Things to Know Before Buying a Floating Home in Seattle

Floating homes and houseboats have been a part of Seattle’s waterfront since the 1800s. While there used to be as many as 2,000 of such floating homes along the shores of Lake Washington, Lake Union, etc., today, across Seattle, there are only around 525 Floating homes and about 230 houseboats (AKA Floating On-Water Residences) which are licensed and approved by the City of Seattle.

Portage Bay, Westlake, Eastlake, and Northlake in the Fremont area are some of the best waterfronts to look for houseboats and floating homes. There are houseboats also up the Ship Canal located in approved recreational marinas. As you walk across the shoreline along the Cheshiahud Lake Union Trail which surrounds Lake Union, you will find numerous charming Seattle floating homes and Seattle houseboats lining this trail.

Although the numbers have decreased, floating homes and waterfront properties in Seattle have not completely disappeared. Seattle still boasts of more floating homes and houseboats than any other state in the US. Let us first understand what houseboats and floating homes are.

Floating Homes and Houseboats – Major Differences:

People often use these two terms interchangeably. Both, however, have certain differences. A floating home is a residential place ranging from a tiny house to a multistoried home that floats on water, are in their permanent locations, and has hard connections to water, sewer, electricity, and sometimes gas. A houseboat (FOWR – Floating On-Water Residence), on the other hand, has quick disconnect connections to the docks for water and electricity.  Sewer is handled with Blackwater Tank in the cargo hold which is pumped by a local service as needed. Houseboats are no longer required by the city of Seattle to have a means of propulsion for navigation, and unlike floating homes, can be towed from place to place. Floating homes are permanently attached to a dock.

Curiosity and adventure drive many people to opt to buy a floating home for themselves. If you are one of those people, there are some things you should keep in mind before buying yourself a floating home in Seattle.

Essential Tips to Consider Before Buying a Floating home:

Floating homes and waterfront properties can be attractive options to make investments in. There are several Seattle waterfront properties for sale, and before you invest in any one of them, it is mandatory to go through some essential tips:

  • The location of the waterfront property you are planning to buy must be a legally established floating property and approved by the city of Seattle. It must have direct or dock connections to water and utilities with sewer or pump-out services. Located in legal moorage locations which can be in a rental slip with long or short term lease terms, but remember your financing may be more expensive if in a short term lease, so know the lease terms before you commit to an offer. Floating properties are also located in condo and co-op condo-owned slips. Before investing in a waterfront property, you must familiarize yourself with different types of mortgages and what they have to offer. Each type has its unique characteristics and can affect your overall costs.

  • Equipment and desire determine how competitive the land housing market is, but the supply is relatively set for waterfront properties. This means as and when a floating home becomes available, it will attract the attention of potential buyers. You always have to be on the lookout for such waterfront properties in Seattle. Rentals can be difficult to find and are very limited. Short-term rentals are prohibited in overwater structures, floating properties, and boats per Seattle City Code.

  • Floating homes have minimum storage space, so be sure to check out how much storage capacity the home has to offer. If it doesn’t have enough for your requirements, you might consider off-site storage facilities. Proving to be an added expense to your list.
  • To restore, rebuild, or repair a structure of your floating property over the water, you will have to acquire a permit issued by the city’s local guidelines or even by the Army Corps of Engineers’ in some cases. This can be a bit of a task when your property requires sudden repairs. FOWR’s (Houseboats) typically need to be completely hauled out of the water for repairs and regular hull (floatation) maintenance. They will require a tow service to and from a shipyard.

  • Depending on the location of your waterfront property in Seattle, the life expectancy of your home’s materials can vary. Floating properties require extra care because of winds, waves, or storms which can cause occasional damage and if located towards the end of the dock they can sustain a bit more damage from motion.

  • When buying a floating home, you have to follow city and state building codes and dock regulations. Most docks will have their regulations about remodeling or replacing your floating home. Be sure to review those rules thoroughly as they may limit your plans regarding the floating home (for example, some docks have height restrictions lower than the city’s restriction).
  • Floating homes ordinarily manage to take an extended time to sell than traditional homes on land. Think this through if you are anticipating a relocation shortly. The value of waterfront properties in Seattle has depreciated over the years.
  • When buying a floating home in Seattle, it is important to consider the unique costs it entails. For instance, some properties may have requirements for, or the dock associated with your condo-owned property might require regular maintenance in which case the floating property owner would receive a special assessment to cover their shared costs.

  • Work with a floating property specialist like Linda M Bagley to be sure you have the latest information needed to make an informed decision before making the final purchase decision. This is crucial in understanding the value and costs associated with the property you are about to purchase.

  • Getting an inspection of the property is highly recommended before closing the deal. A professional inspector will be able to assist you in this regard. The size and age of the floating home are the major deciding factors. An inspection might take a few hours and cost between $350 to $800. Houseboats require a Marine Survey inspector who will also do the Valuation as opposed to an appraiser.

Pros of Buying A Waterfront Property in Seattle:

Buying a floating home or waterfront property in Seattle will give you a feeling of living life on a vacation. A floating home is a whole new lifestyle. It is a pleasant change from the monotonous life of a usual house on the land. The waterfront view from your floating home will incline you to spend more time outdoors amid the fresh air, thereby improving your health. You will be able to enjoy various water sports like sailing, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, etc., and water hobbies just outside your home! These “vacation vibes” will eventually increase your long-term happiness and leave you content with your decision to buy a floating home.

Once you’re in and feeling ready to look for a Seattle waterfront property, you can get in touch with Special Agents Realty. We offer you the latest Seattle waterfront properties for sale according to your preferences.

There are new listings on our site regularly. Selecting the right property can be a daunting task, but our customer-friendly staff will walk you through it with ease. We make selecting and buying as easy as it gets! So, if you are interested in a waterfront property, visit our official website or give a call at (206) 419-0065.