The house in the swamp

By Herb Lagois

It was a tough lesson for a couple of homeowners. I’ll never forget it.

It was September and we were building them a home, but they were managing the project themselves. We had been hired just to do the framing and siding.

They were excited about it. They had purchased their lot from the property owners next door, and in the process became fast friends. The friendship was so immediate and comfortable that the homeowners actually lived with their new friends while the house was being built.

The four friends decided to locate the house on the property together. They found the perfect place, on top of a small rise, surrounded by trees, with lots of drainage.

No sooner had we started framing than it started raining. It kept on raining.

Then at last, as we were nearing completion, the weather started to get better. I recall being on the roof. Everyone was so delighted to see the sunshine.

I looked down to see the homeowners walking up the driveway.

It should have been such a happy moment. But when I looked closer, I realized the woman was crying. Tears were streaming down her face.

I climbed down from the roof and met them at the front of the house. I asked the woman what was wrong.

“We have to move,” I thought I heard her say.

“Oh,” I said, now thoroughly confused. “Where are you going?”

 “Not US,” she answered. “We have to move THE HOUSE!”

The house was 80 feet long.

Still in tears, the woman just walked away.

I asked her husband what was going on.

He told me they had received a phone call from their surveyor.

The surveyor said there was good news and bad news. The good news was that the survey was done.

But the bad news? The house was five feet on their neighbour’s property. 

They assumed they’d just purchase the five feet from their friends and they’d be back in business. No big deal.

But there was a catch.

Greed kicked in.

And that meant it was going to be really, REALLY expensive.

It was cheaper to excavate a new hole (which was in a swamp), pour a new foundation (did I mention the house was huge?), cut the trees to move the new house over, then demolish the first foundation.

And by now it was starting to snow.

I never did find out what happened to the friendship, but I could guess.


Herb Lagois is the founder of Lagois Design-Build-Renovate and an Ottawa Renovates columnist.