Jun

2

Over 500 residents live in a houseboat. It may seem like a small number, but it is the largest population in the country and, after Asia, the largest in the world. The houseboat population has been increasing especially with movies like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ showcasing it. If you are thinking about owning a houseboat in Seattle, first consider the layout, costs, and other aspects of flat-bottomed boats.  Note that there are houseboats, house barges, and floating homes in Seattle, all of which have different nuances and classifications.

Houseboat Property Costs

Living on a houseboat has a significant advantage: lower costs. A smaller houseboat, around 30 to 40 feet, can run approximately $100,000. You then pay for the marina space the boat sits in. No matter what size houseboat you choose, you do not need to pay for Seattle real-estate taxes, trash collection, or landscaping costs. It should be noted, floating homes can run well over a million dollars for those wanting luxury. There are waterfront properties available for everyone’s budget, needs, and wants.

Houseboat Maintenance Costs

The maintenance of the houseboat is where it gets tricky because costs are often higher than a traditional home. Boats require a good bit of upkeep, but not necessarily more than if you tended your yard in a regular home. If you are a talented DIY-er, this may not be a problem. Otherwise, you may want a list of reputable professionals on hand.

Due to a number of issues that come with age, it is sometimes recommended to not purchase a houseboat over 25 years old. Along with potential structural issues, it is hard to find someone to finance it if you cannot pay out of pocket.

Finding a Dock Space

The popularity of Seattle houseboats is significantly increasing, leading some marinas to ban them. Some feel that the houseboats can contribute to waterfront pollution, schools systems, and other public needs without paying taxes toward these. The inner marinas, however, such as Lake Union are full of houseboats with personality. Dependent on the marina and amenities you choose, a dock space can rent for as little as $300 per month to over $1,500.

Though you can find a houseboat in Seattle for less than $100,000 by itself, the average cost will be much closer to a few hundred thousand. It gives you a larger living space, high quality finishes, and lets you live on the water while enjoying the views.

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Feb

24

Floating homes and houseboats are an iconic part of Seattle waterfront living, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come under fire in recent years. Three years ago, the city of Seattle undertook a rewriting of shorelines policies that led to questions about whether owners would be able to continue to live in their houseboats in Lake Union and elsewhere. In 2011, a Washington senate bill offered grandfathered protection to stationary floating houses. But the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jamie Pedersen, said he unintentionally excluded live-aboard vessels and barges. He recently introduced a new bill to extend the same protection to moveable houseboats that stationary floating homes now enjoy.

Controversy Along the Waterfront

Stationary floating houses not only stay in one place, they are also typically hooked in to local utilities. Floating vessels, on the other hand, are able to move from place to place along the waterfront. However, most rent space from a marina to have a reliable place to dock for the long term. When the 2011 senate bill passed, many interpreted the omission of live-aboard vessels to mean that local governments should not continue to accommodate houseboats and other floating vessels in waterfront property decisions. Lake Union Liveaboard Association president Mauri Shuler described houseboat owners as having “massive trouble” in dealing with the City of Seattle and the state Department of Ecology, which are in charge of shoreline regulations. State officials acknowledged a preference to lease seriously limited marina space to smaller recreational vehicles rather than larger, live-aboard vessels.

Clarifying Lawmakers’ Intent

Senator Pedersen has introduced Senate Bill 6450 to clear up the lingering confusion. An amendment to the Shoreline Management Act of 1971 will extend protections to floating vessels that are used or were designed as a residence, providing the owner had leased moorage space prior to July 1, 2014. This waterfront bill passed the senate unanimously and is awaiting a vote in the house.

What This Means for Waterfront Real Estate

In short, this assures current houseboat owners that they won’t be set adrift as shoreline regulations change. Taking a broader view, however, waterfront property owners will be relieved to know that some of the character and charm of lakeside life will carry on as always. But they may also now have additional questions about the availability of marina space for pleasure cruisers and other non-residential watercraft and about the environmental impact that moveable vessels will have on Lake Union and other areas of the Seattle waterfront. Those who live in houseboats and floating houses naturally share concerns with others who own waterfront real estate, which may make them allies as political maneuverings happen regarding plans for future development in the area.

The house has yet to act on the senate bill, but as it has already received unanimous approval from the senate and moved out of committee, it seems a foregone conclusion to suggest the bill will most likely pass.

