For Wilmington residents Raymond and Pat Strocko, it just didn't sit well to tear down their newly purchased cottage on Cullen Street in Dewey Beach to build a bigger house to fit their sizable family.
“It would have been outright decadent to tear it down. It's a nice three bedroom, two bathroom house,” said Pat recently. She said she was perfectly happy to use the cottage, but Raymond convinced her the size wouldn't accommodate their children and her siblings if they visited.
Still Raymond also thought simply demolishing the house wasn't a good solution.
“It would have been a sin to tear it down. It wasn't falling apart,” added Raymond.
The couple brainstormed, and in the end, they settled on donating the house. They contacted the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity to see if the agency would be willing to work with them.
Kevin Gilmore, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity executive director, said they get close to 20 calls a year from people interested in donating a house because they don't want to see it demolished. Most of the time it doesn't work out because it costs more to move the house than to build a new one, Gilmore said.
There are at least three problems, Gilmore said. The first is distance; many times, owners want to donate a house that isn't near a location that Habitat for Humanity has available. The second is the condition of the house. Fixing existing structural issues can add significantly to the cost. The third is the size of the house. Habitat for Humanity likes to build homes in the 1,100 to 1,200-square-foot range, but a lot of the time the homes offered for donation are much bigger.
“We wish we could take the houses, but it doesn't make sense if it's going to cost more to move a house than build a new one. We've got to be good stewards with our money,” he said.
Fortunately for Gilmore, the house the Strockos wanted to donate had none of those issues. The house was moved to a lot on Norwood Street in the West Rehoboth Land Trust – a move of less than 3 miles, most of which was on Route 1. The house was in good condition; nothing is mechanically or structurally wrong with the house. It just needs some minor upgrades, like new carpeting and appliances, said Gilmore. The biggest issue with the move was separating a porch from the house and reattaching it after the house is on its new foundation. He estimated the cost of moving and fitting out this particular house will be half as much as building a new one.
“In this case, it's a slam dunk. It's a cute little house, in good condition,” Gilmore said.
The Strockos purchased the house in July, but the house wasn't moved until February. The town of Dewey made the couple wait until after Christmas, and weather delayed the move even more.
“It's a perfect fit, so we were willing to wait,” said Raymond.
The house is still sitting on the moving rig on the Norwood Street lot. Poor weather has delayed the completion of the foundation, Gilmore said.
Gilmore estimated the house will take about a month to renovate once it's set on the new foundation, but some of that work will wait until a qualified buyer is found for the house. He said part of being a qualified buyer will be the willingness to put some sweat equity into the house.
“The rehab is going a little slow, but we want the homebuyer to help,” said Gilmore.
The Strockos said they were happy to donate the house and glad that it will be put to good use.
“This makes much more sense than ripping it down and putting in a landfill,” said Pat.