Thinking of buying a buoyant escape? Here are 8 things you didn’t know about floating homes (plus three fab listings).

By Marisa Spyker
July 27, 2017

1. Technically, they’re not the same thing as houseboats. While many people use the terms interchangeably, floating homes are actually more closely related to traditional real estate. “Floating homes are connected to city water and sewer and although they can be moved at times if needed, they are mostly permanently moored,” said Courtney Cooper, owner of Cooper Jacobs Real Estate and a specialist in Seattle floating homes. Expect to pay HOA fees and property taxes in a floating home community, as you would a condo.

2. They’re becoming more popular – and more necessary. As housing costs in cities like Seattle continue to rise, more people seem to be turning to water, according to Cooper. Aside from affordability, floating homes offer solutions to urban space restrictions and rising sea levels. Following Hurricane Katrina, an architect in New Orleans experimented with a home designed to float in the event of storm surge. In the Netherlands – a country notorious for flooding because of its low elevation – a company called Waterstudio specializes in floating structures from houses to hotels.

Floating Home For Sale: Floating Cottage on Seattle's Lake Union ($1,285,000)

Photo by ClarityNW

3. You can still have your dream house. For the most part, anything you can build on land you can build on water. The only restriction is typically size; the footprint and height of a floating home can only be so big (most run less than 3,000 square feet).

Related: You Can Rent This Houseboat in Charleston, South Carolina:

4. Storage is scarce. Because of that size restriction, storage space is a commodity. Floating homes rarely have garages and attics. And detached sheds within communities are hard to come by and typically expensive.

5. But if you’re really lucky, you can have a basement. No, really! They are rare, but some floating homes actually have underwater basements or wine cellars built into them (occasionally with Cousteau-esque portholes for underwater exploration).

Floating Home For Sale: Sausalito Mermaid Cottage ($990,000)

Matt McCourtney/Courtesy of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty

6. You might have finned or flapping intruders. If you decide to make a home at sea, expect to share an address with sealife. Depending on where your house is located, birds, manatees, otters, and fish could be frequent houseguests above and below your home.

7. Loans require dive surveys. Before you buy, it’s important to have the house inspected below the waterline. In fact, most lenders require it. “A dive is extremely important to see what’s going on underneath,” said Cooper. “You want to know what type of floatation you have and what condition all of it is in.”

8. Heavy furniture could throw your home off balance. Inherited your grandmother’s baby grand? You might want to have a diver out to re-inspect your foundation. “They may need to move flotation around if you have a heavy piece of furniture somewhere,” said Cooper. “But once you are leveled, the house stays pretty steady.”

Floating Home For Sale: Floating Home on Seattle's Portage Bay ($785,000)

Photo by Greg Whit

Images, from top: Photo: Lu Tapp, styling: Max Humphrey; ClarityNW; Matt McCourtney/Courtesy of Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty; Greg Whit.