Colorful Seattle Houseboats History on The Log Foundation docks of Eastlake in 2014. Image courtesy of Cooper Jacobs Real Estate.
Seattle Houseboats History Has A “Colorful” Background & Entrepreneurial Spirit Transcends Time…
To look at all the colorful and cheery Lake Union floating homes today is to never know how truly Seattle houseboats history is. Seattle floating homes are a living and evolving part of Seattle’s history. From their humble beginnings over a hundred years ago as floating shanties compiled of pillaged lumber, it is amazing to see that some sell for over $3 Million dollars in today’s real estate market.
Seattle houseboats were originally built in two different ways. Either the worker would utilize his commuting work boat and build living quarters above it, or they would gather “loose” logs and raft them together to build a completely free floating structure. It was an inexpensive way of living and was tax free on top of it.
Map of Seattle houseboats along shores of Madison Park. Image Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Item #944
At the peak, the Seattle floating homes community was as large as two thousand houseboats lining the shores of the city in various locations which even included Madison Park in Lake Washington. The residents of the surrounding Seattle neighborhoods reportedly snubbed them and looked down at this way of life. They apparently felt that it was beneath their standards and so began the struggle of Seattle houseboats to Stay Afloat In Seattle™. Today there are around 500 Seattle floating homes and probably another two or three hundred liveaboards that are officially newly categorized as Seattle Floating On-Water Residences (final count once all have registered themselves in the latest legislation). The latest Seattle floating home dock was a new construction floating home development called Ward’s Cove. Very specific requirements need to be in place in order to develop new construction Seattle floating homes, so it is next to impossible to do so.
If The City Historically Wanted Them Gone, Why Did They Allow Docks To Begin With?
Here is a view towards Downtown from the South slope of Denny Hill in 1886 (photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Item # 2869)
The short answer is The University of Washington. Wait. What? The long answer is that Seattle has a very long history of making some incredibly hairbrained decisions as far as infrastructure goes. A perfect example (and my apologies for going off subject here for a minute, but….) The Denny Regrade: The hill is too big? Scrape it into the Puget Sound. In 1900, the city decided to basically eliminate a whole hill which covered 62 city blocks. Denny Hill was a significantly beautiful hill in Seattle. It had a gorgeous crowned jewel of a hotel atop it that was so grand that even President Theodore Roosevelt stayed there! It had an old cemetery and a beautiful park on it with expansivel views in all directions. In all, they removed a reported six million cubic yards of earth.
Connecting the dots: What does this all have to do with Seattle houseboats and The University of Washington? Let’s go backwards. The modern day campus of The University of Washington was largely laid out and shaped by The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909. In 1907 the city of Seattle platted and sold the submerged “parcels” in Lake Union to the adjacent waterfront property land owners. This enabled docks to be built and Seattle houseboats to be moored to them. According to The Lake Union Mail on an article about Submerged Parcels Park on the Cheshiahud Loop, “The “Lake Union Shore Lands” were created in 1907 as a funding mechanism for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (S.B. #101). Water extending from shore approximately one block (roughly 400 feet) was platted as buildable land, then sold. These parcels didn’t sink, they started sunk. And they were considered valuable.” Now you know how a World’s Fair, Denny Hill, The University of Washington, and Seattle Houseboats are related.
While replacing the carpet for one of our Seattle historic houseboat listings in 2010, we found an old booze hatch left over from Prohibition days. Image Courtesy of Courtney Cooper.
More Shady Past on The Lake: Life Afloat In Seattle℠: You Want To Stay Dry, Except When It Comes To Your Drink…..
Creativity has always been a strong characteristic of the Seattle floating homes community. This was never so true as during the prohibition era. According to the 1996 article by Sharon Boswell in The Seattle Times, “But for those who couldn’t afford the pleasures of Doc’s or one of the hundreds of other boozy night spots and music clubs along Jackson Street, in Belltown or even on Lake Union houseboats, there was always a bottle of locally produced bootleg available to consume in the privacy of home.” If floating homes seem like an unlikely place to get your alcohol fix then consider that In his highly acclaimed book, “Seattle’s Unsinkable Houseboats”, Howard Droker tells the story of a very enterprising entrepreneur who along with the cedar bark he sold off his boat, also sold smuggled Canadian liquor.
