Real Estate in King County
Chad and Cyndi Ohrt
206-317-4847206-317-4847
logo-icon

Real Estate in King County
Working together to achieve your dreams!

Houseboats and Floating Homes: Pros and Cons of Living on the Water

Singer Otis Redding sat on the dock of the bay, wrote a song about it, and made millions of dollars. What his song didn’t tell us, however, is that he was sitting on a docked houseboat in Sausalito, Calif., and the “bay” is Richardson Bay. Houseboat living was definitely the inspiration for the singer’s all-time biggest hit.

People all over the world live on boats – from fishing trawlers to yachts – but the houseboats most popular in the United States are flat-bottomed and “designed to be floating cottages,” according to Jennie L. Phipps, writing for Bankrate.com.

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of being lulled to sleep by lapping water, greeted good morning by a cawing gull, and fishing from your bedroom window, a houseboat or floating home may just be a dream come true.

What’s the Difference?

Though most floating homes are called houseboats, there is a difference between the two. A houseboat is capable of leaving the dock under power. “It must have seaworthy hulls, engines and navigational equipment, in addition to meeting U.S. Coast Guard standards for flotation, fuel, and electrical and ventilation systems,” according to Scot Meyer, writing for MSN Real Estate.

A floating home, on the other hand, isn’t considered a water vessel, but a structure built on a floating apparatus, according to Curbed Seattle’s Sean Keeley.

Since even the owners of floating homes typically refer to them as houseboats, we shall too.

Advantages of Living on the Water

There are lots of advantages to living on a houseboat. In some parts of the country, a houseboat isn’t considered real property, so you won’t be paying property taxes. In others it may be considered personal property, and you’ll be levied a small personal property tax annually. Still others differentiate between floating homes, which they tax as real property, and houseboats, which are taxed as personal property. Your real estate agent can let you know the rules in your area.

You also won’t need a gardener or a snow shovel when you live on the water. Plus, you are guaranteed a water view and nobody can build anything that will block that view.

The interest on your loan payment is tax deductible as long as the houseboat is considered a qualified residence, meaning that it is either a first or second home and has a toilet, sleeping areas and cooking facilities.

Disadvantages of Houseboat Life

You may escape the dreaded annual property tax bill by living on a houseboat, but you’ll pay other associated fees, and some of them, depending on where you live, can be significant.

Mooring fees – what you’ll pay for the privilege to dock your floating home – come in two flavors. The first is the basic monthly rental fee and the second is the homeowner’s association fee.

The mooring fee is payment for the actual slip and generally includes utility costs, such as garbage collection, electricity and water. Depending on where you live, the “landlord” may pay taxes and insurance for the moorage and to maintain the common areas.

If the community is managed by a homeowners association, you will most likely pay more at first and then less of a mooring fee on a monthly basis. This is because you’ll generally purchase the slip and won’t be paying rent for it. Though you’ll pay more in the beginning for this setup, if your state taxes your floating home as real property, your annual tax bill will be lower because you’ll only pay taxes on the actual home. The slip isn’t assessed as real property.

Of course, all of this depends on where you moor your houseboat. Even within one city, each facility may have its own set of fees.

Finally, homeowners insurance is more expensive for a houseboat than a land-based home.

The Purchase Process

Financing a houseboat may be challenging, depending on where you live. Interest rates vary by lender but tend to be higher for houseboats than for land-based properties.

The home inspection is also significantly different for houseboats. You’ll need a marine survey, which includes inspection of the hull and the interior. The dive survey can be pricey.

Where to Live

Houseboats are most popular on the Pacific Coast. Sausalito and Mount Shasta in California; Seattle, Wash.; and Portland, Ore., all have floating home communities. The average list price for a Sausalito floating home is over $850,000. In Seattle, look for an average list price of a little over $615,000, and in Portland houseboats range in price from $40,000 to $680,000.

You’ll also find houseboats and floating homes on the Great Lakes, in Kentucky on Lake Cumberland, Lake Travis in Texas, Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico and along the East and Gulf coasts.

