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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats | 2nd Annual Floating Home Market Report

By Alyssa Morrison |

With demand reaching record levels amidst an unprecedented number of sales, 2021 proved to be one of the busiest years yet for sales of floating property in Seattle—the most niche lifestyle and unique Seattle real estate sub-market. Jay Kipp, Founding Director and Global Real Estate Advisor, and Danny Varona, Global Real Estate Advisor, present the second annual Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR) Floating Home Market Report and exclusive in-depth analysis outlining both the current state of the market and trends that are likely to shape the floating home market in the year ahead.

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The lake-living experts found that not only were more floating homes selling year-over-year, but that inventory remained shallow with eager buyers bolstering the demand. The report highlights how the global pandemic, local employment, economic, and demographic trends have all impacted the floating home market. Kipp and Varona break down the unique factors that set this lifestyle property market apart from other waterfront lifestyles or land-locked homes. View, condition, location, and ownership classification are all factors examined in the report, allowing for sellers and buyers to explore comparables in the market, whether setting a listing price for their home or preparing to make an offer.

In publishing this report for a second year, “We felt this specific market was missing insights that would prepare sellers and buyers interested in floating homes, for what lies ahead,” explains Varona. “This is our second annual market report, and the most comprehensive review available of what has historically been an opaque, often mysterious, market for many.”

“As real estate advisors who specialize in floating property, we want to lead the conversation about where real estate trends have been and where they might go next, backed by data-driven research and the Sotheby’s International Realty brand,” says Kipp. “Floating homes are perhaps the most singular archetype of lifestyle living in the Pacific Northwest with an average dollar per square foot of floating homes nearly triple that of a similarly sized single-family residence in the city. Their purchasers are focused and increasingly affluent.”

“For years, the floating home market has been underserved and under-marketed,” says RSIR President and CEO Dean Jones, “our company data, insights, and reflections on recent market trends are a must-read for floating home owners, sellers, and buyers.”

One item specific to floating homes examined by Varona and Kipp is the “Home Ownership Effect.” Only 15% of local floating homes lease their slip, while the rest own moorage (co-op or condo). The value of a floating home on an owned slip increases significantly, where the average sales price of a floating home on a co-op or condo dock was $1,612.431, while a floating home on a leased dock has an average sales price of just $574,500.

Similarly, dock position often impacts value as much, or more, than any other factor. Much like peninsula-tip waterfront carries a premium in the typical waterfront market, so do end of dock positions with similar characteristics.

The floating home market is poised for another year of growth, according to Varona and Kipp. Conversations with potential buyers and sellers indicate a strong demand for floating homes as low inventory remains the norm. While in the past, the pair have recommended sellers hold off on listing until the spring or summer selling seasons, they see with the market positioned as it is, there’s no time like the present to list one of these unique homes for sale.

Among the floating property the pair has sold over the last few years, includes the recent sale of the Aurora, the Queen of Lake Union, represented by Kipp and sold for $3.6 million. Boasting craftsman design, a spacious floorplan, and uncompromising views, this 4,850-square-foot epic houseboat was a choice for celebrity stays before Kipp listed the Lake Union estate. The main level is an entertainer’s paradise, while a grand primary suite occupies the home’s top floor.

“Specializing in recognizing the inherent value in homes like Aurora, is crucial for brokers listing floating homes,” says Kipp. “My experience in understanding this market, as well as Danny’s, has been honed over numerous transactions, and as a part of each seller and buyers’ unique floating home story.”