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Kel and Julie Schevis, owners of a 1843 Greek Revival house in Danvers, listed the building on Craigslist as free to anyone who will come and take it off their property.
Kel and Julie Schevis, owners of a 1843 Greek Revival house in Danvers, listed the building on Craigslist as free to anyone who will come and take it off their property. (Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe)

Free house for those willing to move (it)

DANVERS -- Lots of things in life are free, at least on Craigslist. Futons, tires, haircuts, a massage table, a skateboard ramp, and a cat named George were among the dozens of items being given away just last week on the popular classifieds website.

Oh yes -- and a house in Danvers.

Julie Schevis posted an ad on the website a week ago offering to give away her family's five-bedroom, three-bathroom house.

The catch?

The sturdy white farmhouse, built in 1843, is in need of a new kitchen, updated electrical wiring, plumbing, and other repairs that could cost up to $200,000. The new owner would also have to pay to move the structure, which could add about $50,000 to the bill.

Still, more than 30 interested people had called by yesterday afternoon, including five who have toured the house.

``I've been getting calls nonstop," Schevis said.

``It's funny how many people have called and start laughing, like `Yeah, I'm calling about the free house.' "

Schevis, 44, an administrative assistant, and her husband, Kel, 47, an information technology manager, have started building a home behind their current house for their family of four boys, who range in age from 11 to 20. The Schevises purchased the house and lot on the 100 block of Locust Street -- a prime spot near downtown -- for $445,000 in January , not knowing if they would renovate it or build a new one.

The estimated renovation costs persuaded the family, who moved into the house this month, to build a new $350,000 four-bedroom, four-bathroom house instead. They plan to move into it by the end of the year and would like to have the old house moved next spring.

Tucked beneath a canopy of pine, chestnut, and maple trees, the Greek revival, cottage-style house has peeling white paint and olive and forest green shutters. It retains many original details, including two marble mantles, Lutheran windows with elongated wooden trim, and decorative molding. The two-story house features six original white columns on the wraparound front porch. It is attached to a carriage house and barn, which are not included in the offer.

Selling the house ``is just not something we even talked about doing," Julie Schevis said. ``We figured if someone was going to benefit from getting it, and we're going to benefit from getting rid of it, then it's a win-win situation."

Giving away the house would save the Schevises money because they won't have to pay for demolition.

It would also please the Danvers Preservation Commission, which said the house had historic significance in April, said Jean Marshall , commission chairwoman.

Marshall suggested placing ads in newspapers, but the Schevises turned to Craigslist, which they have used to buy furniture and a grill.

Mike Marshall , 28, scans Craigslist daily and was searching for a lawn mower last week when he spotted the ``FREE HOUSE" link, sandwiched between listings for a free sleeper sofa in Medford and a ``loungey" red couch being given away in North Cambridge.

``I was like, `No way!' so I clicked on it," he said. ``I thought it was a prank, actually. I thought somebody had put somebody else's house up there for free."

Marshall, who owns two acres in Dighton, immediately called Julie Schevis. ``We kind of laughed for a minute and I was like, `Is it really free?' " he said.

Now his biggest concern is how much it would cost to get the house moved to Dighton, where he lives with his fiancee and 7-year-old son in a rented two-bedroom house. He thinks it could be a wise investment.

``If you get a free house, you can dump a lot more money into it than buying a new house," he said.

Micah Tasker , 45, who toured the house Thursday, said he loves the feel of older homes. The Milton, N.H., resident has thought about tearing down his current two-bedroom lakefront cottage to build a home or moving another house onto his property. After a friend e-mailed him the Craigslist link, he said, he thought moving the Schevises' house could be a ``marriage made in heaven."

``What I'm looking for is the character and detail in older homes that if you were to try to replicate it today, would be extraordinarily expensive," said Tasker.

Other calls have come from across Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Norwood resident Bill Brooks called about the house last Tuesday because he is interested in moving to nearby Westwood, where his 6-year-old daughter goes to school. Brooks, 32, and his wife enjoy restoring old houses and think the free house could be a financial steal. He toured the house Friday.

The cost of relocating the house could vary widely, depending on how far it must be moved, said Eddy Couturier , president of Northeast Building Movers Inc. in North Hampton, N.H. A structurally sound house, such as the Schevis's, would be better moved intact than dismantled and rebuilt, he said. Moving the house intact across town would likely cost $40,000 to $50,000, he said.

Other house giveaways have failed because of high moving costs. Five Colonial Revival cottages were offered free by McLean Hospital in Belmont several years ago but attracted no takers, because it would have cost as much as $1 million to relocate each building, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Marshall, the Preservation Commission chairwoman, said that in the past year she urged three other Danvers homeowners to place ads offering their houses for free, but those ads drew no responses and the homeowners ended up demolishing the structures.

``Most people see, `free house,' and think `Oh, that's great,' " she said. ``But once they investigate and see the costs involved in it, that's when the issues come up."

Ideally, the Schevises said, they would like the house to go to a Danvers family who can put some money into sprucing it up, but they just want to make sure they can wave good-bye to it next spring.

Currently, the house is an odd mix of old and new, with tacky 1970s wallpaper and shining new kitchen appliances (which will not be included in the giveaway). Julie Schevis estimated the house could be worth $500,000 to $600,000 if it was in good shape.

``If someone wants the house and wants to give it a new life, then good luck to them," Kel Schevis said. ``At least it will exist somewhere."

Jenna Russell of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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