Anyone knocked down a house for the lot?

farmhousegirlMay 16, 2012

We are trying to understand all of our options for finding a lot. Our target area is very small and land is scarce and expensive. We see a few small homes on beautiful lots. The homes cost the same as some of the empty lots

Anyone done this? Would love your insight and some idea of the cost. Thanks so much!

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I'm not an expert, but I know you need to make sure what your zone is and if you can rebuild on the lot. Sometimes a house (or the septic) is grandfathered in, meaning you have to work with the original house. If that's not an issue, it might be worth looking into...but I'm sure you'll get more expert advice from others on the forum. You might want to think about hiring a professional, if things get too complicated, depending upon your area's regulations, zoning, etc.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 7:18PM
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I've done it, sort of...had a house removed from a lot. In my neighborhood it is quite common to move or demo a house. It is so common that there are a couple of companies that specialize in removal or demolition. Another thing to consider is whether any of the house is reusable. In my case the company moved the house to another location and reused it (they covered the cost of removal and paid us a small amount for the house). Other houses in the area have been taken apart with useful items going to Habitat. Though this scenario is much more involved then say trashing the whole house, there may be tax advantages to doing it, depending on your situation.

Like another poster said, before you attempt, find out if any restrictions exist. You may need a rebuild plan in place before you can get a demo permit. Depending on location you may get neighborhood resistance, or be required to get approval of homeowners within a certain distance, etc.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:00AM
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I'm an infill builder and for more than 20 years I've been knocking down homes built from the late 1940s to the mid '60s. But, as mentioned above, know what the zoning is before you purchase.

I've even knocked down two homes I lived in, one of which was extensively renovated.

"I love the smell of broken buildings in the morning!
Photo: Heather Joy Investments Ltd.

Count up the dollars and cents and building from scratch often trumps the virtually endless chore of renovation.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:28AM
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We bought an abandoned foreclosure that was riddled with mold, so we ended up tearing most of it down. We are in a village with a PIA approval process that requires a trip to multiple boards for permission to so much as take down a dead tree.

Turned out we could bypass the most difficult and time consuming board if we "remodeled" instead of "rebuilt." This involved showing the building inspector that we intended to leave a certain amount of the existing home standing. How much had to be left to constitute a remodel rather than a rebuild is apparently a matter of national security. Or quantum physics. The best I could get out of the inspector (who turned out to be an absolute doll to work with -- really) was along the lines of "I know it when I see it."

We ran into some problems during demo -- the foundation in one area crumbled, no footings under a small extension, no water shield between the foundation and the sill -- all of which were able to be rectified during on-site inspections with said inspector (what a doll!!)

So I guess I'm just reiterating what other, more knowledgeable, posters have already said. Do your homework THOROUGHLY before you make your offer. A lengthy sit down with the local official who will be in charge of your permits and approvals will be time well spent ....

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:04AM
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Happens here all the time (well, more when the market was hotter, but still happens) because land values are high and there are still some older smaller homes on great lots with walk-to locations.

As mentioned above, it's often cheaper to tear down and rebuild than do an extensive reno. However, where we are, there are a few restrictions. For example, we have a zoning ordinance such that all new builds over a certain size (which they all are) must have an in-house fire sprinkler system. In renos, the sprinkler requirement is for higher sq ft.

Some have gotten around certain new-build restrictions by tearing everything down to the foundation, or maybe leaving a chimney in place, and rebuilding everything else. (Only seems to be worth it if you have a good, deep, dry basement foundation to start with, in a configuration you like.)

Sometimes people doing a tear down will let the local fire department come in and do a practice burn/firefight on the house before it gets torn down. There might be some kind of financial incentive for this. At the very least, it lets them know the local firefighters and creates some good will. (The house behind us was used for a controlled burn. It became the neighborhood entertainment for an afternoon.)

Also with either a tear down or a reno, you'll want to know if there is any asbestos in the house. If there is, the builder is supposed to follow EPA guidelines for disposing of the materials from the torn-down house. (Sadly this doesn't seem to be well regulated so lots of nasty stuff goes into landfills.)

And to reinforce what's said above, be sure to talk to your local zoning folks to find out what the rules are where you are.

Overall, everyone I know near me who has done a tear down (lots of homes over the years), is very happy that they did. You get a new house but in an established neighborhood with big trees, existing utilities, and often in a better location than what's available in a whole new development.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 10:00AM
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Make sure you check and understand zoning restrictions.

In the area I live the houses built in the mid 1970s used R-8 zoning (8 houses per acres).
The zoning has now been changed to R-6 preventing redevelopment.
Present owners can repair or modify but NOT demolish and rebuild.

At least one nearby house has gone the 'single wall' route and succeeded.
Everything but a single masonry gable wall with a fireplace was demolished and the house 'rebuilt.'

It took some real legal pressure on the county to achieve though.
They have since tried to tighten up the rebuild exception without much success.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Asbestos should be disposed in landfill. Asbestos is only hazardous if you breath the fibers and poses no hazard whatsoever in a landfill.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 1:06PM
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Asbestos should be disposed in landfill. Asbestos is only hazardous if you breath the fibers and poses no hazard whatsoever in a landfill.

That makes sense, but I'm not sure how it goes from bulldozer to dumpster to landfill without dust flying all over and becoming airborn.

We have an ordinance here such that builders are supposed to use heavy duty water spray during demo to control dust. However I saw one site where they literally used a garden hose. Dust was everywhere (not just his lot, but sidewalks, neighboring yards, and street.)

I'm a bit sensitive to this because a close friend is an HVAC guy who developed serious lung issues in his 40's and doctors suspect it's from asbestos exposure. Don't want my kids breathing this stuff because a builder was too lazy to follow the rules.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 2:56PM
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That is our plan...
I spoke with our township and we are ok to build our new house and then dispose of the current house. One of the biggest reasons for doing this is because of the mature trees, flat lot and utilities. Every where else either has mature trees, but no utilities or utilities and no land or mature trees.
I also plan on doing the controlled burn.
I really hope that you allowed to do it on the lot you pick

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 5:19PM
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We did it! Although we lived in the tiny cottage for 7 years before we tore it down... took a while to get our ducks in a row :) I have it all documented with a video of our demo even on my blog (link below). I think it was around $8k for the actual demo and it went really quickly as you'll see in the video!

Here is a link that might be useful: Let's Build a Home

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:13PM
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we did it also. it is very common to do this in our area, where land is so scarce and houses are all super old, small tract homes. tree protection is huge here, as is making sure your demo/hauling is going to be environmentally friendly (ie you have to pay extra to the city).

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:21AM
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We did it too. My husbands small old house and land had the space and mature trees in a great community with a good school. He had just finished renovating it before we met and eventually married. We put an ad on the internet for house to move for sale and within 3 days 7 people were interested and one immediately stroked a check to buy it when they came to look at it. They were looking for a ready house for their lake lot and had their own movers to get it off the property.

We were happy someone paid us to remove it rather than paying someone to put it in a landfill. Such a waste! We barely got away with the sewage permit as new regulations were coming into to play. phew!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:52AM
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Yes, and we built a small farmhouse style house. Since it was near wetlands, we needed the state's Dept of Env't approval. So if you have special features like that, also check for state regulations as well as zoning and township rules.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Glad you posted this. We thought we were set on our lot, but we're researching some other tear-down options and are finding that tear-down lots are about $25k - $50k less than the lot we had originally fallen in love with. :) Will keep an eye on this thread!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 1:27PM
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we knocked down a 1500sq ft ranch house with basement for $9250 including filling in the hole as we were not ready to build yet.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 5:06PM
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