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Dec

31

Seattle is composed of rich and diverse communities that offer their own holiday celebrations. While many people are celebrating around the downtown area, waterfront houses have family-friendly activities to help you celebrate as well. Whether you want to watch a light tour, take a cruise on Puget Sound, or venture on the Great Ferris Wheel, you can find Christmas fun along the waterfront that appeals to everyone.

Ride the Ducks Light Tour

Originally crafted for use in World War II, the Ducks are part automobile, part boat. The Ride the Ducks Tour takes you on a drive around highlighted parts of Seattle and then through the Lake Union waterfront area by boat. After Thanksgiving, the company offers a Holiday Duck Tour to view Seattle’s best-decorated areas such as Westlake Center and Toyland Village by Pier 57. Along with lights, you will enjoy the outgoing fun personality of your tour Captain. He will have you singing classic Christmas tunes like ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ while sharing holiday facts. This tour lasts 40 minutes and is available for all ages.

Christmas Ship Festival

Since 1949, the Christmas Ship Festival has been cruising the Puget Sound waterfront communities to offer a relaxing celebration. There are three ways to celebrate: aboard a cruise ship, on your own boat, or from the shore. While aboard ship, you will listen to a choir as they carol to each of the 45 waterfront communities. Tours are available that include dinner or, for the younger crowd, morning Santa brunches. If you have your own boat, you can add lights and join in the Christmas Ship Parade. Each year, Seattle aims to have the largest floating holiday parade in the world. You can help make this a success while enjoying the view of lights from the water. The combination of the night waters and twinkling shore is made for memories.

Even those on the shore can take part in the Christmas Ship Festival. Each waterfront community in the Puget Sound area offers a place to view the boats as they pass by. You will hear a 20-minute session of Christmas caroling from the ship and others on land. There is a hospitality tent and a large bonfire to keep you warm as you mingle with others.

Ferris Wheel for the New Year

The Great Ferris Wheel has recently been added to the attractions in downtown Seattle waterfront. While it is currently open, you can bring in the New Year with a special dinner and ride. There is an early and late dinner, each taking place at The Fisherman’s with a three-course meal and party favors. Then, you can sip some champagne while you take in the night views and celebrations from the Ferris Wheel. This is a great way to ring in the New Year while admiring the views of waterfront homes and activity. Photos are included with your purchase.

Seattle’s diverse landscape gives you opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a way other cities cannot. When you want take in the holiday waterfront, options are available for everyone. Make it a romantic evening on the Great Wheel or enjoy the lights with your entire family. The Seattle waterfront can helps you create memories to last whether you are looking for a waterfront home or evening out.

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Jul

16

One of the most picturesque and exciting features of the Seattle area is its trademark waterfront real estate, complete with floating homes and houseboats. The city’s Lake Union and Portage Bay neighborhoods are home to a thriving community of waterfront houses and homeowners. These homeowners enjoy a fantastic view of Seattle water, as well as easy access to downtown Seattle. Even better, the area is privy to highlights that aren’t found elsewhere, such as Lake Union Park’s FarmBoat floating market. This attraction, held on the historic steamship known as Virginia V, has a storied tradition and a lot of charm.

A Brief History of FarmBoat Floating Market
When it comes to Seattle’s sites, waterfront attractions boast some of the longest histories around, and the FarmBoat Floating Market is no exception. The market is held aboard the long-lived Virginia V and docked at Lake Union Park Wharf, where it harkens back to another age. Around the turn of the 20th century, shipping vessels of steam and sails were the transportation of choice for agricultural goods. Hundreds of ships just like the Virginia V used to travel to and from Puget Sound to move farm goods around before there were trucks and highways. A floating time capsule, the Virginia V captures that unique old-world atmosphere and makes it available to Seattle locals and tourists alike.

The Attraction of Lake Union’s FarmBoat Floating Market
Like the water taxi and water-based firefighters, the floating market is a distinct fixture of the waterfront community. Market visitors can stop by the FarmBoat Floating Market to browse local produce and specialty foods, enjoy a scenic lunch, and even pick up a bit more knowledge about this fascinating bit of Seattle history, such as how the Virginia V once transported farm products from Vashon Island to Pike Place Market way back in 1922. In terms of local heritage and tradition, the FarmBoat Floating Market does a great job of shedding some light on this interesting locale. Even better, the entire experience is available free of charge, which is always a draw when trying to decide which of Seattle’s many attractions to see.

