It was an unusual ad, even for Craigslist: a free farmhouse in rural Iowa.
The white house with a wraparound porch was slated to be torn down this winter, but not if owner Roger Dolecheck could find a taker first. He had painstakingly restored the house to its early-20th-century grandeur and raised his children there. But then, he built a new house on his land. So, he wanted to find new owners to love the old house as much as he did.
He tried for three years, intermittently posting his offer on the online classified site. Last month, the ad got picked up by the Des Moines Register and quickly went viral.
Dolecheck got some 500 inquiries. And Jeff Dooley, a professional house flipper from Anoka, became the lucky recipient of the farmhouse.
The only catch: He'll have to move it.
Dooley's family owns land just 12 miles from Dolecheck's, 90 miles south of Des Moines, close to the Missouri border. Though he grew up in Minnesota, Dooley has fond memories of summers and falls spent on the land hunting and fishing, and of Christmases there with his grandfather.
"I think the house will look perfect there," he said.
Dooley still visits the farm to mow and look after the land. But the farmhouse that once stood on the property was torn down years ago. A barn that's still standing is in dire need of repair.
"I want to get the barn redone, have the old farmhouse there, and get it back to how it used to look," said Dooley. "I think that's what my grandpa would have wanted."
Dooley expects it to cost between $25,000 and $40,000 to move the house to his land. He plans to put in a foundation with a full basement, plus a new roof and a new coat of paint.
"Nothing I can't handle," he said.
Dolecheck, who fielded calls about the house from three states away, is happy to see it stay close to home. He'd tried to get it moved to the nearest town, then to a historic farm village nearby. But the plans always fell through.
"I had a little attachment to the house, so I was glad that somebody wanted to live in it yet," he said.
Dooley found out about the free house from an Iowa neighbor, who knew he had been on the hunt for something that could resemble the original farmhouse his grandfather had torn down. He drove down the next morning, met Dolecheck, and made the deal. Another prospective taker had even offered Dolecheck cash for the house, but Dolecheck told Dooley, "I'm a man of my word. It's free." Dooley did write him a check, however, for the new air conditioner and the furnace.
Dooley expects to get the house moved to his property as soon as mid-February.
"We're gonna keep it in the family forever," he said. "I think Grandpa would be pretty proud."
Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853