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

by Garcia Chris
8 minutes read
Ahoy, Neighbor! What It’s Really Like Living in a Floating Home—From Boating to Dinner to Strange Animal Visitors

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.

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

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.

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“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 SeattleFloating 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 SeattleFloating 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.

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“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.”

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