REAL ESTATE

What Is Going on With the Floating Homes of Sausalito?

  • 12 Issaquah Dock

    12 Issaquah Dock

  • 13 Yellow Ferry Harbor

    13 Yellow Ferry Harbor

  • 25 East Pier

    25 East Pier

There's nothing quite as picturesque as the floating homes dotting the harbors of Sausalito, CA. For most of us land-locked folks, they inspire fantasies of getting away from it all -- without actually going anywhere! It's little wonder that the floating home community on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the San Francisco Bay Area's liveliest, and little discussed, real estate markets.

By our count, there are six water-based listings currently on the market. And with fewer than 40 single-family homes available in the entire city, floating homes are, well, making waves.

We thought that, with a ratio of one in eight homes for sale being located on the water, we'd spotted a Titanic trend. However, the number of floating homes didn't impress those in the know.

"The inventory is very low right now," says Michele Affronte, a Realtor specializing in Sausalito waterfront properties. "Hardly anyone is selling. Once you move here, you don't want to leave." If you've dreamed of living in one of these aquatic abodes, you need to dive in -- the currents of the market flow swiftly.

The tightly knit community of about 400 homes has been allotted to five marinas. It has creative roots dating to the 1960s, when artists, writers, photographers, and musicians moved in, according to the Floating Homes Association.

"You're on the water with the most incredible views," Affronte says. "You can come home from work and go kayaking. It's like being on vacation year-round." She notes the homes make great investment properties or second homes.

For those who want to live on a floating home full-time, Sausalito is an easy commute to San Francisco by ferry or a short drive (or a strenuous bike ride) over the Golden Gate Bridge. Several tech companies' shuttles also stop nearby, making it an attractive option for Silicon Valley employees.

Of course, unlike a houseboat, floating homes -- with hulls made of concrete, wood, or fiberglass -- aren't equipped with a motor. They are equipped with most land-based amenities, including utilities, cable TV, and broadband internet service.

Along with a mortgage, homeowners must pay a berth fee, which can run from $850 to $1,450 a month, Affronte notes. While you can easily take your paddleboard out for a spin, cars are designated to slightly less convenient parking lots, where wagons are available to cart your groceries to the front door.

And, hey, if buying one isn't an option, check out these seaworthy domiciles on the popular Floating Homes Tour. Because you just knew there was one, right?

"It's a very calming environment," Rachelle Dorris, a listing agent for the area, says. "Being so close to nature you're just part of it. That's a big draw for a lot of people." This explains why people don't seem to want to leave, except in these six instances. Dip your toe in, and see what's currently floating by in Sausalito.

12 Issaquah Dock

Price: $625,000
Floating features: Don't let the small size fool you. With just 588 square feet, this Cape Cod -- style floating home is big on features, including a renovated open kitchen and living space, master suite, spa tub, and gas fireplace.

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13 Yellow Ferry Harbor

Price: $695,000
Floating features: At just under 1,000 square feet, this one-bedroom, one-bathroom charmer had us at "hello." The open floor plan leads to a deck and dock with views of Mount Tamalpais and Richardson Bay, and the master suite looks out to those same vistas with a deck of its own.

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9 West Pier

Price: $739,000
Floating features: Sleek and modern, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom home includes two master suites, quartz counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, and two large decks perfect for parties. Of which you'll likely have many.

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25 East Pier

Price: $1,575,000
Floating Features: This luxurious three-story custom home includes 16-foot ceilings, a large family room, and a sky deck. Sorry, no dogs are allowed on this dock.

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59 Issaquah Dock

Price: $2,820,000
Floating features: Ahoy, there. This nautical-themed abode has three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. It measures 2,600 feet and includes multilevel decks, high ceilings with skylights, and an open layout.

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37 Liberty Dock

Price: $1,300,000
Floating features: Built in 1997, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom home has been "extensively remodeled," including the must-have "nano doors" that open fully for indoor-outdoor living.