck to the developer and he gets plenty of savings by having it all taken away for free to be moved elsewhere.

        They are not fools.

      • Froogle Scott

        I understand your take. Some people go a bit gaga over century houses — a little laughable by European standards. But hey, we have to make the most of the short history we have. I used to love character houses myself, having spent time growing up in a couple of them in Victoria. Now I’m quite a bit less interested. Let someone else shoulder the expense and the never-ending maintenance. I’ll admire them from the sidewalk.

        Regarding the expense of the move, sure, Nickel Brothers is a for-profit business, and I assume they are charging what the market will bear. $130K to move a house may seem like robbery, but it’s a smaller scale robbery than being mugged for $2M to buy the same house in its current location. I’m assuming that’s the mental calculation the purchasing couple is making. Or comparing the $130K to the $400K to $500K they’d have to pay for a possibly crappy new build. It’s their way of trying to acquire a house they probably couldn’t otherwise afford.

      • “$130K to move a house may seem like robbery, but it’s a smaller scale robbery than being mugged for $2M to buy the same house in its current location.”

        Well said.

      • “They were just stunned by how much money was being taken for a house move”

        When you’re the only game in town you can charge whatever the market will bear. If there were 2 house moving companies instead of one you might see the cost sliced by 50%

      • not just a move. the offer is delivery of this house to your site $110k, complete ($130k to the island). cost of move alone is probably ~ $25k-$30k. then nickel had to find it, scope it, cut a deal with the landowner, whatever that is. so, they pocket $80k-ish for being enterprising. i’d pay them that to find something good and deal with all the hassles, more than double that for a really nice 5/3 4000sf. it’s a service and an opportunity created out of the insanity. people can bid or compete it down. if their margins are really that good, they can easily drop the price. bottomline is folks can bid $50-$60/sf for this used house delivered or go for $200-$250/sf new 21st century build. curious what the city charged in permitting fees for something like this to sit on its a**.

  12. Farmer – the Prairies are pretty flat. This house is going through a city, on residential streets, down a steep hill, onto a barge on a river and out across the ocean. Massive Moves (the TV show) had an episode from the Prairies moving an old rail station, and another moving a house from West Van to the Island. Big difference.

    Which is why you see houses getting moved all the time from Manitoba to Texas, but not so much in a place like here.

    Of course, you could always come out here and start competing with Nickel Bros. Like you said, all it is is jacking up a house (I’m being serious – I’ve jacked up a house or two). Remember, though, in business the cost isn’t how much you spend on one job. It’s your costs divided by the jobs you do. That’s why it costs so much to sell a house.

  13. Froogle Scott

    Moving a house certainly presents another option — not sure if it would have been a better route for us, but possibly. The house in this story is a very good candidate for a move, because the actual building has more than average value. A number of the houses on the Nickel Brothers web site are just average bungalows and ranchers. But they can be bought and moved for $50K to $75K. Given the right set of circumstances, that could make good sense financially. I think the key would be moving them to a lower cost piece of land outside the urban areas — one commensurate with the value of the structure — which is exactly what the couple buying this house is doing.

    I don’t think there’s a lot of house moving within Vancouver. Most people are probably too freaked out by the idea. And good houses tend to stay put, and crappy ones just get torn down. They’re not worth the cost of moving them.

    The difference with this one particular story is that a really nice character house would have been demolished if it hadn’t been moved, for the reason you state: the current value of the land dwarfs the value of even this desirable structure. We’ve seen this cycle before in Vancouver — think of all the Victorian, and Queen Anne, and Edwardian houses, some of them mansions, that were demolished in the West End when rezoning and new building technologies made highrises possible and the land beneath them too valuable for single family dwellings. “Highest and best use” probably figures in somewhere here.

    The difference between the West End of the 60s and this house on the West Side in 2012, is that the entire West End was rezoned for high density, and profitable, development. The West Side is still a low density, single family home neighbourhood. This desirable character house should represent something close to current highest and best use, and yet it doesn’t — at least in the mind of the developer who bought the property. So perhaps that’s what the story means for this current market, and Vancouver in general over the past decade? It’s emblematic of the distortion that has taken place? In a more normal market there’d be no way this house would risk getting torn down. There’d be no business case for doing so.

