You'll Need Sea Legs: This Alameda Home Sits on the Water

  • Barn Wood Bedroom

    Barn Wood Bedroom

  • Deck


  • Family Room

    Family Room

If you're searching for a home in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps it's time to consider the water. A floating home for sale in Alameda, CA, for $749,000 offers seagulls for neighbors and the blare of foghorns instead of street noise.

Don't confuse the 42 homes docked side by side in the private, gated Floating Home Community at Barnhill Marina with houseboats. These are actual houses. No motors or captain's wheel here. Never heard of 'em? Don't feel left out: "It's pretty rare [for them] to come on the market," listing agent Tracy Palma says.

And obtaining one of these floating domiciles is even more difficult: "They're not going to be building them anymore, because they can't be permitted anymore," Palma notes.

While it can't be called a boat, the rustic-chic home is seaworthy -- and we're pretty sure it's OK to yell "ahoy!" when entering. The charmer sits on a hull made from 40 tons of waterproofed concrete that also serves to keep the temperature constant inside -- there's no heating or cooling systems in the home.

Built in 1974, the three-story home has plenty of sunlight coming in from the walls of windows and the high ceilings give the place an airy openness. Bedrooms are clad with reclaimed barn wood for a cabinlike feel. The water views are fantastic inside and absolutely fabulous outside. The roof deck is where you'll want to spend all your time, dining alfresco, taking in the sunset, or simply watching the ships pass by in the Oakland Estuary.

The seller, who moved in with her daughter 15 years ago, recently redid the kitchen and bathrooms and gave the three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom space an overall refresh. With her grown daughter out of the house, she's decided to downsize.

While it appears to be a regular home you'd find on solid ground, and a beautiful one at that, the 1,595-square-foot property is on the water. So potential buyers with motion sickness should count themselves out.

"The home does float, and it does move," Palma says.

There are other things that make this home atypical. Moving to this waterfront community is not exactly like living on land. First, you buy the house, but you also must lease the slip where it's docked. According to the agent, the monthly fee (currently $625) doesn't go up, but it must be paid every month for as long as you own the home. (In theory, the home could be tugged to another slip elsewhere in the bay, say Marin, if so desired.)

The monthly charge above and beyond your mortgage pays for water, garbage, and parking. Sewage and water systems are land-based, and run through the city of Alameda.

Obtaining a loan is another logistical hurdle. Since it could be moved, the home is considered " personal property" and will require a different finance option. However, your personal property doesn't get you out of paying property taxes to the city.

Another detail to keep in mind: The parking lot is a short walk to the dock, so the marina provides wagons for residents to haul groceries and packages to the front door. Points for charm.

More points for convenience. The home is located right near Jack London Square, the ferry terminal, and freeways.

And if you're imagining a rather challenging move with furniture being carried up a narrow ramp, the seller is willing to sell the house furnished. Now that's smooth sailing.