Houseboats for Sale: The Life Aquatic

I'm off to Amsterdam today, to walk the canals, take the Heineken factory tour, and observe life on the water. When I was in college, I spent the summer between Junior and Senior year traveling about (after spending a year in North Wales, near where Prince William and his lovely Kate now reside) and when I got to Amsterdam, I spent a few nights on a houseboat hotel. It was damp but cheap, and I loved being on the water.

Whether it's for a vacation, a getaway or retirement, many people love being close to the water. Waterfront property is dramatically more expensive than property just a few blocks away. And just imagine what it would be like to live right on top of the waves. Houseboats, for many, are not summer homes or something to be rented for a vacation outing, but rather a way of life.

(The houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle. Photo by Brian Teutsch)

Made famous by the movie Sleepless in Seattle, houseboats are a historical and cultural phenomenon in Seattle, located primarily on Lake Union. Most of these houseboats are stationary, do not have a motor, and never leave the dock; these are floating houses rather than a vehicle you inhabit. Paulene Quigley and her husband Michael rented a houseboat in Seattle on Lake Union shortly after they were married 10 years ago. "We fell in love with it", says Quigley.

(Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives)

After deciding the houseboat life was for them, they purchased an 1,100 square foot dwelling on a dock where there were a number of other young families. They have lived in the floating community for the past decade with their three girls.

The dock is like a compact neighborhood. There are 14 houseboats, 7 on each side of the dock, and within their close knit community, there are 13 kids under the age of 10. Quigley loves the feeling of community.

"It really is a place where people watch out for each other. There are a few older people living there, and we all look in on them. There are kids running around all the time. At least once a week we have someone else's kids eat dinner with us," she said, adding that everyone in the area walks or bikes to the neighborhood store and the proximity to the city make it easy to often enjoy events and outings.

(Photo by Chas Redmond)

There are some obvious challenges with living on the water. Each member of the family has fallen into the lake at some point, for example, though the girls have been in swim class since they were infants. But one challenge that might not be as apparent is the need to balance the house when moving heavy objects around, so it doesn't tip too far to one side.

Quigley says she is often asked if the house is damp, but explained that it is no more damp than a regular house since it is sealed along the bottom. She enjoys not having a yard to take care of, and being able to go boating or fishing whenever the mood strikes.

(Photo by cliff1066â„¢)

The Quigley family loves living on Lake Union. Here are two houseboats, with photos courtesy of, on the lake that are for sale, so you could join the life aquatic if you choose.

2401 North Northlake Way #F-1, Seattle WA 98103

This houseboat, like Quigley's, has no motor and is stationary. It is listed for $169,000 and is 860 square feet, containing 2 bedrooms, and 1 bath.

With amenities like quartz counter tops, bamboo hardwood floors, and stainless steel appliances, nothing about the houseboat feels like roughing it.

It's more like a floating, high-end efficiency. Also included are in-floor radiant heat in the tiled bathroom floor, a stacked washer/dryer, fireplace, 42 inch HDTV, 2 exterior decks, and a built-in Murphy bed.

2401 North Northlake Way #L7, Seattle WA 98103

This houseboat, in the same area, is not stationary. It has a motor and can be driven as a water vehicle.

Listed at $239,000, it is 750 square feet and boasts 2 bedrooms with 1 bath. This houseboat also has stainless steel appliances and other features like a built-in sound system, cedar siding, and a large entertainment-sized deck on the upper level.

This would be a great living solution for an avid water sports enthusiast. Being able to step out the front door for kayaking, swimming or fishing would be a huge advantage.

I'll take some houseboat photos while I'm in Amsterdam. In the meantime, if you live on a houseboat, please send us a photo so we can include it with your comments in an update. You can reach me at the link under my name on this page.

So how about you? Do you think you could live on the water full time?

Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at and The Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and is Chief Content Strategist at, a community for real estate investors.