About That $1 House Smith College Wants to Sell You

Smith College wants to sell you this house for $1.
Smith College wants to sell you this house for $1.
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Quick, check for loose change between the couch cushions. Got a dollar? No? Check the cup holder in the car.

Smith College will sell you a house for that dollar. Sweet deal, right?

Yes, there’s a catch. Of course there’s a catch. The house is in Northampton, not Detroit. It wouldn’t cost a buck if there wasn’t a catch.

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Once you buy the house, you’re going to have to move it. The whole house. That could cost you up to $70,000, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

How do you move a house? It takes big trucks, lots of manpower, and loads of time. Here’s a time lapse video of a house Brown University moved in 2007:

“OK,” you’re thinking, “it’s not a dollar. But it’s a big, historic house, and it’s only $70,001 to buy and move. That’s cheaper than buying a house in Boston!”

True enough. But, uh, where are you gonna put that new house of yours?

Here’s a theoretical exercise in bargain shopping.

Assuming you want to bring the house back to Boston (which would probably blow that $70,000 house moving budget wide open, but hey, things always cost a little more than you plan when you’re buying a house, right?), and assuming it can survive the trip down the Mass Pike, the cheapest in-town lot we found on Zillow costs $60,000. It’s off of Blue Hill Avenue, a few blocks from Franklin Park Zoo (A nice bonus if you have kids). We’re up to $130,001 for this house and new property. That doesn’t include getting zoning clearances, obtaining the permits, clearing the lot, building the foundation, adding plumbing and electric, the works.

And we haven’t even discussed closing costs.

Let’s assume you’re not handy with a hammer and add $100,000 to the tab. You’re up to $230,001 to buy and move this house onto your new lot near the zoo.

For a four-bedroom house in Boston, you’re still ahead of the game, though not by much. Aside from one foreclosed property, the cheapest four-bedroom homes in the city start in the mid-to-high $200,000s.

Maybe next time, bargain hunter.