The Pros and Cons of Floating Home Life

For anyone out there who is thinking of living in a floating home, here’s my list of pros and cons.

By now you know that the one thing I dislike about living in a floating home is the windy conditions. So other than that, and the fact that we’ve spent a lot more money than what we’d originally anticipated, not realizing the dismal conditions the float was in, our cons are minimal. However, some might find a lot more cons than we do. Our pros are endless: the wildlife we get to view every day, the friendly neighborhood atmosphere, the myriad water sports we can do off our deck, just to name a few.

Pros

Neighborly atmosphere. Jared and I know almost every neighbor’s name in a moorage of 56 homes. We’ve had over half a dozen neighbors over for dinner and have been to several parties, including a wedding. If our next-door neighbors (on either side of us) go out of town for a few weeks, we’re entrusted with their house key in case something is amiss while they’re away. We water each other’s plants as well, and save our kayaks from floating away if they accidentally get blown into the river. You cannot ask for a friendlier bunch of people.

Wildlife viewing. Between otters, beavers, great blue herons, bald eagles, and ospreys, there is something for everyone. Some people even fish smelt, bass, perch, sturgeon, and sometimes even salmon, off their decks. Jared once caught a carp with cat food as bait. Needless to say, he threw that slimy disgusting thing back in the water.

Water activities. Hot day? Jump in the river from your deck to cool off, unless you live on the Willamette River—if that’s the case, I seriously advise against it, but the Columbia River is clean enough for sure. If you live in another part of the country, I suggest you get the water tested just to see what’s in the water before you take a dip. We had our tap water and river water tested when we first moved in, and the river results included minimal traces of E.coli, which makes sense, with all of the river animals. Want to go to Safeway without walking up the ramp? Take your kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or boat.

Cons

Rent v. Own. If you rent your slip, the monthly payment could go up at any time. Our moorage is currently owned by a company based out of Seattle, and since we’ve lived here (we moved in December 2012), our rent has increased four times. Four. Times. And most of those times it was by 10%. So you’re stuck with a high slip rental, and, for many, a mortgage. Our rent contract is also month to month. The worst part is that there really isn’t much we, as tenants, can legally do to stop these (what most of us believe to be unnecessary) increases, other than buying out the moorage, which we are trying to do. If you own your slip, you’ll be paying an HOA fee rather than the slip rent, plus a mortgage. However, you can ask for a lot more for your house if you were to sell it, since you’re selling the house AND the slip.

Neighbors. If you are antisocial, floating home life is not for you. You’ll hate having to acknowledge every neighbor you pass by. The houses in most moorages are very close together—if we look out our dining area window, we can see our next-door neighbors watching TV. Some houses are “fishbowls,”  in the sense that they’re in highly visible slips with high traffic. “Front-row” houses (those with a view of the river) get constant traffic in the summer. If you have one of those cool glass garage doors, plan on having everyone who goes by ogle at your house. Hopefully you’re not just out of the shower and on your way to the bedroom. (We do have a neighbor who told me that he doesn’t care—if you look in his house while you’re going by and he’s somehow indisposed, it’s your fault for looking.)

Distance. If you’re physically incapacitated in any way, you might want to reconsider living in a floating home. It is a tenth of a mile walking distance from my house to the parking lot. We are lucky that our moorage has one of the best ramps on the island, so it’s nowhere near as steep and treacherous as our neighboring moorages’. In the winter, we have to make sure we don’t slip and fall in the river when the docks and ramps are icy. And when it’s really rainy and windy, we still have to walk the whole distance to go to work.

Storage. Say bye-bye to storage and a garage. While some of us have compromised by scaling down our possessions by a lot, floating homes tend to be a bit smaller and we have to get creative with compact storage solutions. Jared and I went from a 1400-square-foot home with a garage and shed to an 1100-square-foot floating home with two deck boxes. We got rid of all of our furniture except for our couches, a coffee table, and our dining set. We have also donated a ton of clothes and shoes since our closet space was reduced from having one in each of the three bedrooms, including two hall closets, to one closet in the bedroom and a coat closet downstairs. We plan on adding a storage area in front of the house one day.

That’s my two cents. All in all, whatever the cons are, to my husband and me, living on the water is worth it.

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