Catawba County bail bondsman Ben Huss didn't really need a four-story "mini-castle" on Hatteras Island.
He already had smaller houses in Newton and on Lake Norman.
But the beachfront residence he'd seen in the 2008 movie "Nights in Rodanthe" with Richard Gere captured his imagination.
"It hooked me," said Huss, 60, of Newton. "I knew this was my dream house."
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When he drove six hours to the Outer Banks for a look at the real thing he got a double surprise. Hollywood crews had stripped the blue shutters, decks and other trappings added for the movie. And water surged all around it.
"It wasn't a house on the ocean," Huss said. "It was a house in the ocean."
Still, his passion for the place didn't cool.
Earlier this month, Huss closed on the six-bedroom, surf-threatened house that had been declared a public nuisance by Dare County. On Jan. 18, he had the structure moved less than a mile south to a lot about 250 feet from the ocean.
Now, he's planning to restore the "Serendipity" house to the way it looked in the movie and have it available as a rental by early May.
Huss said the asking price for the house was $499,000 and he paid $275,000. The new lot cost $190,000, but he didn't want to discuss other costs.
"I've got a bunch of money tied up in this," he said. "I can't afford to live there. I've got to rent it."
Based on a novel by author Nicholas Sparks of New Bern, the movie starring Gere and Diane Lane spun a romantic tale of a man and woman who met by chance at an ocean inn during a storm.
Only exterior shots of the Rodanthe house were used in the movie; interiors were filmed in a house at Topsail Beach.
Huss first connected with "Nights in Rodanthe" in December 2008 when his wife, Debra, gave him a four-pack of movies based on Sparks' books.
The story fascinated Huss. The scene where Gere pulled up in front of "Serendipity" as sand blew across the windshield "gave me cold chills," he said. "It was an old-fashioned, modern-day love story."
Old-fashioned things appealed to him. Huss enjoys fixing up old houses and collecting classic cars.
"Nights in Rodanthe" touched the romantic streak in him. He had to have the movie house on the Outer Banks.
Built in 1988, the house became a big tourist draw after the movie came out, according to Martha Caldwell of Rodanthe.
She runs a convenience store near the place and people often stop for directions to the home they don't recognize in its stripped-down state.
"It got to where I could tell what they were going to ask before they asked," said Caldwell, 44, who grew up on Rodanthe. "I'm happy they're moving the house. It'll be a landmark for us."
Former owners Michael and Susan Creasy of Champion, Pa., bought the house on Hatteras Island in 2003 and hoped to hang on to it.
"It was quite a place," said Michael Creasy, 54. "Absolutely fabulous."
But he said that over time Hurricane Isabel and various nor'easters eroded the 400 feet of beachfront.
Moving the structure wasn't an option "because of financial reasons," Creasy said.
When Dare County declared the residence a public nuisance because the septic system had washed away "we appealed but it never got to an appeal hearing because we sold it," Creasy said.
Under the terms of the sale, Creasy said he and his wife can stay at the house a week for each of the next five years. "We still call it home," he said.
Inside and out, Huss plans to restore his movie house to the way he remembers in "Nights in Rodanthe."
He and his wife may spend a week or two there every year, but the challenge is keeping it full of renters.
The whole thing is a big gamble, but Huss said, "I'm a gray-headed, professional risk-taker. I take a chance every time I sign somebody's bond and hope they show up in court."
His newly acquired beach house has no historical or architectural significance. It's all about make-believe. But Huss said, "I guess I'm a make-believe guy."