It’s absolutely true. If you take a peek under carpets of older floating homes you will see the leftover evidence of the Prohibition era and how crafty houseboaters were able to not stay dry. Many of them have hidden trap doors under the floor that were used for storing alcohol. At one point in time there were regular “rum run” routes such as the one Droker writes about which would make their rounds delivering to Lake Union floating homes. These booze hatches were ingenious and stored between the floating logs with a wire cage so that the waters of the lake itself could keep the liquor cold and well hidden. According to HistoryLink.org, The Seattle Times noted at one point that in regard to those wild times, “Some of the stories behind the houseboat population are as colorful as anything that ever came out of Seattle’s history, but respect for another’s privacy and past is an unspoken code on the lake.”
This historic Seattle houseboat was once used as a floating dance hall. It is for sale today for $697,000. Listed by Cooper Jacobs Real Estate. Molly Cartwright 206-841-6800
Seattle Houseboats Are Still Afloat & Strong Today
Go experience their magic – Take a kayak tour through Lake Union and Portage Bay where you will find what is left of the Seattle floating homes community. Take a walk around Lake Union on the Cheshiahud Loop. Lake Union is the very heart of the city. Try and imagine the colorful past as you look at the beauty and creativeness which is so abundant today. This is a living and breathing Seattle neighborhood, but also a significant part of Northwest history. It is as vibrant as the wonderful people who live in it. I am so thankful to have known so many of them and appreciate how they have enriched my life so far. Please also take a minute and donate to the Seattle Floating Homes Association if you can.
Want more information on Seattle houseboats?
We are happy to help! Please call Courtney or Molly. We are Seattle Houseboats Experts ℠, and have been Seattle Realtors specializing in floating homes and waterfront for many years. We look forward to helping you find your piece of Lake Union.
Seattle Afloat ® We want to help you live your life Afloat In Seattle™ Cooper Jacobs Real Estate™
Seattle Afloat®– The Seattle Houseboats Market Is Floating Despite Reports On Low Lake Union Levels…
Here we are in the final days of August 2015 already and the Seattle houseboats market has been incredibly surprising and action packed so far this year! Multiple reports on the risk associated with historically low Lake Union levels and still we are Afloat in Seattle™! As of this AM, in the last 30 days there have been 5 SOLD Seattle floating homes that have closed in escrow through the NWMLS. These are not the “For Sale By Owner” Seattle houseboats and these are just the Seattle floating homes – not the other types of Seattle houseboats like floating on water residences, etc. Just floating homes. Cooper Jacobs Real Estate has Seattle Realtors that specialize in Seattle houseboats and Seattle waterfront homes. (Seattle houseboats experts Molly Cartwright and I were involved in two of the last five sales below.)
- 2818 Boyer Ave E #2 in Portage Bay is a 1 bedroom, .75 bath 600 square foot Seattle floating home. It was built in 1930. It was listed for $395,000 and after 5 days on the market sold on 7/21/15 for $410,000 (103.80% of sales price to list price). $683.33/sq ft
- 2031 Fairview Ave E #N in Eastlake is a 885 square foot 1 bedroom and 1 bath home built in 1925. It was orignially listed for $510,000 and dropped its price to $499,000. After 90 days on market, it sold for $465,000 (93.19% sales price to list price). $525.42 square foot
- 2420 Westlake Ave #7 * in Westlake is a 1065 square foot 2 bedrom and 1.5 bath floating home that Molly and I listed. It was built in 1929, but completely redone and sold for $875,000 after 103 days on market (97.44 % sales price to list price) 821.60 a square foot *Cooper Jacobs Real Estate represented the Seller
- 1214 Hamlin Ave St #9 in Portage Bay – A 3 bedroom 2 bath 1500 square foot floating home built in 1971. It was listed and sold for $1,298,500 after 11 days on market. $865.67 square foot
- 2466 Westlake Ave N #19* in Westlake – Molly and I represented the buyer for this fabulous Seattle floating home. It is a 2 bedroom and 1.75 bath home built in 1940. It was listed and sold for $1,350,000 with 7 days on market. *Cooper Jacobs Real Estate represented the Buyer
So what is for sale in Seattle Houseboats world now on Lake Union?
