We’ve been living on Lake Union for the last 12 years in a 72 foot Paddlewheeler named The KevLin. For over 15 years, we have been helping people buy and sell property of all types, on land or on the water. Our companies, Special Agents Realty and Special Agents Houseboats provide unique information and outstanding service for those looking for that special property.
This is what many people think of when they think of living on the water. While it is technically not “on the water” it is adjacent to the water or “waterfront.” Surprisingly, there are very few waterfront homes on Lake Union with the exception of some condominiums located on the east side of the lake. There are also some waterfront homes in Portage Bay, an appendage of Lake Union, and along parts of the Ship Canal which connects Lake Union with Puget Sound. Currently, there are no properties of this type on the market on Lake Union, the Ship Canal or Portage Bay.
Think Sleepless in Seattle, or if you’ve never seen the movie, think of a normal house, floating on a platform, attached to a dock. Many people think these are “houseboats” but they are not. These are floating homes, permanently attached to a dock, designed to be moved into place once and (almost) never moved again. Floating homes are typically found in condominium or cooperative associations and are subject to properyty taxes (sometimes paid in the homeowner dues). Floating homes are hard-connected to utilities like electricity, water, and sewer. Currently, there are 2 Floating Homes on the market, priced at $1.9 millon and $2.75 million.
Houseboats have existed in Seattle for more than a century and are an Iconic part of the Seattle water living scene. Houseboats differ from Floating Homes in that they are typically located in recreational marinas and have quick-disconnect utilities. They are NOT required to have engines nor are they required to cruise the waters, but they can be easily moved from one marina to another (typically by towing). Houseboat buyers pay sales tax at closing and pay annual vessel registration fees, but they are not subject to property tax, nor do sellers pay excise tax. Houseboats were slated for elimination from the City of Seattle, however, Lake Union Liveaboard Association was able to get State legislation passed that protected houseboats in the State of Washington. The new term “Floating On-Water Residence” is used in the state law that protects Houseboats.
House Barges are a definition created in 1990 by the City of Seattle when the first Shoreline Master Program was implemented. During this time, the City of Seattle was attempting to eliminate Houseboats and created a grandfather definition “House Barge” that allowed existing houseboats to convert to a House Barge and meet other regulations. There were approximately 77 houseboats in the City of Seattle at that time and approximately 34 eventually accepted the House Barge requirements. The remaining houseboats, put engines and navigation lights on their vessels and became navigable vessels to avoid the House Barge requirements.
This is probably the most common way that people live on the water and it typically the least expensive, however, it is not for everyone. The types of recreational vessels being used as liveaboards spans the gamut. Sailboats, tugboats, trawlers, yachts and more can be found as liveaboards in Lake Union, Portage Bay and on the Ship Canal. The sacrifices made to live on the water in recreational vessels may include less space, narrow hallways, tiny kitchens, minimal storage, and more motion. But ask someone who lives on a recreational boat and more often than not, they will tell you they love it. These are the pioneers of “Tiny Homes.”
We would love to help. Please feel free to give us a call or email us with any questions. We can set up an automated search tailored to your specific needs which will update you instantly when new properties matching your criteria come on the market. We can also provide you with a valuation of your property and guide you on how to prepare to sell your property.
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