Placing FarmBoat Floating Market in Context
Lake Union FarmBoat Floating Market is managed by the Urban Public Waterfront Association, or UPWA. This organization is a non-profit with the mission of connecting people to the local maritime environment through water-centric events and activities. This alone shows how big a role the waterfront plays in Seattle’s culture and historical traditions. Ultimately, the Floating Market is a great choice for learning more about the area and experiencing what draws people to Seattle’s waterfront property. Whether visitors want to see the FarmBoat Floating Market as a slice of Seattle’s waterfront community, as a living relic of a bygone era, as a compelling shopping destination, or as a great vantage point for admiring Lake Union and the distinctive downtown Seattle skyline, FarmBoat Floating Market is a destination of choice. It has earned its place as a one of a kind attraction in Seattle.

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Jul

2

The Seattle, Washington area is home to a unique and interesting feature in the form of floating homes. Because of the location of bodies of water like the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and many more, there’s a unique opportunity for homeowners not only to buy waterfront real estate, but also to live in floating homes on the water itself. Even better, many of these homes are located close to downtown Seattle, making them a highly attractive place to settle with a view of the water that can’t be beat. In celebration of this Seattle hallmark, the Seattle Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in South Lake Union is showcasing an exhibit called Still Afloat, which focuses on the subject of floating homes.

The Diverse Waterfront Neighborhood
For a number of years, the neighborhood of floating homes on Lake Union and Portage Bay has engaged in some fairly tumultuous history. There have been land use battles, evictions, and a host of political and economic challenges to the very existence of these floating homes. Recent changes have come, some of which enhance the stability and value of Seattle’s floating homes, others of which threaten to erase the waterfront property community itself. Fortunately, through it all, the iconic Seattle image of the houseboat has endured, and so has the thriving and diverse community on Lake Union and Portage Bay.

Still Afloat Exhibit
Billed as a contemporary history of Seattle’s floating homes, the Still Afloat exhibit is a unique look at the history of this Seattle trademark. The temporary Museum of History and Industry exhibit features images from the past, complete with accounts of what life is like in the floating waterfront home community. The exhibit includes everything from photographs and video interviews to underwater film and a scale model of a floating home, which reveals the technology that makes floating homes possible. Perhaps most importantly, the exhibit is a celebration of the community and its contribution to making Seattle the vibrant and storied metropolis that it has become.

Still Afloat Adds to Seattle Waterfront Community
For those intrigued by floating homes and their Seattle waterfront community, Still Afloat is an all-encompassing experience that’s perfect for Seattle tourists, locals, and even floating homeowners and residents themselves. It will run from June 15 until November 3, 2013, and it will be located in the Linda and Ted Johnson Family Community Gallery at the Museum of History and Industry. You’ll have a rare opportunity to see the sights and hear the sounds of life in this unique community, as well as witnessing the stories of residents who can track the changes in the community over the years. If a trip to Still Afloat doesn’t fully quench your thirst for floating homes, you can also look at the Seattle Floating Homes Association which includes great information and features current plus past newsletters about the community and its lifestyle.

There’s truly nothing like the houseboats community in Seattle, and the museum’s Still Afloat exhibit is a limited-time opportunity to take a glimpse into this fascinating piece of Washington history.

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Jun

18

There’s a unique and fun attraction in the Seattle area known as Ride the Ducks. The Duck rides have a long history as an essential tourist attraction, cruising past the city of Seattle and through the Lake Union waterfront community. The company describes its rides as a “party that floats,” coming with an eccentric captain who provides narration about the scenery as part of the tour. During the summer, the business really picks up, with more than 150 entrances and exits of Lake Union over the course of a 10-hour day. Now, the Duck boats are looking to dock at a new home that’s just 100 feet away from the houseboats in Lake Union.

A Disruption to the Community
Eastlake residents clearly respect and appreciate the role of the Ride the Ducks attraction, but they have recently expressed concerns over the appearance of a ramp that’s so close to their houseboats and waterfront property. Brian Tracey, the owner of Ride the Ducks, has met with the neighbors on at least two occasions to assuage their concerns about both the noise, safety, and pollution of a new Lake Union access point nearby. They have some valid worries, as the World War II-era boats run on diesel and would be active for many hours every day.