Living on the water affords a unique and serene lifestyle, but it does require adjustment. Houseboats are more exposed to the elements than land-based homes, so they require a new set of maintenance tasks. However, many people who choose this lifestyle say that they wouldn’t trade the views and the camaraderie that develops with other houseboat dwellers for anything.

Here are a few houseboats and floating homes currently for sale in the Seattle Area:

LAKE UNION

3304 Fuhrman Ave E, Unit 10, Seattle, WA 98102 (MLS # 835115)

(all data current as of 8/21/2019)

Listing provided by Special Agents Realty, sold by Pure Real Estate

Price $168,000
Beds 1
Baths 1 three-quarter
Home size 390 sq ft
Lot Size 429 sqft
Days on Market 41
Status Sold
Listing provided by Special Agents Realty, sold by Pure Real Estate
Welcome aboard "Skinny Minnie" Houseboat in tucked away secluded liveaboard, under University Bridge on private wide dock shared w/one houseboat neighbor. A charming Haggard Seattle Houseboat built w/concrete hull. Rare getaway, bring your toys, paddle board & kayaks. Queen size sleeping berth, small shower/bath, nice sized kitchen, half size fridge, built-in dining bench & stone propane fireplace, a signature feature of the builder. 33'X13", slip rental $500+electricity. Financing available.

Property Type(s): Residential

Last Updated 9/29/2015 Tract n/a
Year Built 2007 Community Eastlake
Garage Spaces n/a County King
Total Parking n/a Walk Score ® 77

Location

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

(view all details for MLS #835115)

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 834262 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

2019 Fairview Ave E, Unit D, Seattle, WA 98102 (MLS # 823234)

(all data current as of 8/21/2019)

Listing provided by Windermere Real Estate Co., sold by Windermere R.E. Northeast, Inc

Price $677,500
Beds 2
Baths 1 full
Home size 1,300 sq ft
Lot Size 1,300 sqft
Days on Market 81
Status Sold
Listing provided by Windermere Real Estate Co., sold by Windermere R.E. Northeast, Inc
Look no further. You've just discovered the quintessential Eastlake Floating Home. The massive float size is perfect to entertain on your south facing deck. One bedroom & one smaller. Third room for another bedroom, office or den. Newly remodeled kitchen, with gas range, stainless steel appliances, and granite counter tops. Well established Log Foundation Co-op. Great location to enjoy all the Eastlake activities. Moorage with co-op approval. Welcome Home!

Property Type(s): Residential

Last Updated 10/13/2015 Tract n/a
Year Built 1930 Community Eastlake
Garage Spaces n/a County King
Total Parking n/a Walk Score ® 77

Location

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

(view all details for MLS #823234)

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 766794 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 823484 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 838278 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.

Chad & Cyndi Ohrt are Real Estate Agents with Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound specializing in Luxury, Waterfront, New Construction and Resell Homes in Seattle, West Seattle, Shorewood, Arbor Heights, Burien, Seahurst, Three Tree Point, Gregory Heights, Normandy Park, Des Moines, Redondo & Federal Way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thinking of Selling?

Contact Us
Interested in selling your home? Contact us to get a professional estimate.
Profile picture for Chad and Cyndi Ohrt
Chad and Cyndi Ohrt
Call: (206) 919-1109

Reviews

5user2493065

We have purchased (2) homes with the Chad and Cyndi. We continue to contact them to keep up on mortgage lending and the general health of the local market. We will use them again in any future real estate needs as well as recommending them to friends. We... (more)

5user7835849

I had the best experience working with the Ohrt's, both Chad and Cyndi. They came to me highly recommended, and I was not disappointed. Their negotiation skills for my new home purchase were excellent and very professional. I have already referred them to... (more)

5user8644680

We have known Chad and Cyndi for ten years and they have always been knowledgeable, responsive and professional. They helped show us homes and put in time to understand what type of home we might be interested in buying. They also were wonderful about... (more)

Review Chad and Cyndi Ohrt on Zillow.com

Twitter Feed