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Want a free house? It's your move... literally

  • Princeton University making room for new development
  • Offering several houses for free
  • The catch? You've got to move the house
Want a free house? It's your move... literally

Despite signs the housing market is on the rebound, there are still great deals to be had around the country. But one deal in New Jersey stands out -- if you're up for a really big move.

Princeton University is trying to get rid of several houses on a street near campus, to make room for a new mixed-use development. Instead of paying to have the houses demolished, the university is taking a left-field approach; it's giving them away.

I know what you're thinking -- there must be a catch. You'd be right.

For starters, the houses can't stay where they are. So anyone who buys one has to move it. And that is an expensive and potentially risky proposition.

Depending on what part of the country you're in, moving a 2,000 square foot, wood-frame house with a basement could cost around $20,000, says Rick Goodwin of Goodwin House Movers, a fifth-generation, family-owned business in Washington, Iowa. The price tag can range much higher, up to $60,000, if the house is on a slab.

And that's just the basic cost. The height of the house and pitch of the roof may dictate that electrical wires need to be raised for the house to pass. The cost to raise the wires, which is determined by your local utility, can be "from nominal to a deal breaker," Goodwin says. And, depending on how wide or tall your house is, trees, lights poles and traffic signals can become an issue. (Remember when they moved the Space Shuttle Endeavor?)

But wait, there's more. A Princeton spokesman told ABC News the houses aren't in move-in condition. So, once the house is moved to where you want it, you'd have to spend an unknown amount of money to rehab it.

Still, even including the price of a lot to put the house on, the total cost of moving a house to a new location can come in well under the cost of building a new house or buying an existing one.

At Princeton, the spokesman says there's been some interest, but so far no one has committed to taking one of the houses and moving it. The university says the houses need to be moved by the end of April.

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