How to recycle a house
June 25, 2008 · Updated 6:38 PM
"House movers from Morris Construction of Everett pull out of the Double Bluff area with the last piece of a recycled home destined for a Greenbank family.Matt Johnson / staff photoGot a house? Need a house?Goosefoot Community Fund is looking for more potential house donors and for individuals and families who could use them. To find out more about the program, write to Goosefoot Community Fund at P.O. Box 114, Langley WA, 98260 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.When they get old, houses are like any other piece of garbage on Whidbey Island.In the bustling beachfront property market on the island, little beach homes are being replaced by large, modern homes almost daily. Until now, property owners have had three options. The could demolish an old house and have it hauled to a landfill. They could allow firefighters to burn it down to practice their skills. Or, in rare cases, they could add on to an existing home. Seattle's Bob Sander is one of the people who want to build a new home where an old one was already standing. He thought about all those options before discovering a new way to get rid of a Double Bluff area house he didn't really want. He recycled his house. Taking advantage of a pilot program started by South Whidbey's Goosefoot Community Fund, Sanders donated his home to an innovative house-cycling program that could put dozens of families into unwanted but perfectly good homes over the next few years.Last week, a house moving crew cut Sanders' 1950s era, 1,100-square-foot rambler into three pieces, loaded the pieces onto trucks, then hauled it to Greenbank to deliver it to Terri and David Schaal and the couple's three children. The house arrived at the Schaals' Greenbank lot essentially for free.Linda Moore, a South Whidbey attorney who works for Goosefoot, said house-cycling is something that can work on Whidbey Island because property owners can do it for no more than the cost of demolishing a house. She said Sander was happy to give the Goosefoot program a try.They were just going to tear it down, haul it away, and throw it in a landfill, she said.The idea behind the program is to get good homes to families or individuals who already have land, but who cannot afford to buy homes. Moore said the intention behind the program is to get these homes to households with earnings approximately half the county average of $60,000, or about $30,000. The program is not designed for the poorest of the poor, Moore said, but for people who have land, some carpentry skills, and enough income to cover any bank loans they would need to remodel a donated house. The Schaals fall into this category, as do many other people living on South Whidbey.We're not looking to hand someone a totally finished product, Moore said.For this first shot at house-cycling, Sanders paid Goosefoot about $15,000, slightly more than it would have cost him to demolish the home. With the money, Goosefoot paid to have the house moved. As an incentive for Sanders, Moore found a method under federal tax law in which Sander could claim the house giveaway as a charitable donation. She said the tax write-off for the house's value -- approximately $80,000 -- will be sizable.Terri Schaal said getting this house was a serendipitous occurrence. She and her husband moved to Greenbank from California two years ago and have been living on property they own. But they had not yet been able to afford to build a home. A few months ago, they became interested in acquiring the old Sears kit home that has been sitting at the Greenbank Farm for years. Moore found out about their plan and had builders from Gemkow Construction inspect the house. Moore said the house was badly worm eaten and would need almost $200,000 to be restored.Schaal said the Gemkow builders told her she should try to acquire Sanders' house. With the help of Moore and Goosefoot, that is exactly what happened.It was a perfectly good house. A nice house, Schaal said.This week, Gemkow is putting the house back together. Work will soon start on a foundation, which the Schaals will pay for. Goosefoot will loan the Shaals the money they need for the foundation and to bring the house up to bank loan standards. That loan carries no interest charge.As for the remodeling of the house, Terri Schaal said she and her husband will do as much of the work as they can to avoid a big bank loan.We're very handy, thank goodness, Schaal said.With luck, the family will be able to move in late this year.I would love to promise my kids we'd have a house by Christmas, she said. Linda Moore said she will check in with the Schaals regularly to find out if house-cycling can work. If it does, she said, Goosefoot will do more of it.We said, 'Let's try this as an experiment and see if it works,' Moore said.The project received a good deal of help from the Island County Building Department, Moore said. Department officials expedited permits to allow Goosefoot to move Sanders' house in time to meet his construction schedule. "