If the water is calling and you can’t resist, you might consider trading in your ho-hum, land-based house for a floating home.

Floating homes, which get their name from being built upon wooden, concrete, or steel “floats,” are a popular lifestyle choice in several coastal U.S. cities. Unlike houseboats—which they’re often confused for—floating homes are semipermanent and moored in communities that are highly regulated

But what is life like in a home that is literally on the water? We spoke with several experts who have experience buying, selling, and living in floating houses.realtor_logo

Here are the eight biggest takeaways to consider before you dive into this unique way of living.

Ahoy, Neighbor! What It’s Really Like Living in a Floating Home—From Boating to Dinner to Strange Animal Visitors

Get ready to socialize

One of the first things to know about floating-home living is that you’ll likely join a tight-knit group of neighbors.

“Hands down, it’s the community of people that makes living on a floating home so special,” says real estate broker and floating-home owner Amy Sedgwick, of Floating Homes Portland. “With floating homes, we all park in the lot and walk down the ramp, so there’s plenty of social interaction.”

As living on the water is so unusual, people tend to know one another more intimately and even make themselves available to lend a helping hand.

“If someone isn’t feeling well, there are any number of volunteers to walk their dog or stop at the store for them,” says Sedgwick. “We also enjoy yearly moorage parties and an annual float race.”

Your commute will be unique

Floating homes Seattle
Courtney Cooper Neese and her husband boat to dinner.

(Courtney Cooper Needs of Seattle Afloat)

Although floating homes have permanent docking sites, quite a bit of logistics and travel still happen on the water.

“When we moved from floating home to floating home, we moved by barge,” says Courtney Cooper Neese, floating-home owner and owner of Seattle Afloat in Seattle. “When our hot tub was delivered, it came by barge.”

Beyond the big events, some of your day-to-day travel might also occur on the water, especially since getting around that way is sometimes faster.

“We take our Cobalt 28 boat to dinner,” says Cooper Neese.

You’ll have a ‘sense of calm’

Floating homes Seattle
Views of the Seattle skyline from Cooper Neese’s floating-home community

(Courtney Cooper Needs of Seattle Afloat)

We also repeatedly heard from those living the floating-home life that it offers a unique connection to nature.

“Floating-home dwellers are surprised by the physical calm that comes over them as they return home at the end of the day,” says Portland-based real estate broker and floating-home dweller Karla Divine. “Floating-home residents often find their inner artist in sunset and sunrise photography, the random sea lion tossing a salmon into the air, or an osprey returning to rebuild its nest.”

Divine has also enjoyed seeing other wildlife from her floating home, including beavers, hummingbirds, gulls, ducks, and even bald eagles.

You’ll drop stuff—off the side of your home

A less idyllic but possibly more important aspect of floating-home life is that you will almost certainly drop things in the water.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution for that.

“It’s handy to have a diver on call and a giant magnet to fish your keys out with,” says Cooper Neese. “I also have my keys on a float.”

You’re going to need a power washer

When it comes to maintaining your floating home, there’s one tool you’ll need handy above all others: a power washer.

“The main maintenance task is power washing,” says Divine. “Floating homes live on the water, so they get dirty by the end of winter and again by the end of summer. A good power washer is an important tool for keeping your home clean and repaired.”

Other critical maintenance involves regularly painting and staining your decking.

“In Oregon, which enjoys the largest community of floating homes in the United States, this kind of maintenance needs to be done in spring as soon as dry weather arrives,” says Divine.

Green living matters

Floating homes Seattle
Cooper Neese’s deck on her floating home

(Courtney Cooper Needs of Seattle Afloat)

When living close to the water, it’s important to understand the impact you can have on the environment—and be mindful of the best products and practices to mitigate it.

“We have normal utilities with one exception,” says Cooper Neese. “In order to get to the city sewer, we either have pumps under our docks, on our homes, or both. But dock pumps are sensitive, so we have to be mindful of what goes down the drains.”

This means no grease, cat litter, feminine hygiene products, or even detergent pods can go down the drain.

“As one old-timer said, if it didn’t come out of your body, don’t put it down the drain,” says Cooper Neese.

It’s also essential to recognize the animal populations you’ll be sharing the water with.

“Our rivers are famous for wild salmon runs and home to sturgeon and other amazing fish,” says Divine. “Floating-home people take stewardship of these rivers seriously.”

Nature can—and will—take over

It’s one thing to admire nature and another to let it take over your floating home—especially if you’re not prepared for it.

“The geese are loud during their breeding season,” says Cooper Neese. “They like to nest in our flower pots and are aggressive. If you have small children or animals, you should take care.”

The best solution Cooper Neese has found for keeping the geese at bay? Upside-down forks in the flower pots. And let’s not forget about the other water-loving species.

“There’s spider removal almost all year,” says Cooper Neese. “They love living over the water.”

There’s a season for buying a floating home

If the geese and the spiders haven’t scared you away from floating-home life, then there’s one final thing you should remember: There’s an unofficial-yet-official buying season, and it starts every spring.

“Floating-home sales season is generally from March to October,” says Divine. “People want to buy their floating home early enough to enjoy it when the weather is nice. In Oregon, that’s generally from July through October.”


