Buying a Floating Home

Seattle Houseboats & Floating Homes

Buying a floating home isn’t very different from your conventional home purchase. You’ll still have to secure a mortgage, schedule inspections, and review plenty of paperwork. So, what’s different about buying a floating home?

Floating Homes

A floating home is a single-family home built on a platform that is moored, anchored, or otherwise secured on the water. Floating homes must be located in legally-established floating home moorages and have direct connections to sewer and water utilities.

Floating homes are built on several different types of flotation devices. Flotation devices are usually concrete barges, logs, foam, or foam-filled steel. In Seattle, while more modern homes can sometimes include underwater basements, older homes can possess log floats that are almost a hundred years old!

Floating homes typically range in size from small 600 square feet studios to over 2,000 square feet 3 bedroom residences. Parking is usually found in nearby garages or parking lots.



Co-op: a company owns the land and dock, you the buyer get a share in the company and the exclusive use of your slip.
Condominium: you own your slip and have a common interest in the land the dock.


A houseboat is not a floating home. Although both floating homes and houseboats are found on the water, there are significant differences between the two.

Unlike flaoting homes, houseboats have “quick disconnect” features and are designed not to be permanently moored.


Why buy a floating home or houseboat?

  • Live on the water just minutes from downtown for much less than it costs to buy on the shores of Lake Washington. 
  • Waterfront living at it’s finest- you can swim right off your deck! 
  • Most moorages pride themselves in their tight-knit communities and neighborhood events. 
  • Moor a sailboat or motorboat right next to your house.
  • Plenty of wildlife to see. From herons to otters, you can view Lake Union’s wildlife right from the comfort of your home.


Costs when buying a home floating home:

  • Floating home prices ranged in 2018 ranged from $700 to $1,750 a square foot.
  • Inspections varied from  $300-$500 for a home inspection and $400-600 for a float inspection.
  • Closing costs:*
    • Escrow fee: $2,110 to $2,410 for the buyer’s half depending on the price of the home
    • Loan costs: 1% origination fee

*What about excise tax and title insurance? In Seattle, the seller pays those fees.

Here’s what to expect in terms of costs when owning your home:

  • Taxes are usually 1.01% of the assessed value.
  • HOAs range from $185 to $925 a month depending on which dock you’re on and how the coswt splits work.
  • Ask the ccurrent seller for what they average in utitilty costs.
  • Budget 1% of your purchase price a year for repairs.


Taxes & Mortgages
Floating homes are sold like any other house with traditional loans, closing costs, and taxes.

Different taxes and processes are required for houseboats. Houseboats also have a sales tax due at the point of sale and in the city of Seattle, there’s only one lender who handles houseboat loans.

To purchase a floating home, lenders require at least a 20% down payment.

Floating homes are not real estate.  They are considered real property and therefore do not qualify for special loan programs, low down payment programs, or most advertised loan programs. In Seattle, there are only three lenders that lend for floating homes – Pacific Crest Bank, Sound Community Bank and Banner Bank.

Loans available are 15-, 20-, and 30-year fixed-rate.

As with any home purchase, an inspection is generally recommended with an expert checking the home from top to bottom. On a houseboat or floating home purchase, a home inspection also involves hiring a diver to inspect the hull of a houseboat or the floats beneath a floating home.

Floating homes must meet standard building codes; houseboats have a little more freedom with unusual staircases or door and window sizing.



There are roughly 500 floating homes Lake Union spread across Eastlake, Westlake and Portage Bay. This market overview is excluding Houseboat sales.

Year # Sales Price Range $/Sq. Ft. Range Days on Market
2018 17 $455k to $3.575m $700 to $1,750 3 to 108
2017 11 $515k to $3.05m $618 to $1,525 3 to 132
2016 20 $474k to $3.2m $536 to $1,540 4 to 141
2015 19 $410k to $3m $521 to $1,818 2 to 276