There are five Seattle floating homes for sale in the MLS right now. These do not include Seattle houseboats for sale by owner. They range in price from $499,000 to $1,495,000 with an average days on market of 38 days. The median list price is $750,000. They are all in Eastlake! In addition there is one floating home that is pending in the MLS priced at $2,895,000 (Wards Cove).
Our favorite by far of course is a great floating home on The Log Foundation dock which happens to be one of the best run and most established coop on Lake Union. If you are looking for Seattle houseboat living, then this is a great choice! It is a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom 1300 square feet floating home built in 1930 with lots of updates.
It is south facing! To be south facing and in Eastlake is highly coveted. This one is all one level and well oriented with the water. It is listed for $697,000. Please let us know if you would like to see it. It won’t last long. Also, if you are looking for Seattle houseboats for rent, there are some available right now (A lot of people ask about Seattle houseboats for vacation rental, but the majority of these homes are rented long term).
Call/Text Molly 206-841-6800
Want to learn more about Seattle Houseboats and life on Lake Union Afloat? We would be happy to help!
Seattle Afloat ® Seattle Houseboats Experts ℠:
We want to help you live your life Afloat In Seattle™
Seattle Houseboats On The Market:
Just Listed: 2019 Fairview Ave E
For more info or your private showing:
Call/Text Molly Cartwright 206-841-6800
There are some great Seattle houseboats for sale out there, but this lovely Eastlake floating home is making its debut for the first time in a very long time.
- 2 Bedrooms
- 1 Bath
- 1300 Square Feet
- Built in 1930
- Remodeled Kitchen
- South Facing
- Owned Moorage on Well Organized Dock
More info about this great Eastlake Seattle floating home:
2019 Fairview Ave E
Look no further. You’ve just discovered the quintessential Eastlake Floating Home. The massive float size is perfect to entertain on your south facing deck. One bedroom & one smaller. Third room for another bedroom, office or den. Newly remodeled kitchen, with gas range, stainless steel appliances, and granite counter tops. Well established Log Foundation Co-op. Great location to enjoy all the Eastlake activities. Extra Boat Moorage with co-op approval. Welcome Home! $697,000
Want to learn more about Seattle Houseboats ?
Seattle Afloat ® Seattle Houseboats Experts ℠:
We want to help you live your life Afloat In Seattle™
Seattle Houseboats Real Estate Market Update
What Is For Sale On Lake Union Now?
Lots going on across Lake Union! There are three Seattle floating homes for sale in Eastlake right now – ranging in price form $525,000 to $1,495,000. All are two bedrooms which gives you a good indicator that it isn’t about bedroom count for Seattle houseboats! There is one other of the Seattle Floating On-Water Residences for sale in Gas Works Park Marina at $519,000 as well.
Pending Seattle Floating Homes In The NWMLS
There are four Seattle floating homes pending in the NWMLS right now. These range in price from $395,000 for a Portage Bay floating home to $1,298,000 for another Portage bay houseboat. There is one of each in Westlake and Eastlake pending as well. They range in bedroom count from 1 to 3 bedrooms and have other individual perks as well. For instance, our Westlake Floating home for sale is part of a co-op that purchased a money making marina to pay for costs of the dock. It is currently pending. Each one of these homes is so different and that is why when you are looking at Seattle houseboats it is really important to talk to someone who has the experience needed to help you navigate the waters of lake Union and Seattle Houseboat Living ℠.
