When Christine Gorman and her husband, John, bought the house next door to them in Shepherd Park Plaza, they initially thought they would renovate it. However, the home’s condition made that option unfeasible.
But Gorman did not want to just raze it.
“We heard about someone who had done a deconstruction project with Habitat for Humanity, so we looked into it,” Gorman said. “After a lot of research, we decided to sign on.”
The Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County Deconstruction program allows for homeowners to recycle their house and get a tax deduction on the reclaimed items that can be used for other homes.
But the process is complex. The Gormans first hired an appraiser and walked through the house with him and a Habitat representative to get an idea of the expenses they would incur as well as the value of the recycled items.
Their agreement was one of the 50/50 options that Habitat offers. The one they selected gave them more responsibility on the front end to maximize their return on the back end.
The Gormans took care of the perimeter fence and rented a portable toilet for the workers. They also paid CenterPoint to cap the gas but went through Habitat to cap the water and sewer lines, because it was more affordable than through a plumber or builder.
A $10,000 tax-deductible payment to Habitat helped fund the laborers who then went to work deconstructing the house.
Gorman said she was amazed at how much the crew was able to recover.
“There was something happening every day once they got started,” she said. “They took the kitchen sink, the stove, the cabinets and the furnace in the attic as well as the garage door, the windows and all the copper wire. They took the brick and wrapped it in pallets and even recycled the concrete from the driveway and the freon from the air conditioner and the fridge. I had no idea that you could divert that much stuff from a landfill.”
While the initial estimate of their tax benefit will decrease a bit because of the rotting wood in the house, the appraiser estimated between $80,000-$120,000 in tax deductions based on the initial look.
Habitat ReStore Development Director Kenneth Kinard said the bulk of their deconstruction inquires come from “word of mouth” advertising from their 500-plus previous deconstruction clients.
“Our deconstruction program successfully completes between 65-95 projects per year in the Greater Houston area, including Houston, Cypress, Conroe, Katy and Sugar Land,” he said. “Deconstruction offers a wonderful opportunity to help families in need of decent housing while also protecting the local environment. An additional benefit is that the reclaimed materials are tax deductible to the property owner as allowed by law.”
Depending on the deconstruction option the property owner selects, there is a checklist of deconstruction prerequisites.
“A number of these items are required even if the property owner went the route of traditional demolition,” Kinard said.
The materials from deconstruction projects can be found at Habitat’s ReStore located at 13350 Jones Rd. Additionally, beginning in 2016, deconstruction projects started supplying Habitat homes with the bricks needed for construction.
Kinard said to date, their deconstruction program has kept 150,000 tons out of the landfill. This includes recycled concrete and brick reclamation.
That kind of environmental benefit, along with the financial one, was a draw to Gorman.
“It was time-consuming, but we had the luxury of time,” she said.
Chris Gerace, who along with his wife, Kelley, also deconstructed their home in Candlelight Place before building a new one on the same lot, said they did not regret the decision.
“It was our first house and we loved it,” he said. “We wanted more space and rebuilding was about the same cost as remodeling. We wanted to make sure other people could benefit from it.”
Added Gorman: “It is not a one size fits all. You have to decide how much it is worth to you.”
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