A 111-year-old mansion in New Jersey has been put on the market for a meager $10. What’s more, the owner is even offering the buyer $10,000 to help with the cost of moving. But, as they say, if it seems too good to be true, then it most probably is. In this case, for instance, the generous offer comes with an almighty catch.
The aforementioned house is in the desirable Montclair area of New Jersey. And if the price tag wasn’t enough to entice buyers, surely they’d love its position on a street named Pleasant Avenue? Indeed, its very name makes it sound a lovely place to live.
And it was renowned local architect Dudley S. Van Antwerp who constructed the property in 1906. He set up his own design practice in the early 1900s and was responsible for the architecture of Montclair Wachtung Avenue Congregational Church and the Yacht Club in Bayside, Long Island, among other buildings.
This particular home for sale, however, has six bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms in the main building, with an exterior tennis court and carriage house. The Colonial-style structure covers nearly 4,000 square feet and sits on more than two and a half acres of land.
Given its enticing features, then, it’s perhaps no surprise that the house has a list price of $1.35 million. But that steep sum is nothing out of the ordinary for Montclair. In fact, the area has many homes worth in excess of $1 million.
But perhaps that list price was bolstered by the fact that the house has some historical significance. That’s because famed athlete Aubrey Lewis, the first African American to captain the Notre Dame football team, once lived there. Lewis also would go on to become among the initial group of African American agents in the FBI.
But after Lewis died in 2001, the land on which the mansion is situated was purchased by BNE Real Estate Group. And while BNE originally planned to build eight houses where the current one stands, that idea soon hit a snag.
Why? Well, the real estate firm can’t just rip the house down. When it bought the property, in fact, it agreed to a condition by the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission to save the home and the history it represents.
This all means that the asking price for the building is less than the cost of a trip to the movies. And if $10 for such a large and historically significant property sounds too good to be true, that’s because the price comes with an almighty catch.
Indeed, buyers should approach this apparently once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with extreme caution. The new owner of the house will not be permitted to move into it where it stands; instead, they’ll first need to move it lock, stock and barrel to a new location.
Town officials in Montclair have said, moreover, that they approved the subdivision application on the condition that the property is sold and relocated. In this way, everyone gets what they want: the buyer has a house in Montclair, the realtors can build their new homes and history is preserved.
And if the hassle of moving an entire building, brick by brick, wasn’t onerous enough, there are other conditions that must be met. The new site must be found within roughly quarter of a mile of the building’s current position, for instance. And then there are the associated costs in relocating the structure – all to be borne by the purchaser.
The $10,000 incentive offered by the seller towards the move might seem attractive at first glance. But when you add up the costs, it’s a mere drop in the ocean. Specialist moving company Nickel Bros has estimated that the relocation effort could set the buyer back up to $200,000, for instance.
And along with the moving costs, there are renovation funds to consider. Such an old building may contain asbestos and lead paint, which would need to be removed before the relocation. Any renovations would also need to be completed to strict specifications, which again could see the buyer considerably out of pocket.
Indeed, as Laurena White, a real estate agent for Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, told CBS New York in August 2017, “In addition to moving [the house], the cost of any kind of repairs and renovation required that it be done to historic guidelines. That tends to be real expensive.”
“Where are they going to put it?” neighbor Carmen Warren was also quoted by CBS New York as saying of the unusual real estate deal. “Why would I want to buy such a big monstrosity of a house and don’t know where to put it?” But such wholesale home relocations are not totally unheard of.
In 2007, for instance, Julie and Randy Olson upped and moved house in Brook Park, Minnesota. They had previously bought 120 acres of farmland, but when the value of their purchase suddenly nosedived, the couple lost all hope of securing a loan to build a new home there.
However, a colleague was selling their house to accommodate a future wildlife refuge, and the cost of the building was just $1. Even with delivery of the structure to their land coming in at $22,000, the Olsons became the proud owners – for a fraction of market value – of a solid, 4,200-square-foot, timber-framed house that would otherwise have been torn down.
So although it might sound crazy on the surface, this kind of move can turn out to be smart if money’s tight. Indeed, with home ownership becoming unrealistic for many, buying land to relocate a cheap house could be a sensible alternative.
And in Montclair, a lucky buyer could own a house valued at $1.35 million, as well as their own slice of history, for just a few hundred thousand dollars. So while the move itself may take some time and effort, once it’s completed, it may just be worth it.