Floating Homes Are an Affordable Option For California Homebuyers


Living directly on a waterfront in California is extremely expensive and an out-of-reach option for many homebuyers.

Or is it?

There is another alternative for homebuyers who are looking for a unique and marine-like setting, as well as something relatively affordable: floating homes.

What Are Floating Homes?

These unique dockside houses are typically either built on top of old barges, concrete boxes that float in the water, pontoons made of steel or aluminum, or box floats made of wood. They’re different from houseboats in that they aren’t actually able to go anywhere; they simply float on the water and need to be towed in order to change location.

Floating homes come in a variety of different shapes, styles, and sizes, from modest cottages to large abodes outfitted with typical rooms, amenities, and layouts similar to their land-based counterparts. Floating homeowners own the actual structure, though they do not typically own the docking space. As such, they pay a monthly dock fee to the marina where their home is located, which usually includes parking, utilities, and sewer hook-ups where necessary.

Floating homeowners can rent a water lot, or buy into a homeowners association. The latter would involve paying monthly fees to cover the maintenance of common areas and the docks.

Floating Homes Offer a Cheaper Option to Traditional Housing

In areas where the median home price is well over the affordable threshold for many homebuyers, floating homes provide a unique alternative. Take the San Francisco Bay area, for example. The median home price in this area currently sits at $1.1 million, which is a lot more than what plenty of homebuyer hopefuls can afford, forcing them to continue to rent, or live on the outskirts where home prices are significantly lower.

But there are plenty of floating homes conveniently located on Bay area marinas that offer a quick and easy commute to San Francisco’s downtown. Barnhill Marina and Berkeley Marinas in nearby Sausalito, for instance, are centrally located near the hub of East Bay activity. Homebuyers can snag a floating home for as little as $250,000, which is a far cry from the whopping $1 million+ price point that more and more homes have been hitting in the San Francisco Bay area over the recent past.

Is Living in a Floating Home For You?

Aside from the affordable price tag, floating homes also offer their owners the obvious benefit of fabulous scenery and an up close and personal view of wildlife in the waters. As the availability of traditional homes in California continues to be a real issue in the state, floating homes offer a viable alternative.

Of course, these types of dwellings aren’t exactly for everyone. They tend to be very close to the adjacent neighbor’s, and there aren’t any basements to use for storage. Obtaining a mortgage can also be a bit more of a challenge as there are fewer lenders that offer loans for these types of properties compared to traditional homes. Interest rates also tend to be about 1.5 to 2 points higher compared to real property mortgages, and require a 20% down payment.

The Bottom Line

Before you dive into a floating home purchase, make sure you’ve taken into consideration all the potential downfalls coupled with all the perks of living on the water – literally. Make sure you hire an expert to inspect not only the structure itself, but also its foundation and the underwater condition. And as always, work with a trusted real estate agent who is well-versed in the realm of buying and selling unique properties such as these.