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The odor of polyurethane was in the air Wednesday at Erie 1 BOCES’ Harkness Career & Technical Center in Cheektowaga, where students applied finishing touches to an annual fundraising project.

Forget the candy bars or inspirational wristbands.

This is an approximately 1,200-square-foot, student-built modular home that is up for auction Friday.

“If you see this house, you would be surprised that twenty 17-year-old boys built it,” said Chris Burgio, the building trades teacher at Harkness.

A second home, measuring approximately 1,300 square feet, is being built by students at BOCES’ Potter Career & Technical Center in West Seneca, where another auction will be held Friday.

Both houses have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and have been inspected by municipal officials. Photos and terms of the auction can be found at www.cashauction.com.

The money raised by the auctions will be used for next year’s projects.

In 1998, a $30,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation funded the first home-building project at Harkness. Since then, 17 homes have been built; 13 there and four at Potter.

The builders are high school seniors.

“It’s a two-year program,” explained Candace Reimer, a BOCES spokeswoman. Students enroll as juniors and spend the first year learning the basics of the trades, which they apply to a small-scale project. “Your senior year, your project is working on the house.”

Burgio, who is co-teaching the program with Mike Hughes, has been in charge of the program at Harkness since 2001. He said seniors spend 2¼ hours every morning working on the house, which was constructed on a parking lot behind the Aero Drive school.

The amount of money raised by the Harkness homes led to the homebuilding project expanding to the Potter site, where the Building Trade program is taught by Dave Grieco and Angelo Daluisio.

Students get to work in September.

“The first day of school, we’re out in the parking lot snapping lines, starting to build the piers,” Burgio said. The two sections are connected by a temporary, four-foot hallway installed between them, and heating during cold-weather months ensures construction continues throughout the school year.

The houses have sold for between $32,000 and $59,000 at auction; last year’s average price was $51,500.

They’ve become home to people throughout the area.

Last year, one house ended up in the Town of Lancaster. Others have gone to the Wyoming County community of Silver Lake, along Pound Road in Marilla and in Gowanda.

“One actually got trailered to Massachusetts a few years ago,” Burgio said. “The guy that bought it told me the house would be worth a quarter-million dollars in Massachusetts.”

That house went for about $35,000, and it probably cost another $35,000 to move it, he said.

Buyers are responsible for moving costs – about $10,000 within a 30-mile radius, as well as other expenses associated with getting the house in move-in condition, including electrical service hookup.

The cost of materials for this year’s build at the Harkness Center came in just shy of $40,000, according to Burgio.

“We just want to get our money back on it,” he said, noting that BOCES officials have the final say on whether a bid is accepted.

Given the resurgence of the housing market, Burgio is hoping to do better than simply cover costs.

“I have a bunch of people that are interested in the house this year,” he said.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com