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com

There’s a certain point in the lifecycle of renting where you say to yourself: I just can’t do this anymore. Maybe it’s the upstairs neighbors, who relentlessly stomp across their apartment into the wee hours of the morning. Maybe it’s the numbingly dull white walls you’ve stared at year after year. Or perhaps it’s that bitter pill of knowledge that your hard-earned money is circling down the drain—en route to paying someone else’s mortgage.

No matter the reason, most of us eventually hit a breaking point with renting, and vow to become first-time home buyers.

But just because you want to buy a home doesn’t mean you should buy a home. Even if you’ve already evaluated your finances and told yourself, “I can swing a down payment,” there are some additional key questions to ask to determine whether you’re ready. Here, we unveil some oft-overlooked, soul-searching inquiries that you really should ask yourself before you make the biggest financial commitment of your life. Ready?

6 Questions First-Time Home Buyers Never Ask Themselves (but Really, Really Should)

1. Have I recently experienced a loss?

If you’ve recently gone through a breakup, lost your job, or suffered any other kind of negative life event, you might feel like the answer is to start over. A reset can indeed do you a world of good, but taking on a mortgage probably won’t be the fresh new beginning you’re looking for.

“The most challenging time in someone’s life to buy a home is during a time of loss—and that can be many kinds of loss,” says Tyler Whitman, real estate agent with TripleMint in New York. “If it’s truly a high-stress moment, adding a move on top of that only makes things worse.”

Even if you think you’re in a good place, emotionally speaking, Whitman warns that stress might cause you to subconsciously make your housing decisions out of fear. It’s better to wait until you’re past a situation and can know you’re making the best choice for you.

2. If I get a new job, will I have to move?

The job market has changed drastically since the days when your parents bought a home, and you should know how that will affect you before you buy.

“Previous generations planned to get one job, keep it forever, and retire. Buying into a house because they were looking for a permanent living situation made a lot more sense,” says Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX. “Now, job-hopping is prevalent.”

Changing jobs won’t be a big deal if you can keep—or raise—your salary, and your new gig is in your current city. But if there aren’t a ton of jobs in your industry in your area, you may find yourself having to relocate a year after you bought your home.

“It honestly isn’t a good idea to buy a house unless you plan on staying there for at least five years,” Crouch says. If you sell earlier, you may end up taking a loss on the deal.

3. Am I ready to write (a lot) of checks beyond the down payment?

Here’s the good news: Mortgage requirements have been loosening since the credit crunch, and you may very well be able to buy with less than 20% down. But the bad news is that won’t be the end of your upfront costs. Hire a mortgage broker and you could pay a 1% to 2% fee on the amount of the loan. A home inspection will cost you a few hundred. Your closing costs could add up to 7% of the total cost of the home. And then there’s the Murphy’s Law of it all: If something can go wrong, it probably will.

“If the air conditioner breaks a month after you close, or the dishwasher gives out, that’s now up to you,” Whitman says.

If you don’t have the funds to cover your closing costs and a separate emergency account for the inevitable “just moved in” headaches, it might be better to wait until you do.

And don’t forget about the additional costs of things like homeowner insurance and taxes. (Although you’ll likely be eligible for some pretty sweet tax deductions for being a homeowner, you’ll still have to pay property taxes—and that can mean a bit of sticker shock for long-term renters.)

4. Am I OK with owing the bank lots of money for a long time?

One of the biggest benefits of homeownership, of course, is the equity. Instead of handing all your hard-earned cash over to a landlord, you’re putting it back into your home—which you (hopefully) will sell for a profit down the line. But that equity doesn’t happen immediately. In fact, for many buyers, it takes time. Sometimes a long time.

Unless you pay for your house in cash, you’ll be on the hook for not only your monthly mortgage payment but the interest on the loan as well. Stretching out your payments over more years—as with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage—can help reduce (and stabilize) your interest charges. But it can be hard to pay down your principal when you’re constantly trying to cover other costs.

It’s part of being a homeowner, and you need to decide if you’re good with it.

“Anyone considering buying needs to look at an amortization schedule to see exactly how much out of their monthly payment will be going toward paying off the house,” Crouch says.

5. Is buying truly cheaper in the long run?

This one depends quite a bit on where you live.

So do the math. Understand that when you’re buying, you’ll be taking on a big down payment and all those additional costs. On the other hand, you’ll want to take a look at your local rental market. If your rents are increasing steadily year over year, you might be shelling out more on temporary housing then you would on your own home each month. And you may find yourself with your savings too depleted to buy.

“On average landlords raise rent 7% per year,” Crouch says. “This is a compounding increase in expense.”

That could mean that buying, while a punch to the wallet now, will be more affordable in the long run. But if you live in a more stable rental market, it could be better to sock away some cash and wait a few more years to purchase a home. You can use our handy Rent vs. Buy Calculator to crunch the numbers and decide what’s right for you.

6. Am I secretly trying to talk myself into it?

Your co-workers don’t understand why you’re still renting. Your friends are all buying their first homes. You’ve been saving for years specifically so you can buy a house and become a key-carrying member of the Great American Dream. It may seem like you should just buy already, but try asking yourself: Do you really, truly want to?

Even if it might make sense on paper, Crouch still recommends asking yourself three questions before you finally decide:

  • Am I trying to sell myself on the idea of buying a home?
  • Am I trying too hard to justify it financially?
  • Do my reasons to buy outnumber my reasons not to buy?

After all, buying a home is arguably the biggest financial (and, sometimes, emotional) commitment you’ll ever make. You need to be sure it’s right for you—no matter what anybody else says.


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com