MARCO ISLAND — A Marco Island businessman is giving new meaning to the word freebie.
For three days, he ran this advertisement in the Naples Daily News under free merchandise: “Free empty house on Marco. You remove from lot.”
He’s gotten dozens of calls, but no takers yet. While the home is free, it could be quite costly and complicated to move.
The offer comes from Bill Schmitz, who originally planned to renovate the 1,500-square-foot home, which has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
After getting caught up in permitting, he decided to try giving the house away.
First, he started the job without permits. It led to a stop work order.
After applying for permits, he learned the home had to be his primary residence if he was going to renovate it as an unlicensed contractor. He then found out he wouldn’t be able to sell the home right away after he completed the work as the “owner-builder.”
He said he was told by a clerk in the city’s permitting office that he would have to wait at least two years to sell the home, according to Florida law.
“I said, ‘That’s ridiculous,’” said Schmitz. “That’s when I walked out of the office shaking my head.”
Schmitz owns a cruise travel business on the island and an insurance agency in Chicago. He’s lived on Marco full-time since 1990.
Since placing his ad, he’s received more than 40 calls. The house is at 1358 Jamaica Lane.
On Monday, one curious man took a quick look at the outside of the home, built by Deltona in 1970. He quickly got back in his car. “It’s too much for me man,” he told Schmitz. “I was just thinking about building a garage.”
Schmitz took the opportunity to make a sales pitch, saying he’d take $305,000 if the man wanted the home and its oversized lot. There was no interest.
If Schmitz doesn’t find a taker soon he plans to just demolish the house, which will cost him about $10,000.
“It’s a shame to destroy it if you don’t have to,” said Schmitz, 65.
He’s returned about $9,000 worth of materials to Home Depot after giving up on his renovation project. He plans to sell furniture that his wife bought to decorate the home when it was finished.
Hiring a contractor to take over the remodeling job would be just too expensive and he doesn’t want to live in the house, which he bought as an investment to help out a friend, he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with this house,” Schmitz said. “This reminds me of a house on the (TV show) ‘Golden Girls.’”
Some might disagree. The house still needs a lot of fixing up. Drywall has to be put in. Sinks, tubs and toilets need to be installed. Electrical wiring must still be redone.
In a back room there are new kitchen cabinets, which he now plans to resell. The old ones have been scrapped.
However, he points out that the windows and garage doors are only five years old and the roof was replaced 10 years ago. The home was built with 4-by-8-foot sheets of cedar paneling inside and outside. “It’s really good wood. The 2-by-4s inside are all cypress, which you don’t find anymore.”
He said the home would be easy to take apart and put back together again somewhere else. He said it probably couldn’t be moved across the Marco bridge in one piece because of its size.
But there could be zoning and permit issues in its new location. The new owner might have to pay impact fees for roads, parks and other community needs, just like they would for a new home.
Eric Wardle, chief of code compliance for Marco Island, said Schmitz didn’t have permits for the electrical and plumbing work that he did. He said someone reported that he was doing the work without the proper permits and that raised serious concerns.
“If something isn’t done right it can lead to electrocution and fires,” he said. “It can lead to people dying.”
He said he couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to move the house to another location.
Tom Doyle, president of Flint & Doyle Structural Movers in Fort Myers, said it’s possible to move the home slab and all.
“Anything can be moved,” he said.
He said if it couldn’t make it over the Marco bridge “we can barge it.”
“Most probably it has to stay on Marco to make it financially feasible,” Doyle said.
The move could get very costly if it stays intact. He estimates that it would cost $100,000. That would not include the cost to finish the renovation.
“That makes it less desirable to move it,” Doyle said.
These days, he said, he doesn’t move a lot of homes with such a dramatic drop in prices over the past few years.
“In today’s market with so many foreclosures it’s almost stupid to buy a house and move it,” Doyle said. “You can buy new houses so damn cheap.”