An Interesting Rebuttal
At the same time, Brian Tracey and his Ride the Ducks offer another side to the story. The particular area under consideration is actually an abandoned dock that could benefit from some new construction. Interestingly, the area was already zoned for maritime industrial use, so it’s not without precedent for the site to be home to a structure like a public boat ramp. In addition, the efforts could beautify the area, such as the overgrown street edge that’s already there. The other major concern is that the water traffic would get continually backed up without the additional point of access.

What Happens Next with the Ducks
Both sides of the debate have good points. On the one hand, Lake Union’s floating homes, houseboats, and waterfront houses are a beautiful and unique feature of the Seattle area. Many of these waterfront real estate owners paid a premium for the privilege of having a serene place to live, and it could be damaging to their way of life to have a constant stream of Duck boats streaming in and out of the nearby boat ramp. On the other hand, Ride the Ducks is a key attraction with a tradition of its own, and there didn’t appear to be anything illegal in how Brian Tracey purchased the property or intends to use it. The matter is before the Department of Planning and Development, with the Parks Board of Commissioners having voted back in February to oppose the entry ramp. The case is continuing to develop, but it’s a striking example of how scarce and special waterfront land is in the Seattle area.

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May

20

Beautiful waterfront home for sale with scenic views.

New Burien Three Tree Point WaterHavens listing

Just a few months ago, there was an online auction house for a 1927-vintage fireboat “Alki.” This special boat was the senior member of four boats that comprised the Seattle Fire Department’s Marine Emergency Response Team. This boat had served the Seattle community well, but it had reached the point where it couldn’t keep up with the demands of modern technology and became an icon for a bygone era instead. While it was a bittersweet time for Seattleites to see a boat with an 86-year history go, it’s just one more reminder of what makes waterfront real estate in Seattle such a special feature of the Washington metropolis. How many other places can boast water-based traffic like water taxis and fireboats?

Retiring the Fireboat “Alki”
The retirement of “Alki” coincided with the recent acquisition of some new boats. “Engine One” was added to the fleet in 2006, and “Leschi” was built in 2007. In addition, the “Chief Seattle” was renovated and given an additional twenty years, making it possible to auction off one of the most enduring pieces of Seattle history. Like most things above 80 years of age, the fireboat could boast plenty of interesting stories, such as the time it was able to help save a commercial sea captain’s home below Magnolia Bluff. The most important part of the story was that the “Alki” was able to get the job done when firefighters on land weren’t able to reach the flames. With plenty of stories like that all along the coast, it was like the waterfront community had to say goodbye to an old friend.

Fireboats for West Seattle Waterfront Real Estate
Along the waterfront coastline is a thriving community full of condos, homes, public parks, shops, and restaurants. Because land traffic can only come from the other direction, water-based firefighters are a staple of various Seattle communities that border Lake Washington and the Puget Sound. These fireboats are even more important for waterfront homeowners with properties that don’t have direct drive-up access. For example, some waterfront houses are walk-down or tram-accessed properties, both of which are difficult to reach quickly from land in the case of an emergency.

The Future of Fireboats
Because of the two new boats and the retrofitted “Chief Seattle,” even more security is now provided for Seattle area waterfront property. Unlike the “Alki,” which was still using decades-old technology for firefighting, the new fireboats are a major step forward in speed and power, as well as the major upgrades to the “Chief Seattle.” For fires, speed and power are often the deciding factor in how much damage can be avoided, and fortunately, the “Leschi” doesn’t disappoint. Stationed in Fire Station 5 on Elliott Bay, this primary firefighting vessel can travel at 14 knots and fight fires with 22,000 gallons of water per minute. While the “Marine One” is about half as long as the “Leschi,” it can actually travel more than twice as fast, making it a fast attack option. With new technology on the fireboats, it can only be even safer now for waterfront real estate owners.

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Jan

22

The Shoreline Master Program is getting updated in many municipalities around Washington state, in accordance with Washington law and Department of Ecology requirements. One of the more controversial and public topics revolved around how to address the floating homes, house boats, and house barges that are primarily centered around Lake Union, Portage Bay, and the Ship Canal. Are they legal? Do they meet SMP requirements for proper use of shoreline resources? Is gray water and black water being properly removed? What are the differences between the three classifications of floating residences in Seattle, and how should each be addressed for any updates to the SMP? These and many other questions were raised.

