Houseboats off the NWMLS

Seattle Houseboats, barges and Floating homes — OH MY!

Have you heard the latest news on Seattle Houseboats (or, perhaps the most accurate news, that is)???

For a summary of the definitions of Houseboats, House Barges, and Floating Homes PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Did you notice Houseboats are no longer listed on the NWMLS (Northwest Multiple Listing Service), or did you think there are no houseboats for sale?

On the contrary, there are Seattle Houseboats for sale but they are no longer on the NWMLS nor are they to be sold by Real Estate Brokers! For decades Houseboats were listed on the NWMLS and Real Estate Brokers sold them. Recently, the NWMLS concluded that a Houseboat is a licensed vessel, a boat, and is not property that Real Estate Brokers (agents) are licensed to sell. The new Rules were posted November 1st 2012 but remained on the NWMLS until this month (March 2013). Seattle Houseboat vessels (boats) are typically closed through Maritime Title Services, registered as a vessel with the Department of Licensing and the buyer pays Sales Tax. In 2006, we discovered our houseboat, a dual stern paddle wheeler on the NWMLS, and we purchased it and have lived there since 2007. It fascinated me that we could actually list and sell houseboats on the MLS because they are boats and we became the specialists in buying and selling houseboats and barges.

Part of the reason for this error is the nomenclature used by the NWMLS has been incorrect, leading to the wrong type of “On Water Residences” being listing on the NWMLS. Through our conversations with the NWMLS, we pointed out that they were incorrectly referring to Floating Homes as Houseboats. As a result of these conversations, the style code is being changed and the previous style code of Houseboats will now be Floating Homes. I am very excited about this, as it will help eliminate the problem of listing houseboats, when only Floating Homes are allowed.

The Jury is out whether Seattle House Barges can be listed on the NWMLS and if real estate brokers can list and sell them. Seattle House Barges are vessels that do not require a means of propulsion and are found both in rented slips and in owned slips.  There are 34 Seattle barge vessels approved by the City of Seattle.

In addition, Department of Planning and Development published a Client Assistance Memo (updated in 2004) that clarified the definitions of the 3 types of “On Water Properties” (Floating Homes, House Barges, and Vessels)
In this CAM-229 it defines House Barges:  
The SSMP defines a house barge as a vessel that is both:
1. designed and used for navigation but lacks a
means of self-propulsion and steering equipment
or capability (for example, it is designed and used
for navigation by towing); and
2. designed or used as a place of residence.

Of importance for Houseboat buyer’s, it is imperative that you are knowledgeable about the Seattle City Houseboat and Barge Regulations. We (Kevin and Linda Bagley) are the founders of LULA (Lake Union Liveaboard Association) and are very active with the issues and politics surrounding Houseboats and Barges.  Kevin is a Seattle Council appointed Stake Holder negotiating for the rights of existing Seattle Houseboats on Lake Union and keenly aware of the current issues surrounding Houseboats in the Seattle Shoreline Master Plan. If you have any questions or concerns and want ACCURATE information about Seattle Houseboats or Barges you need to contact Kevin Bagley or Linda Bagley.

There are excellent books on “Seattle’s Unsinkable Houseboats” and “Seattle’s Floating Homes”, which give some of the Seattle history.

While the NWMLS and Real Estate Brokers sort out what can and cannot be sold, we at Special Agents, Inc. have taken the necessary steps (legally licensed) to sell Floating Homes, Houseboats or housebarges. We soon will have a new website afloat for ALL listings. Stay tuned!!

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