A steel ramp is carefully lowered into place Thursday evening as workers get ready to move another Oak Bay home to a waiting barge in McNeill Bay and it doesn’t take long for a small crowd to gather to watch the spectacle. 

“It’s fun to watch,” says resident Joseph Blake. “That is a good crew!”

Nickel Brothers carefully moved the home through South Oak Bay, rounding sharp corners before finally inching along scenic Beach Drive in what’s becoming an all too common sight in Vancouver Island’s priciest real estate market.

“It’s getting really busy again,” says Tim Connelly of Nickel Brothers. “Lots of people see this as an alternative to building or buying and it’s reasonably affordable for a comparative point of view.”

Nickel Brothers moves more than 100 houses a year.

Many can be bought for less than $100,000 ? far less than the cost to build a new home ? and increasingly, some of the homes being moved are even high-end.

“The houses range in value,” Connelly explains. “We get million dollar houses now that aren’t suitable for people and they want them removed.”

As this older home is delicately driven onto the ramp, it’s a bittersweet moment for the Willard family, who grew up in the home that their parents lived in for more than half a century.

“Definitely bittersweet and breaking all of our hearts,” says Lynn Willard, who watched the house move with her two sisters. “My mom and dad lived in that house for 53-years and to see it leaving Oak Bay definitely brings a tear.”

And they’re not the only ones.

Many people who gathered to watch wondered why so many area homes are being barged to the Gulf and San Juan Islands, Sunshine Coast and other parts of Vancouver Island to make way for redevelopment.

“It’s sad to see another Oak Bay home float away,” says Joseph Blake. “It’s good it’s not knocked down, which usually takes 15 minutes and history is gone, but we can use them here for young families and tradesman.”

As the latest house sails away, it doesn’t yet have a new home to go to.

Officials say it’s likely destined for the Gulf Islands but while it waits for a new owner, it will be at the Nickel Brothers storage facility in Sidney.

Tess van Straaten