Courtesy of Wade's House Moving

Now and then, Calgarians going for a morning walk in their community are stunned to discover that a house on their street has disappeared overnight.

No, the house wasn’t whisked away by a tornado like in The Wizard of Oz – it’s all part of a a way to “recycle” homes that ends up benefiting landowners in two locations.

Jaylene LaRose with Wade’s House Moving says much of their business is moving older homes from prime neighbourhoods in Calgary to empty lots in rural areas of Alberta.

She says the original owner of the house gets some money from selling the home, while the person at the other end gets an already-built house to place on a new foundation at their location.

Pat McCann Sr. with McCann’s Building Movers says many of their customers have bought property in an established neighbourhood but would like a newer home.

“They want to live in the inner city, in developed areas that have schools and all the amenities that they want,” said McCann. “But all the houses are old, so they contact us, we buy the house and take it away, and then they build a new house in there.”

He says the people who end up with the “moved” house often reap the financial benefits, since building costs these days can run about $350 per square foot, but buying and moving a home might only cost $50 to $60 per square foot.

“They want to live in the inner city, in developed areas that have schools and all the amenities that they want. But all the houses are old, so they contact us, we buy the house and take it away, and then they build a new house in there.” – Pat McCann Sr., McCann’s Building Movers

There are also environmental benefits to saving a still-useful house from being demolished. LaRose says Calgary communities like Lakeview and Britannia have tons of lovely bungalow and two-storey homes of a certain vintage that are slowly being replaced with newer homes.

“They were custom-built, master-craft homes back then,” said LaRose. “Yes, they’re dated, but they are beautiful. To have something that is a perfectly good home going into a landfill is just very disappointing.”

McCann says moving a house is quite a project in terms of getting the logistics arranged.

The first step is determining if there is a route to transport the house from its current location to the new site. Next the company must arrange with the necessary utility companies and road departments for permits and to have overhead lines lifted for clearance.

The house is slowly lifted using a series of unified jacks and slid onto huge steel beams. The beams are then attached to a truck at one end and wheels at the other

The actual move might take only a day, and then another day to place the home on a new foundation at its destination. McCann says moving costs for a typical house run about $25,000 to $30,000.

When you consider both the environmental and economic benefits of recycling houses, LaRose says, it’s a shame that some areas of Calgary are slowly being cut off from that option. The construction of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road has done away with any routes for moving houses taller than 14 feet in many areas, she adds.

“We used to take four to eight of those out each year, but now we can’t take any. They have to be demolished.”