Closed Transactions on Lake Union: Seattle Houseboats SOLD – at least EIGHT IN SIXTY DAYS.
There were at least two other Floating On-Water Residences as well, but let’s look at the Seattle floating homes segment of Seattle houseboats for sale. There were six Seattle floating homes that closed in escrow in the NWMLS in the last sixty days. They ranged in list price from $499,000 to $2,595,000 and range in sales price3 from $465,000 to $2,475,000 with an average sales price to list price ratio of 98.03%.
You can see the full NWMLS sheets and comparisons here:
Seattle Houseboats SOLD CMA
Seattle Houseboats SOLD 2015
Average days on market was 26 days for these. They were all around Lake Union in Eastlake, Westlake, and Portage Bay. The Lake Union Dock had a couple change hands. Fairview Landing also had one sell. We specialize in floating homes and waterfront homes, so happily we were involved in a third of these home sales. Molly and I sold a great one at 2466 Westlake Ave N for $1,350,000 (on the market for just 7 days) and we listed the beautiful white floating home at 2031 Fairview Ave E for $975,000 (it sold in 5 days for $971,000). It is difficult to judge these unique Seattle waterfront homes by dollar per square foot. The range of dollar per square foot pricing is as unique as each of these homes – ranging from $525.42 to $1225.85. The median price was $1,160,000. For Seattle houseboats, it really is about your unique needs. Please let us know what you are looking for in a new Lake Union home.
Here are some of the most common things that we get asked about with Seattle Houseboats:
- Boat Moorage
- Rooftop deck
- Dock Position (End of dock moorage is always the most desirable and the most expensive)
- Form of Ownership (Co-op, Condo, Fee Simple, Leased)
- Proximity of Amenities
Seattle Afloat ® Seattle Houseboats Experts ℠: We want to help you live your life Afloat In Seattle™
Seattle Houseboats On Lake Union – Inventory Is Afloat!
Seattle Is Afloat! There are several pending Seattle houseboats in the MLS as well, but I wanted to go ahead and get some basic info about what is available for sale on Lake Union right now. There are FIVE ACTIVE Seattle floating homes for sale currently in the NWMLS. There are also a couple Seattle houseboats for rent if you are interested in those so please let us know.
A quick note about Lake Union water homes definitions… (This post is about just SEATTLE FLOATING HOMES for sale. The term “Seattle houseboats” is an umbrella term which covers floating homes, vessels, barges, and now Seattle floating on-water residences. It has recently become unnecessarily more intricate than it ever needed to be, but it is what it is and we would be happy to help clarify it for you. Historically, though, Seattlelites refer to all forms of these types of floating abodes as “Seattle Houseboats“.)
OK, back to the Lake Union news! There are five Seattle floating homes that are for sale currently. They range in price from $395,000 for a 1 bedroom in Portage Bay to $1,595,000 for a 2 bedroom floating gem in the prestigious Mallard Cove floating homes community in Eastlake. The median list price of these incedible Lake Union floating residences is $948,000 which also happens to be the list price of our Westlake floating home for sale right now. There are two Eastlake houseboats for sale in this mix, two in Portage Bay, and one in Westlake. All three Lake Union houseboats communities offer different Seattle Waterfront Living℠ styles and each one is unique in character and charm. The average days on market is 21 days currently and the average dollar per square foot is $802.91 per square foot. Square footage on floating home docks is not a reliable source of value always because there are so many structures of ownership to take into account. Each Seattle floating home is different and there are also no two docks alike on Lake Union.
Interested in Living On A Houseboat In Seattle?
If you are interested in Seattle Houseboat Living, then please let us know. We would be happy to help you find your perfect spot to live Lake Union Afloat℠! Call/Text/Email anytime.
Molly Cartwright 206-841-6800 Molly@CooperJacobs.com
Courtney Cooper 206-850-8841 Courtney@CooperJacobs.com
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Live Your Life Afloat In Seattle™!