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Hamptons Life

Oct 15, 2009 1:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Free house up for grabs in North Haven

Oct 15, 2009 1:14 PM

A free house in North Haven−what’s the catch?

There is no catch, according to owner Gayle Ratcliffe and her partner, Kevin Leavay. The couple is desperate to give away the 2,000-square-foot, two-story Sears kit home on Ferry Road—a cherished family heirloom for Ms. Ratcliffe—in order to save it from demolition.

Ms. Ratcliffe, whose grandparents Stefania and John Kondratowicz built the house from a mail-order kit from Sears in the early 1920s, has owned the house for going on three decades. She and her former husband, Bob, purchased the house—which used to be part of a working poultry farm back in her grandparents’ day—from her family approximately 25 years ago.

But Ms. Ratcliffe and Mr. Leavay decided late last year to start building their dream home on the North Haven property she owns, a move that necessitates tearing down the memory-filled home where Ms. Ratcliffe spent many a holiday with her family.

“We would have Polish Christmas Eve here with eels and traditional Polish food,” Ms. Ratcliffe reminisced during a recent interview. “We’d used hay as the table ... That’s how I remember this house as a child.”

The couple, who met three years ago, decided about a year and a half ago to both sell their homes and buy a new house together. Although Mr. Leavay’s Southold home sold fairly quickly, Ms. Ratcliffe’s house and just over 3-acre lot, listed for $2.4 million, languished on the market for eight months with no bids.

“The initial plan was that we would both try to sell our houses and live in the one, temporarily, that sold last,” Mr. Leavay said, about the plan, which would allow the two to pool their money to buy a new house together. But he said the sluggish economy, and the continued high prices of East End homes, changed his and Ms. Ratcliffe’s plans.

After shopping around and exploring the houses for sale in the villages of North Haven and Sag Harbor, the couple—he’s a retired teacher and coach from the Southold School District and she’s a math teacher at East Hampton Middle School—quickly saw that the most economical choice would most likely be to build on the property that Ms. Ratcliffe already owns.

The only problem was that although they received permission from the village of North Haven to build on the lot, there can be only one certificate of occupancy on the property, according to Mr. Leavay.

“We have a variance here to build and live,” he said. “But they will not issue another C of O unless this house is destroyed.”

Mr. Leavay estimated that he and Ms. Ratcliffe have until just after the first of the coming year to give the house away, which is when he estimates their newer, bigger digs will be completed. Ground was broken on the 4,200-square-foot house, currently being built on the property just behind the older structure, last April.

Ms. Ratcliffe explained that giving away a house isn’t as easy as it sounds. She said that although she and Mr. Leavay have tried to spread the word in order to find someone to take it, the logistics and cost of moving the house make it difficult for potential recipients.

According to Ms. Ratcliffe, the most interest she and Mr. Leavay have received to date about the house is when they held a yard sale in July and advertised their intentions.

“We made a big poster that said ‘free house,’” she laughed. “It generated a lot of inquiries but no takers.”

Ms. Ratcliffe reported that in the last few months, she has also received a number of phone calls from people in neighboring communities, but that nothing has panned out. The couple is now in the process of giving away the rest of furniture in the house not slated to be used in their new home, including an original pink horsehair-stuffed couch purchased by Ms. Ratcliffe’s grandmother decades ago.

“I love it, but boy is it heavy,” Ms. Ratcliffe remarked.

Still, Ms. Ratcliffe is steadfast in her resolve to save her family home before times runs out and she has to demolish it, she said.

“Everywhere we go, we tell people about this ... At Provisions for breakfast, at the store, everywhere. People react very positively,” she said before pausing. “Then the logistics kick in.”

Although Ms. Ratcliffe reported that she and Mr. Leavay are absolutely ready to gift the house, there will still be costs associated, mainly those to physically haul it away, in addition to owning a piece of land to put the house on.

Guy Davis, the owner of Davis Construction Building Movers in Westhampton Beach, said the cost of moving a two-story house can quickly turn into a higher four-figure, and maybe even a six-figure, price tag because the height of the house adds extra moving challenges.

“General ballpark, it costs in the $35,000 to $45,000 range to move a house,” Mr. Davis reported during a telephone interview last week. He said that it costs more to move a two-story structure than a one-story building because of the height, which necessitates working with local utilities—such as the Long Island Power Authority, Verizon and Comcast—to “drop the wires” and then reinstall them.

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I wonder if their dream home is a McMansion.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 15, 09 9:57 PM
If it means that much to you then why don't you just stay there? You should be happy with it. If it has so many happy memories then why isn't it your "dream house/" Also, pay all the expenses to have it moved, someone will take it. Life is full of compromises, I think you need to make some.
By local (106), north sea on Oct 16, 09 5:35 PM
Nothing can replace an old home full of memories. I'm sure her family isn't happy with this decision. Maybe her boyfriend wants the McMansion. This idea does not sound like Gayle.
By nurse (53), sag harbor on Oct 17, 09 1:58 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By nurse (53), sag harbor on Oct 17, 09 2:02 AM
Another short-sighted policy decision by a myopic municipality.

That house is a pre-existing affordable housing unit. Why not grant a special exception, and allow them to rent it to a local family? Why not allow the house and the land it sits on to be donated to Habitat and given away?

No, they can only sit there, and count their beans (CO's). Much the same thing happened to us in Southampotn Village--the owner was given permission to subdivide only if he would give up ...more
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Oct 17, 09 11:22 AM
OMG look at the photos. Only in the town of Southampton would that be a tear down.

What criminal negligence on the part of local government.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Oct 17, 09 11:24 AM
yes, the last 2 comments make so much sense. this town certainly needs to get their priorities straight. What are they thinking?
By local (106), north sea on Oct 18, 09 9:35 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By local one, E.Hampton on Oct 18, 09 8:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By dianerocks (2), westhampton beach on Oct 18, 09 10:13 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By local one, E.Hampton on Oct 19, 09 2:34 PM
Well...if it needs to be dimantled...I would surely love some kitchen cabinets that are newer than the 60 year old ones falling apart in my house...and an updated refrigerator, washer & dryer...I don't have tens of thousands to move a whole house, but would love pieces of one! ...windows, doors...
By mjb (14), This Island on Oct 19, 09 4:56 PM
and it would actually be to update the home my grandfather built...where we had our Christmases & "Polish Easters" with babka & kielbasa!
By mjb (14), This Island on Oct 19, 09 4:58 PM
and that should have been "dismantled"
By mjb (14), This Island on Oct 20, 09 4:31 PM
Amazing - here's a couple doing a nice thing - offering to give a very old house away for free, yet most of the comments have the "the glass is half empty" spin. They could have avoided this negativity by just knocking it down; rather, they chose the high road. BTW - there is no McMansion involved.
Good for you Gayle and Kevin !
By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Oct 22, 09 6:15 AM
Why not move the house to one of the 72H lots received from the county?
The Sears houses are beautiful, and may be seen on several lots in Eastport. They are old, but treasured as 1930's architecture. It may be cheaper to move it instead of building a new house.
Too bad one of the historical societies doesn't grab up this house.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 09 1:16 PM
How can we talk about the house.I'm intresting...
By Palo. (3), east hampton on Oct 22, 09 4:49 PM
Can anybody give me information how to gwt in touch with the oweners???
By Palo. (3), east hampton on Oct 25, 09 12:54 AM
You can contact gmarieast@yahoo.com
By gayle (1), Sag Harbor on Oct 30, 09 10:00 AM