    • Froogle, you need to look at the prices for moves elsewhere. Do you have any idea how cheap it is to move a building? We are talking a few days work, a few wires to be moved, some permits and maybe an escort vehicle. This is brain dead cheap-ass work that any lunkhead can do (we have lots of those guys out here). Do you earn 50 or 75 thousand dollars for a few days work????

      Nobody does. My buds think they just found a goldmine in that article. Swear it man. They are spinning in amazement at how stupid people in Vancouver really are.

      So yup,…..they are probably coming out with a rig.

      • Froogle Scott

        The price of the move is one thing — and I’m not arguing that it isn’t rich. But that’s only one strand to the whole story here. The bubble economics of real estate in Vancouver have stretched their tentacles everywhere (can a bubble have tentacles?), including the house moving business. If the bubble deflates, house moving prices will probably deflate right along with it. As will construction costs, building supply costs, etc., etc. Everything housing related.

        Your buddies might have done all right if they’d come out here a decade ago and competed with the local outfit. But to trying setting up now would probably carry the same risk as chucking law school to become a realtor. The timing’s all wrong.

      • I don’t think so. These guys might not be Nickel style pros but they think they can do the same job at half price and still make an excellent living. Lets keep in mind that this story is current. It is not from a decade ago. We are talking a house move over a hundred thousand right now, right here….today. So nobody cares about ten years ago. Buddy John was laughing his guts out earlier tonight. He said (and I quote) “Nickel is the fattest, easiest kill he has ever seen in his life”. And this guy is a hunter so he knows what he is talking about. I got free beer for the week just for showing them this article. They all laughed their guts out. Granted, they were totally loaded and so was I but nobody will pass up that kind of stupid easy money. Nobody sane anyway. John has moved stone barns for god’s sake. He is the real McCoy. Solid as a rock. Thirty five years old and ready to take on any other lunkhead in the business. They were saying that just hiring away Nickels guys was just as easy as putting fat greasy bucks on the table for some hungry pigeons. Every business has unhappy workers ready to split. That’s what I mean. These guys were drunk but they mean business.

      • “They are spinning in amazement at how stupid people in Vancouver really are.”
        You really have nothing better to do than spew your venom all over a RE blog in a city (and province) you don’t even live in? Sad.

      • @Froogle: ..”…can a bubble have tentacles…”

        Yes [the tentacles are often larger than the Plasma ‘Bubble’].


      • @allen: Farmer is making a legitimate point about Vancouverites’ financial illiteracy. And where he lives is entirely irrelevant.

      • Any other Vancouver folks agree with Farmer and El Ninja, that we are all dumb? Seems others disagree, “Financial knowledge scores vary by region of residence and income. Overall, scores on the financial knowledge quiz increased from east to west—from 64% in Atlantic Canada to 69% in British Columbia.” Go figure. Maybe a stereotype you need to put to rest?

      • @allen. Financial illiteracy is, a). not synonymous with stupidity, and b). not limited to Vancouverites. However, the focus of this blog just happens to be Vancouver and, more specifically, the city’s speculative mania in real estate. This mania would not exist, or would be less acute, if basic financial principles were not widely ignored.

  14. Hmmm… Doesn’t exactly look like work for ‘ButterFingers’ [or the hasty]…

    • Phenomenal. Truly incredible.
      9000 ton church, and contents, essentially moved BY HAND!
      (Smart use of leverage, and some horses, too).

  15. I should not have said “stupid” Allen. That remark was just being conveyed exactly as I heard it and so I foolishly passed it on. Forgive me for the offence. Maybe our kind host will delete one or two of my posts from last night to keep the peace. I was, after all, just a little tipsy when I wrote them so maybe a little too much honesty came through. For the record, I do not think anyone there is stupid. You must try to understand though how ridiculous the bubble in its many incarnations looks to outsiders though. Take my word for it, the critical verdict rendered on those BC folk who foolishly buy in your wild-west environment is not going to be music to your ears. I have actually restrained myself from typing out what was actually said. Let your imagination do the work.

      • I almost forgot… “BC folk who foolishly buy in your wild-west environment”… It’s WilderThanYouThink, Farmer….

        [CBC] – 3 arrested following Okanagan high-speed chase/Shoot-Out

        …”…”The situation was extremely critical down Westside Road,” he said. “Members’ lives were in peril.” Clark said the suspects changed vehicles at least once and continued to shoot at officers. Police forces from Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon, and an RCMP helicopter all worked together tracking the suspects for almost 80 kilometres.”…


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