What Is a Floating Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

By Emma Diehl · March 06, 2023 · 8 minute read

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What Is a Floating Home? Should You Consider Owning One?

For those who love living near the water, or really near, a floating home may be the perfect fit. These unique dwellings provide rooms with a view, a community vibe, and more.

Isn’t this another name for a houseboat? No. Floating homes almost always stay put.

Read on to find out what a floating home is and what type of person might be the best fit for one.

Key Points

•   Floating homes are permanently docked structures with no engines, unlike houseboats.

•   These homes are often part of a homeowners association, contributing to maintenance and utility costs.

•   Ownership might include the slip where the home is docked.

•   Floating homes can offer a close-knit community experience and unique waterfront living.

•   They may face challenges such as financing difficulties and susceptibility to weather and water damage.

Characteristics of a Floating Home

Floating homes have the following features:

•   Permanently docked. Floating homes sit on the water like houseboats, but they are anchored and permanently connected to land-based utilities. Unlike houseboats, floating homes have no engine.

•   HOA membership. Floating home residents pay homeowners association or moorage fees to maintain the docks and slips and cover common utility bills like water, sewer, and garbage service.

•   Slip might be included. Floating homes are often sold with their slip.

•   What lies beneath. The hull is often made of concrete, although it could be wood, metal, or foam. A houseboat hull is likely made of fiberglass, aluminum, or steel.

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Pros and Cons of a Floating House

For water lovers, floating houses offer a unique lifestyle that might fit the bill. But they come with their fair share of drawbacks as well.


•   Close community. Floating homes typically are very close to their neighbors. This can mean a tight-knit community.

•   No engine maintenance. Unlike houseboat owners, floating home owners don’t have to worry about the upkeep of an engine.

•   Water, water, everywhere. Forget waterfront homes; floating homes are in the water. For the homebuyer with a love of the outdoors and watersports, the location is unbeatable.

•   Possibly less expensive housing. In certain cities in California, Washington state, and Florida where homes on terra firma might be sky-high, a floating home could cost less. Look into the cost of living by state if you’re thinking about a move.

•   Tend to hold their value. Whereas houseboats tend to depreciate, floating homes may appreciate.

•   Potential for property tax breaks. A floating home might be classified as personal property, not “real property,” so owners may not not have to pay property taxes. Instead, they would pay an annual personal-property tax. (Tax laws pertaining to floating homes differ by state, county, and even water body, so it’s important to know the applicable law where the floating home exists.)


•   Fees. Floating home owners typically pay HOA or moorage fees. They can be sizable and keep rising.

•   Limited locations. Floating homes are pretty rare. That means limited opportunities to purchase one or limited space in moorages to build one.

•   Seasickness or motion sickness. While floating homes aren’t mobile (unless they are, in rare instances, towed), owners will still experience some rocking and rolling, which might not be the best for those with sensitivity toward motion sickness.

•   Weather and water damage. If there’s inclement weather on the body of water, floating home owners may face expenses for repairs. And being on the water all the time can take a toll on wood and metal.

•   Harder to finance. Securing a loan can be a challenge. Some lenders do offer long-term loans (but not FHA or VA loans) for floating houses. They usually require at least 20% down and have a higher rate than traditional mortgage rates. A personal loan might be another option.

Moorage Rules

The moorage is the community where a floating home stays, usually permanently.

A slip in a moorage may be part of a floating house purchase. Other owners rent a slip. The price of a floating home with slip will be much more but cost less in monthly fees.

Like any neighborhood, moorages will have their own personality based on the residents. As floating homes tend to be close together, the communal spirit may come into play more than in a traditional neighborhood.

Similar to an HOA, moorages have community rules, which could include:

•   Stipulations on renting out floating homes

•   Standards of exterior upkeep of floating homes

•   Quiet hours

•   Share community spaces or equipment

Buyers may want to shop around for a moorage that suits their personalities.

Finding a Floating Home to Buy vs Building One

Because many floating homes are sold along with the slip, buyers don’t have to seek out a new moorage for the property.

Homebuyers in the market for a floating home will have to refine their search to areas where floating homes are popular and communities are established.

The benefit of building a floating home is the technology available today. Modern floating homes typically use different foundations than older floating homes, which could translate to lower maintenance costs down the line.

But a drawback to building a floating home is the stress of finding a moorage that can accommodate it. Float home builders may have to wait for an opening.

Recommended: How to Build a House

Maintaining a Floating House

When it comes to upkeep, floating homes have most of the maintenance of single-family homes, with the added challenge of keeping them afloat.

Floating home owners should keep a close eye on their home’s foundation and reach out to specialists whenever a crack or issue emerges.

Even basic repairs such as plumbing or electrical may require a contractor. Not all plumbers are certified scuba divers, but they may have to be to work on a floating home. That means even basic repairs could cost much more than they would for a land-based home.

Floating houses need ongoing maintenance thanks to exposure to the elements. To keep siding and other exterior parts in good condition may require constant maintenance and more frequent replacement.

Who Should Get a Floating House?

Floating homes can be expensive and fees can add up, so buyers will have to weigh whether this unusual choice among the different types of homes is worth its salt. Floating home buyers may be interested in some or all of the following:

•   A love of water and proximity to nature. With waterfront views around the entire property, floating homes are a great fit for those who love activity on the water and unbeatable sunsets.

•   A sense of community. If a buyer is looking for neighbors nearby and with similar interests, a floating community could be a great fit.

•   Minimalism. When everything has to be hauled from the dock onto a property, it can be exhausting. Floating homes and downsizing may go hand in hand.

•   A go-with-the-flow mentality. This style of living comes with some day-to-day inconveniences. Plumbing and electrical outages are more common in floating homes because of the nature of the hookups. If the moorage is in a remote area, cellphone service and internet access may be limited.

The Takeaway

Floating homes aren’t for everyone, but water lovers may feel the urge to say ahoy to this lifestyle steeped in nature. A floating house has benefits, but inconveniences and fees make this way of living best for a unique type of buyer.

3 Personal Loan Tips

  1. Before agreeing to take out a personal loan from a lender, you should know if there are origination, prepayment, or other kinds of fees. If you get a personal loan from SoFi, there are no fees required.
  2. In a climate where interest rates are rising, you’re likely better off with a fixed interest rate than a variable rate, even though the variable rate is initially lower. On the flip side, if rates are falling, you may be better off with a variable interest rate.
  3. Just as there are no free lunches, there are no guaranteed loans. So beware lenders who advertise them. If they are legitimate, they need to know your creditworthiness before offering you a loan.
SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


What is a floating house, and what is the difference between a floating house and a houseboat?

A floating home is permanently docked with a floating foundation. Houseboats have an engine and can move to different locations.

What is the cost of maintaining a floating home?

Maintaining a floating home may be similar to the upkeep on a waterfront or beachfront property. Basic repairs, including plumbing and electric, will likely require a specialist with experience in floating homes, which could be more expensive.

Can you get a loan to buy a floating home?

You could use a floating-home loan, personal loan, or home equity line of credit to buy a floating house, but floating homes are not eligible for a traditional mortgage.

Are floating homes safe?

Most are. Most floating home communities have standards in order to maintain property values. And the homes are usually subject to inspection and enforcement of regulations of the moorage and jurisdiction.

Photo credit: iStock/DR pics24
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