House flippers move would-be demolished South Ogden homes

Saturday , October 07, 2017 - 5:15 AM

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

When Kirt Nalder and Tyler Belliston mention they’ve moved three houses in the last three months, they get plenty of quizzical looks.

“In the beginning, when we told people we’re moving houses they thought, like, mobile homes, or those miniature houses, or that we were ‘moving’ them — you know, like, selling a lot of them,” said Belliston, of Ogden. “They didn’t understand what we meant.”

But the two men meant it literally. They’re moving houses — lifting them off their foundations, and relocating them.

For the past six years, Nalder and Belliston have been flipping houses and managing rental properties together. But in recent months they’ve found a new way to make a little money in real estate — buying houses for cheap and then moving them to a new location.

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Nalder, of West Haven, says it all started in July when a real-estate coworker asked Nalder and Belliston to board up six vacant homes in an attempt to keep transients out. The houses — on 40th Street just above Riverdale Road, in South Ogden — had been scheduled to be demolished to make way for a new Young Automotive Group dealership on the land.

Nalder got to thinking, and contacted the auto dealer.

“I called them up and asked, ‘What are you going to do with those houses?’” Nalder recalls. “They said they were tearing them down, so I said, ‘Can I have them?’ ”

The company agreed, although the owners eventually requested a little compensation on each house.

Nalder and Belliston — who’d never tried to move a house before — then went about researching companies that specialize in that service. They found their match in Intermountain House and Structure Movers, a Hyrum-based company that relocates everything from houses to garages, barns, sheds and even playhouses.

As it turned out, only half of the six houses were good candidates for a move, so Nalder and Belliston settled on the most promising three.

Next began the arduous task of looking for empty lots on which to relocate their newly acquired homes. They scoured Riverdale, Washington Terrace, Ogden and South Ogden for lots where the older homes would be a good fit. It wasn’t easy.

“The headache was finding the lots for the houses,” Belliston said. “The house mover said it was important to find a place as close as we can to the original site. We drove everything in the surrounding area, looking for lots.”

Eventually, Nalder and Belliston found just the right fits. Two of the houses were moved this summer — one to 5050 S. 150 East, in Washington Terrace; the other to 4829 S. 1700 West, in Riverdale. The final home was moved Saturday, Sept. 30, to 4936 S. 525 West, the Riverdale lot where the previous home was destroyed by a tornado. 

Shavon Hill, who with her husband, Chad, owns Intermountain House and Structure Movers. They started their company in 2005 but their house-moving history goes back much further. Childhood friends since she was 8, Hill says she was 15 when Chad asked if she wanted to go watch him move a house.

“I thought we were going to be moving furniture,” Hill says of that first date with a house mover. “But then I realized, ‘Oh, we are going to move the house.’”

Two years later they were married. That was 20 years ago this March.

That misunderstanding is part of the reason their company today has such an unwieldy name.

“People ask us ‘Why is your name — Intermountain House and Structure Movers — so big?’ and we tell them because we move the structure, not the furniture,” she said. “You just put ‘house movers’ in your name and they think you move the furniture.”

So, how exactly does one move a house? Basically, you lift it with hydraullic jacks, slide huge steel beams underneath it, attach wheels to the beams, hook it all up to a semi-tractor and — voila! — instant mobile home. 

Hill says their company keeps fairly busy. They move houses, garages, sheds, barns, Army barracks, historic cabins, airport hangars, portable classrooms for school districts, among others.

The cost for moving a house can vary, depending on a lot of factors, but Hill says usually it’s somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000.

Of course, Nalder and Belliston point out there’s a lot more to moving a house than just putting it on a trailer, driving it somewhere and plopping it down on a piece of ground. In addition to buying the house, the new lot, and paying the house mover to relocate it, there are also costs like:

• Paying the Utah Highway Patrol for an escort between the two lots

• Paying the power company and other utilities to lift their lines so you can drive a house under them

• Building the foundation — and possibly a basement, if desired — at the new lot

• Plumbing, furnaces, water heaters and other critical components of the house

• Pouring a new driveway and any porches needed

• Building permits for the water and sewer hookups

• Making sure the house is up to code.

Now that Nalder and Belliston have moved three houses, would they do it all over again? Yes and no, the two say.

“The second and third ones, yes,” Belliston said. “But the first house we moved? We’d just tear it down. That one was a learning experience, and a lot more work than we expected,”

Once moved, that first house needed all new trusses and a re-roofing job.

“It was just a bad house,” Belliston said. “But not anymore. We added a bunch of square footage, and a two-car garage. It’ll be a nice home when we’re through with it.”

Nalder says they’ll make good money on the second and third houses, but not that first one.

“I’m more educated now; I know what to look for,” he said. “It’d be easier for me to say no to a bad house.”

But why move an entire house? Why not just build a new one? Hill says she gets that question a lot.

“There are a lot of reasons why big things get moved,” Hill said. “Sometimes it’s sentimental, sometimes it’s practical.”

But for Nalder and Belliston, it’s simple economics.

“It’s hard to build a house for under $200,000,” he said. “And we’re under that mark.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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