Assessed at nearly $1 million prior to the 2013 flood, a High River estate home could be yours for as little as a few thousand dollars.
The two-storey, red brick home at 1577 Gascony Lane is one of 26 houses being auctioned off by the province with no reserve bid in place, as it tries to unload several properties salvaged from the devastating deluge. As of Tuesday, the highest bid on the 5,400 sq.-ft. estate sat at a mere $3,000.
Which could mean bidders could be in for a steal of a real estate deal, with one not-so-small catch: Successful bidders have 160 days from the auction’s closing to relocate the properties so the province can remediate the flood-impacted land.
Also, the properties are sold as is, though each comes with a thorough structural and environmental assessment by the province.
“We wanted to give people the opportunity to purchase these homes that were deemed structurally salvageable,” said Alberta Infrastructure spokesman Dallas Huybregts.
“We also wanted to make sure the interests of the Alberta taxpayers were met so we’re looking to recover whatever money we could from these structures.”
Prior to the June 2013 flood, the affluent neighbourhood on High River’s west side brimmed with life. Today the area is a virtual ghost town, its remaining homes boarded up, a rocky levee blocking the road that once connected the community to the rest of the town south of Calgary. On one roof, someone has scrawled in blue spray paint the Donald Trump rallying cry “Make America great again.”
A quick scan of the available properties, of which 25 are in and around flood-ravaged High River and another in Sundre, shows a range of housing types, with a handful of rustic rural properties and modest family dwellings mingled with large and well-appointed estate homes. Most of the properties are in the High River community of Beachwood Estates, an area determined to be in the flood plain of the Highwood River.
Bids on the properties are also wide ranging, with some bids barely scraping over $100 on Tuesday, with a high water mark coming in at $6,500.
Under the province’s Floodway Relocation Program, some 94 properties were acquired by the province, which shelled out $92.9 million to displaced homeowners. Of those, 54 were slated for demolition with the 26 now up for auction considered salvageable. Another 14 properties, all in High River, are awaiting a decision on their ultimate fate.
Paul McCann, owner of McCann’s Building Movers in Calgary, said phone calls and emails from “tire kickers” have been pouring in since the government posted the auction on its surplus website.
But given the complexity, he noted some prospective homeowners may be in for more than they bargained for.
“They look good on paper, but when you get down to it you’re gonna have to put a lot of lipstick on these to get them to living condition,” McCann said.
“We’re telling people who want to get quotes to make sure they read the terms and conditions and do your due diligence.”
In addition to winning bidders agreeing to relocate the properties within 160 days, payment must be made to the province with 45 days, along with a refundable $20,000 moving security deposit.
McCann said costs for moving homes a moderate distance can range anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000, but the High River homes in question will in almost all cases need to have their roofs removed for the move, adding to the price tag. Prospective property owners will also have to shell out to power line companies to raise the lines for the move, a factor that will further inflate the cost.
All in, he said the final cost could easily run into the six digits. He added that in his company’s assessment, at least 20 per cent of the properties aren’t moveable at all.
Huybregts said the province had previously made a dozen of the properties available for purchase by public tender last August, and though three bids were offered, they were later rescinded, prompting the province to post them as surplus properties with no reserve.
He noted there’s already been significant interest with a public showing of the homes in January, and another will be held Feb. 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those interested in the viewings are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time.
Once the properties have been moved, Huybregts said the province will return the land to the condition of the natural surroundings, removing remaining utilities and filling in basements.
“Our intention is to return it to a flood plain natural state and remove as many of the remaining homes from the area as possible,” he said.
The auction closes Feb. 17.