It’s a classified advertisement almost too good to be true: “Free House. You move it. Call/text: 508-627-0511.” But owner Ed Willoughby says it’s the real deal.
Willoughby, a longtime Island resident whose family stretches back a few generations on the Vineyard, was planning to demolish the 812-square-foot, one-story Curtis Lane home in Edgartown that he grew up in to make way for a roomier modular home when someone suggested he try giving the home away for free to anyone who could move it.
“I said, Sure, why not? If someone else can utilize the house, it’s well worth keeping the history of the house,” he said.
Willoughby was born and raised by his parents in the home, along with his two other brothers.
The home was originally built in the early 1940s. The house grew as the family did, with additions added in the ’50s and the ’60s.
Willoughby’s father, who was a commercial fisherman and longtime Edgartown Post Office employee, dug out the basement for the house, with some help from the kids.
“The little sand pails you see with kids at the beaches, we used to take those, and he’d fill them and we’d dump them out in the yard,” Willoughby said. “He gave us 10 cents a pail for helping.”
The Willoughby family got help from neighbors too, who pitched in to build the home. While the home is old, Willoughby says, the structure is in good solid condition. “They all helped build this house; [my father] helped build four or five houses in the neighborhood,” he said.
Willoughby has fond memories of growing up in the home, such as learning to open scallops with his father in the basement.
So far Willoughby has gotten eight calls of interest, with three people — one each in Edgartown, West Tisbury, and Vineyard Haven — who have shown a particularly strong interest in finding out what permits to get and who could move the home. He said he’s still open to taking calls, too.
Willoughby purchased the house from his parents’ estate when they passed away, and rented it out for several years to cover the mortgage, taxes, and water bill. It wasn’t until two years ago that he began looking at a modular home to put on the property. “I wasn’t trying to make a killing or a profit. I wanted to make it an affordable place for someone who was working here and needed an affordable place,” he said.
Robert Hayden, a Barnstable-based building mover who does work on the Island, checked out the house and told The Times his rough estimate for moving it, without having seen the basement, would be around $25,000, and there’s a strong possibility it could be relocated. He said the home is about 23 feet wide and 15 feet tall.
“It won’t be $50,000 and it won’t be $10,000,” Hayden said. “There’s some possibilities at 23 feet. There would be some tight spots. At 28 feet, I’d say no.”
Additionally, whoever moved the home would need over-the-road permits for the number of towns it would go through, which Hayden can get, and building permits. He said one difficulty he faces now is the lack of availability of utility companies.
Nantucket has a local bylaw that applies to any structure scheduled for demolition. If there’s no need for an immediate demolition and the building can be reused, the town requires owners to place an ad in the newspaper to make the home available to anyone able to move it at their cost.
With a white-hot real estate market on the Island, several real estate agents have told Willoughby they could have the property sold in one to two weeks, but he wants to live in Edgartown, and would like to see the home go to a family or someone working on the Island: “I’m the type of person that if I can help somebody, I’ll help them. The need for housing around here is really outrageous, and the prices people are getting for housing is outrageous.”