Marmaduke Mortgage (note: not his real name) received an offer he thought was too good to be true: Buy a nice house for only $10,000.

Here was a middle-aged man with his own mortgage free and clear. But with two daughters approaching that dreaded “college” age, Marmaduke began to think about “free money.” Invest 10 grand in the house, rent it out and draw that extra income sure to come in handy when tuition time came around.

Oh, poor Marmaduke. He should have known there’s no such thing as “free” when it comes to home ownership.

The house itself was fine, although it needed a new roof. The catch – the house had to be moved from its current location. So Marmaduke, who already owned a vacant lot, asked a professional house mover to bid on the job. The moving price was $10,000. Marmaduke and his wife talked things over and agreed that $20,000 for a house is still a heck of a deal. Contracts were signed. Handshakes all around. Marmaduke began dreaming of life as a landlord.

Then his dreams were sliced to ribbons.

“The mover showed me where he thought he could cut the house here and there, and I just listened,” Marmaduke remembered. “I agreed, thinking cutting the house would be like a finely tuned surgery…Then they fired up the chain saws.”

The house was drawn and quartered in no time, loaded on trucks and sent on its merry way. The movers erred a bit, though, and had to do some more cutting to get under a few bridges and things.

But eventually, the house arrived at its new home.

“I was amazed,” Marmaduke said. “They put the house together, and you could barely slide a quarter in where they had sawed the house.”

Marmaduke was pleased. All he needed now was a new roof, and for his modest investment, he would be rolling in it.

And then it rained. And rained.

The roof leaked. The ceilings soaked through. Some were beyond repair. So Marmaduke and his wife drove out to their new rental property in an effort to save at least one ceiling in the house. They were in the attic, frantically working when they heard a creak.

“What was that?” Marmaduke asked. The answer became clear as Marmaduke and his wife fell through the ceiling and landed on the soaked floor, slimy with wet insulation, sprawled among the ruins of their investment.

Recalled Marmaduke: “We were quiet for a minute. ‘Carol?’ I asked. ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yeah,’ she said. And then we both busted out laughing.”

A blue tarp was over the roof for a while.

“The neighbors got a bit cranky about it,” Marmaduke said.

A new roof was eventually installed, the ceilings were repaired and the house was cleaned up as Marmaduke’s original $10,000 investment began approaching the Gross National Debt.

But, hey, about the time Marmaduke’s oldest daughter entered college, the house was rented out.

Home ownership occasionally does have a happy ending.