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When it comes to a house, mover says you can take it with you


To Rick Impallaria, a house is just like a car.

At least that's how the 29-year-old Aberdeen resident, in the process of starting up his own body shop in Joppa, explains his other new business venture -- sawing houses in half and moving them to new locations.

"I used to read the Bargaineer looking for cars to buy and repair," he said. "One day I saw an ad that said a house had to be dismantled and moved, and I thought, 'Why not? All it is, really, is a big car frame.' "

That was six years ago, and since then he's moved three other houses, including the one he now lives in with his wife, Sherry, a native of Rochester, N.Y. The couple had been living in Rochester in the beginning of the year, but moved to Aberdeen this summer because Mr. Impallaria, who lived in Joppa as a young man, wanted to return to Harford County.

Despite the complications of moving here and starting a new auto body repair shop, Mr. Impallaria decided that this summer also was a good time to begin building a market for his house-moving service.

"With the rubble fills closing up, where are you going to put the pieces of a house that's been demolished?" said Mr. Impallaria, referring to the state's recent closing of Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc.'s rubble fill, which has left Harford with only one rubble dump.

"It's also expensive to tear down a house," he said. "They knocked down a house down the street and the Dumpster fees alone were $2,000."

That cost-savings argument appeals to Aberdeen officials, who may become his next customer.

Two houses stand in the way of a planned $1 million senior center.

"Only one of the two, a Cape Cod, is salvageable, but it would cost about $8,500 if they tear it down instead," said Mr. Impallaria, who has offered to buy the house and move it for $1. The other house cannot be moved because the walls are set directly on a concrete slab instead of flooring, he said.

Mayor Ruth Elliott said city officials plan to meet with Mr. Impallaria next week to review his proposal, but added she liked the idea.

Usually, Mr. Impallaria said, his customers aren't so easily persuaded that moving is the best way to go.

In fact, the city itself was a hard sell when he moved the first house to Aberdeen six years ago.

"People look at you like you're crazy," he said. "When I moved the first house, I thought my parents were going to have me locked up. It was also a hassle with the first one to convince the town of Aberdeen it would be good to have the house in the town. But I tell people it's really just like a modular home."

But he says his idea of moving houses is not a new one.

"It was especially popular in Colonial days when building materials were hard to come by," said Mr. Impallaria. "I found a book at the University of Maryland library and you wouldn't believe some of the things they've done. In one town in the Midwest when they were choosing a county seat there was some corruption. When the people found out about it they picked up the courthouse and moved it 30 miles to another town. That book taught me a lot."

His own two-bedroom Cape Cod is an example of how he put that knowledge to work.

He spotted the house, which used to be located at the corner of Route 22 and Fountain Green Road, where an Exxon station now stands, and noticed it was vacant.

Then he called company officials and after three months of dickering, bought his house for $1 and moved it for $20,000. The lot and foundation were the only additional costs.

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