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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor
| July 14, 2014
When summertime rolls around, people hit the water -- from swimming, sailing, and fishing to floating on a raft or in a canoe. For thousands of Americans, however, the water is their year-round home.
Just how many is hard to say. As of 2012, there were 108,542 households with a full-time residence either on the road (in an RV or van) or on the water, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Census doesn't break it down any further.) Some people live on sailboats or on houseboats with motors, giving them the flexibility to move from place to place at a moment’s notice. Others live in stationary floating homes, which sit on underwater foundations, in marina communities across the country -- simply to enjoy a merrily, merrily lifestyle with no yard and less stuff.
Mobile houseboats, much like cars, depreciate in value -- typically about 20% in the first year alone and 5-10% a year after that. "The corrosive nature of water requires the replacement of systems, such as the engine or other hydraulic parts, at a much faster rate than conventional housing," explains Michael Bryant, president of the National Marine Lenders Association. Floating homes, on the other hand, can appreciate in value at rates similar to (or faster than, in some locations) traditional homes. In Portland, Ore., which has a large floating-home community, these structures appreciated at a rate of 21.7% per year on average from 2011 to 2013, compared to 10.2% for land homes, according to Andrew Berlinberg, a Portland, Ore.-based real estate broker with Keller Williams Realty.
Here's a sampling of 10 houseboats and floating homes for sale across the country. All have at least one stateroom (bedroom), a full bathroom and a galley kitchen. Keep in mind that living on or in the water comes with fees and maintenance costs that can equal or exceed traditional homeownership costs. For example, houseboat dwellers typically skirt real estate taxes, but instead pay for a marina docking slip which can cost $2,000-$4,000 a year, says Ian Morton, editor of All-About-Houseboats.com. Marine fuel is more expensive than gasoline for moving around. Insurance for a 30-year-old lake houseboat worth $50,000 will run $600-$800 annually, according to Bankrate. Then there's the fee you'll pay every few months to have someone pump your sewer tank, adds Brady Kay, executive editor of Houseboat Magazine. Kay's rule of thumb: Figure to fork over an extra 10% of the total cost of the houseboat over its lifetime. Hop aboard.
NOTE: The listing price does not include the cost of a marina slip. All of the houseboats and floating homes featured in this slide show were for sale as of July 10, 2014.
Courtesy of TBBoats.com
Docked in: Jamestown, Ky.
Year built: 2011
Square footage: N/A
Listed for: $924,500
This is the biggest boat in our flotilla -- 108 feet long, 21 feet wide -- and has been featured on the Travel Channel and in Houseboat Magazine. The master stateroom fits a king-size bed, with a master bathroom with his-and-her sinks and ceramic-tile floors. Hardwood floors stretch through the salon (living room), galley kitchen and hallways. The place comes with a washer and dryer.
The kitchen has granite countertops, a glass-tile backsplash and full-size appliances.
Top deck, there's a hot tub, two sunbathing areas and a large bar that seats 11 in front of a retractable TV. At the back lies a docking station for jet skis and a small inflatable powerboat (not included), a diving board and a water slide.
This houseboat is located at Lake Cumberland’s State Dock, which locals tout as the "Houseboat Capital of the World."
Courtesy of Trulia.com
Docked in: Seattle
Year built: 2006
Square footage: 1,650
Listed for: $849,000
This houseboat has an updated kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and a fireplace in the living room. Outside, the third-level deck offers a sunbathing area and hot tub.
It's docked in the Lake Union Waterfront community with a condo-style slip at the less-traveled end of the dock and comes with an unobstructed view of downtown Seattle and popular attractions such as the Space Needle and Gas Works Park. A $272 monthly HOA fee covers water, garbage, electricity, common-area maintenance, and the community reserves. The home also comes with a designated garage parking space, as well as a gym membership. Pets are allowed.
See more features of this home and see more listings in this area on
Courtesy of YourNewBoat.com
Docked in: Andersonville, Tenn.
Year built: 2005
Listed for: $285,000
This houseboat offers two queen staterooms, a cuddy cabin with two twin beds, and a smaller room with a twin bed that also doubles as office space.
The kitchen has modern lighting fixtures, stainless-steel appliances and a breakfast bar that seats four.
On the main level, there’s a front deck large enough for an outdoor dining table and several chairs. There is a bar area, hot tub and water slide on the second level.
The boat is 84 feet by 17 feet, located at the Waterside Marina on Norris Lake and has a covered slip that's also available to purchase.
Docked in: Portland, Ore.
Year built: 1996
Square footage: 1,815
Listed for: $449,000
This remodeled, two-story floating home has a balcony on the second level that runs the entire length of the home. It's located in the gated West Hayden Island Moorage community on Portland's Columbia River. It has an updated kitchen with granite countertops and a fireplace in the second-level family room. There are also outdoor decks in the front and rear of the home.
Docked in: Nancy, Ky.
Year built: 1997
Listed for: $75,000
Located at Lee's Ford Marina on Lake Cumberland, this is the least-expensive home in our roundup, this 17-year-old motor yacht was remodeled in 2011. It sleeps up to six people in two staterooms, as well as via a dinette table that converts into a bed. In the kitchen, there's a three-burner stove, coffeemaker, microwave, and an AC/DC refrigerator.
Year built: 1995
Square footage: 504
Listed for: $150,000
At 36 feet by 14 feet, this houseboat has an open layout that makes it feel larger. The stateroom has a full-size bed with built-in storage drawers, and there's a separate single sleeping bunk for guests. The kitchen has porcelain fixtures and a slate-tile floor. The walls throughout the home are made of reclaimed wood and have a satin finish. There's also a small fireplace just off the kitchen.
The covered outdoor deck provides additional storage space and can fit a small table and a couple of chairs. This houseboat is located at the Canal Marina in the Emerald City.
Square footage: 1,300 (on main living level)
Listed for: $369,900
At 90 feet by 19 feet, this houseboat has three staterooms, an office and two full bathrooms.
In the living room, there's a fireplace with built-in TV console built directly over it. The kitchen has a breakfast bar that seats two. There's a separate dining area adjacent to the kitchen. The second-level deck has an octagon-shaped bar with a dumbwaiter for quick access to the kitchen, an infrared gas grill, a hot tub, and a water slide.
Year built: 2003
Listed for: $119,900
In addition to the six bedrooms, there's also a sleeper sofa in the living room. The kitchen has a double sink, full-size appliances and a small pantry for food storage. The second level is partially covered and has a hot tub, gas grill and twisting water slide. The houseboat comes with a clothes dryer, but the new owners will have to bring their own washer.
It’s 80 feet by 16 feet and located at Sequoyah Marina on Norris Lake.
Year built: 1982
Square footage: 1,562
Listed for: $1.89 million
The most expensive home in our slide show, this two-story, split-level floating home has large double-pane windows that provide plenty of natural light and a view of Seattle's Lake Union.
At the front of the home, there’s an outdoor deck with a water slide. Inside, vaulted ceilings, recessed lighting and hardwood floors complete the picture. The living room has built-in storage shelves. There's also a sunroom and a rooftop deck.
The $333 monthly HOA fee includes the cost of one garage parking space.
Docked in: Sausalito, Calif.
Year built: N/A
Square footage: 1,748
Listed for: $1.09 million
The vaulted ceilings in this two-story floating home have skylights that allow natural light to flood the upper level. The kitchen has granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances, as well as a center island with a built-in wine rack and track lighting. There's a separate dining area adjacent to the kitchen.
The living room has a fireplace. Outside, you’ll find a large balcony with a hot tub.
Sausalito is a 30-minute drive over the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco.