Seattle Houseboat Buying Guide (Updated for Fall 2023)

by Matt Goyer

What is a houseboat? What is a floating on water residence (FOWR)?

A houseboat is a floating structure used as a dwelling unit and moored in a rented or owned slip at a marina in the City of Seattle. Their technical term is a floating on water residence (FOWR). There are 215 FOWRs on Lake Union. Houseboats differ from floating homes in that houseboats are relatively easy to move between marinas and are not permanently connected to their docks with easily disconnected utilities. We also consider house barges to be houseboats.

What is a house barge?

A house barge is a Is designed and used for navigation but lacks a means of self-propulsion and steering equipment or capability. There are 27 house barges on Lake Union.

How big is a houseboat?

Most houseboats range in size from 150 to 1,000 square feet. However, there is an exception, the Aurora which is 4,800 square feet!

How much does a houseboat cost?

Houseboats can be as cheap as a $100k for a small fixer upper to $1m to a brand new 1,000 square foot one. However, there is an exception, the Aurora, which sold for $3.6m in 2022 but keep in mind, it is 4,800 square feet.

Total # of salesOff-marketPrice range$/Sq. ft. rangeDays on market
202372$58k to $1.15m$162 to $1,4116 to 210
2022273$130k to $3.6m$366 to $1,5002 to 302

How do I finance a houseboat purchase?

There are lenders who specialize in houseboat loans like Sound Community Bank.

Can I Airbnb or VRBO a houseboat?

No. Short term rentals (fewer than 30 consecutive nights) are not allowed for on-water residences.

Can I move my houseboat?

Yes! Though finding a spot to move it to is the trick.


Seattle Floating Home Buying Guide