Floating Home Market Update

SOLD signs sprouted all over the docks in 2020  |  photo from Compass Realty  |  post by Steve Sekhon

It appears that we are now at the other end of the pandemic. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how the past year impacted the floating home market. Below is a summary of the overall housing market. After that, we take a look into the floating home market in particular.

Floating home sales are inextricably linked to the broader Bay Area and and Marin County housing markets. The general trends based on a year over year comparison indicate a resounding increase in price, decrease of days on the market and decrease in the supply of houses that are actively for sale. The supply was so restricted that it placed upward pressure on prices.

Factors Driving Price Appreciation

There are many factors contributing to such strong market demand, however the most notable are: increased savings rate, substantial gains in financial markets, historically low interest rates and severely limited new construction.

Floating Homes Compared with Houses on Land

Pandemic isolation, a dramatic increase in the amount of time spent at home, and severe restrictions on free movement are all likely to have brought in a new crop of buyers considering the possibility of living on the water. We all know how fabulous living on a floating home is, but our good fortune was illustrated more than ever during the pandemic as we enjoyed concerts, uninterrupted access to open space and the sense of community that flourished more than ever.

While houseboats provide a unique value proposition, that value has been less commonly understood than housing on land. It isn’t uncommon for homes on the water to take longer to sell than typical houses on land, but they do sell. The word is out more than ever about the tremendous quality of life afforded by houseboat living.

Houseboats have historically been one of the least expensive home ownership options in Marin County, but that is no longer the case. The price per square foot of a home with finished living space is a basic metric and it varies widely depending on dock, position on the dock, depth of water, views, quality of construction, degree of updating and condition of the hull. The average price per square foot for houseboats is rapidly approaching $1,000. Some houseboats of course sell for quite a bit less, and some for considerably more.

Compared with the overall cost of housing in Marin County, floating homes are now some of the costliest housing available. In 2020, the average price per square foot was $784 in all of Marin, versus $892 per square foot for floating homes. Below are $/SF of houseboats compared with $/SF of single family homes in select Marin County cities:

Location                        $/SF

Tiburon                         $1014
Mill Valley                       $974
Sausalito                         $961
Houseboats                     $892
San Anselmo                 $869

All Marin County           $784

What is the prognosis for future pricing?

 Again, the limited quantity of floating homes available, the constricted supply that will never increase, proximity to SF, and easy access to open space and recreational activities on the bay, combined with the more intangible benefits of community, nature and being plugged into the rhythms of the planet, suggest that the value of floating homes will continue to appreciate into the future.