Earn $10,000 "buying" these houses -- but no takers

Imagine a town so motivated to move houses out of the way of progress that it will pay you $10,000 to take one off their hands. Imagine buyers so unmotivated there are no takers.

This is no fantasy on either end. It's status quo in the Chicago suburban village of Barrington, Ill., though you can only collect the $10,000 if you agree to keep the house somewhere in the village itself. Still, even if you want to schlep it on over to a neighboring town, the houses are a relative bargain, with bids starting at $1.

The homes are old -- though not technically historic now that the village voted them out of the historic district -- and former and current users variously describe them as "claptrap" and "charming."
It sure seems like a creative approach to redevelopment -- far more palatable than the standard demolition derby. So why isn't anyone biting?

Peggy Blanchard, Barrington's director of economic and community development, thinks people just need a bit more time to get their act together -- though in truth the $1 bid (without the $10,000 sweetener) was offered in 2008 as well, to no avail.

"We had a number of inquiries when we put the properties out for bid (earlier this year) and most of the feedback we received is that they did not have sufficient time to properly respond," Blanchard told WalletPop.

That and the fine print (yeah, you knew there had to be a catch, right?): it costs at least $50,000 to move a house, not counting the cost of another lot and a new foundation to set it on.

Bidding was to close last month, but the village has opted to keep the offer open through March in hopes of reaching its goal to clear the way for a mixed-use development including retail, office and residential, Blanchard said.

A similar house-moving offer years ago in Fresno, Calif., involving five grand historic homes in the way of a planned freeway did finally work out -- but it took years. In their new neighborhoods, one of the houses became a thrift store, one a fraternity house and one an office for the Fresno Adult Literacy Council, according to the local paper, the Fresno Bee.

In addition to the cost of moving, prospective buyers in Fresno found themselves bound up in miles of red tape: needed permits from multiple government offices for the move itself and then more work to bring the house up to occupancy standards. In 1995, one buyer there described the process to the Fresno Bee as "a lot of garbage."

Let's hope the village of Barrington can cut through some of that red tape for its buyers.
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