The local liveaboard community quickly rose to the occasion and gathered support in ensuring that their homes were not threatened. A combination of good intentions and misunderstandings of actual implications were mixed together to form sometimes passionate responses. Local media coverage was extensive, and generally pointed out that these were people’s homes being discussed. The iconic landscape of “Sleepless in Seattle” Lake Union became a romantic rallying point.

Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program was just unanimously passed by the Seattle City Council. In summary, most pre-existing uses for floating homes, house boats, and house barges were grandfathered in and all liveaboard owners can rest easy. Future development is much more restricted, so it makes the existing homes effectively more valuable due to government-limited future supply.

Summary of changes:

  • Floating homes: There is a new registration program and future development standards.
  • House boats / vessels: New clearer standards were enacted regarding the types of permitted vessels, but pre-existing residential uses are grandfathered in as noncomforming uses that can continue plus be repaired/reconstructed as needed.
  • House barges: The 34 pre-approved Seattle house barges can continue on as they are, with the clarification that discharge of gray water must meet the requirements set in 1992 for these homes.

Overall it ended up as a good balance between protecting the property rights and values of existing owners of floating residences while also taking into account more restrictive requirements for future new construction of similar residences that will meet current environmental regulations.

Seattle Lake Union floating homes with sailboat and city skyline

Floating homes on Seattle’s Lake Union


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Mar

26

MarineTraffic.com ship logoIf you are on Puget Sound, have you ever wondered about a large ship passing silently up the shipping channels? Perhaps wonder what country it is from, or where it is heading, or even some design specs on its size?

I have just added a new feature on WaterHavens.com that offers all of that and more: real time Puget Sound marine traffic maps and info. It shows the current location of major vessels throughout Puget Sound (and the rest of the world), tracking every ship’s location, direction, and registry information. It even includes a photo of many boats, plus a graphical track of where it has just been on its recent course plotted over time.

Pretty neat stuff. You can literally look out your window and bring up this info on WaterHavens at any time to know a lot more about any boat that is right in front of you!

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Dec

1

Have you checked out the Christmas Ships around Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Sound this year? Definitely worth a look, especially the December 23rd finale with the Best Decorated Boat Contest at Gasworks Park on Lake Union. Come bundle up and watch the festive sights at the different locations. It’s a great way to enjoy your WaterHaven, or visit someone else’s!

In local waterfront news, proposed land use regulations still dominate the talk among local rural WaterHaven owners. Both the Critical Areas Ordinance and a new ruling related to federal flood insurance / salmon protection have stirred up the debate something fierce. Petition drives and court cases are underway opposing restrictions on property usage, while other local organizations are educating people about environmental and community benefits. This should be interesting to watch…

Also, a team of divers discovered a World War II era fighter plane in the bottom of Lake Washington; certainly a more intriguing find than the usual array of old anchors and lawn furniture. If you haven’t mustered the time or courage to take up diving around our waterways, I highly recommend it. The lakes can be interesting, but the life teeming along the shores of the Sound are especially fascinating and world class. Yes it’s rather cold, but modern wetsuits or – even better – drysuits can keep you warm enough for your short explorations into inner space. Check out the Activities section of WaterHavens.com for a listing of local scuba clubs to get you started.

Unlike normal holiday trends, the real estate market is still very active right now. Last month saw new highs, available inventory has declined 18% from last year, and there are more buyers than sellers out there. Accordingly, prices have risen and time on market has declined. Some of the better priced properties are still moving very fast. For the November general King County market, the average residential closed sales price was $399,464 (as compared to $368,496 for November 2003) and the average condo sales price was $238,508 ($223,735 for November 2003). Average time on market has shortened from 61 days to 49 days.

In the WaterHavens waterfront market, house sales ranged from a Federal Way walk-down home on the Sound for $299,950 to a Mercer Island Lake Washington home for $5,250,000, condo sales ranged from $145,000 for a Redmond condo on Lake Sammamish to a Kirkland Lake Washington condo for $900,000, and floating home sales ranged from $135,000 to $1,135,000. Waterfront and water view inventory is down across the board, but that is usual for this time of year and is amplified by the still hot market plus excellent interest rates. There are currently 216 waterfront WaterHavens available in our local area, and even more water view and water access WaterHavens.

Enjoy a WaterHaven! Our waterfront and waterview is the best in the world.

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