Sponsored by Lane Powell

Floating homes weather housing crisis

| Print |  Email
Articles - March 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Floating homes on the Columbia River at Class Harbor Moorage in North Portland are a quirky sector of the real estate market.

Mack Wiebe has always lived near water; he grew up on the edge of the Columbia River, off of Bridgeton Road, and later moved to San Diego. But now he lives on the water, literally, in a floating house near Sauvie Island.

“I grew up on the river. As a youngster I’d go up on the Columbia every morning. It’s very cool to be on the water and live on the water,” Wiebe says. “It’s a very easy lifestyle.” He laughs. “No yard work.”

Floating homes are permanent houses anchored to a floating concrete block or set of logs. They don’t move, except to rise and fall with the tide, or unless the homeowner decides to move and take her house with her. They come with all the comforts — water, telephone, heat, a complete septic system — of a house on land.

There are a few floating homes, or “floats” in other parts of the state, such as Astoria and Newport, but there are 2,366 such houses along the Columbia and Willamette rivers in Portland. When Wiebe was growing up, most of the floating houses in Portland were occupied by fishermen. More recently they’ve become popular with retirees like Wiebe, who is 75, single men and women, young couples, and anyone with an affinity for water. The floating neighborhoods, or “moorages,” are usually serene, quiet, private docks, connected to land by a thin ramp. They’re often gated. The houses have back decks and big windows. Marine birds, beavers, river otters and other wildlife are a common sight. Most float owners have at least one boat tethered in the area that, on land, would be a driveway.

Floating homes make up a quirky sector of the real estate market. Zoning and environmental regulations make it difficult to build new moorages, so supply is relatively fixed. There was also no sub-prime lending boom for floating homes. Banks consider floats “private property,” not real estate, even though homeowners often own the section of river where the house is anchored. This classification means banks keep floating home mortgages on their books, as opposed to bundling them and selling them off, a practice that contributed to the housing market crash. And because the houses are on water, banks assume there is more risk of damage and require a 20% down payment, which reduces the risk of foreclosure as homeowners are better prepared to pay and less likely to abandon the property.

Despite being insulated from the worst of the housing crisis, floating-home prices have been set back by about two years and some have gone into foreclosure, says Portland realtor Jane Betts-Stover, who specializes in floating homes and owns one herself. “You don’t see them being hit as hard as the land houses,” she says. “Some people have gone into bankruptcy or short sales, but not in the waves and the numbers that you see in Oregon City.”

Betts-Stover says soft prices mean it’s a great time to buy, considering that many floating homes are on the market for less than $180,000 with lots of room for improvement. “I think they’re little gold mines. Down the road anybody who’s got a floating home is sitting on a gold mine.”

Wiebe and his wife, Meredith, 72, don’t consider their home a gold mine. “I just enjoy being able to look out each evening and see the water going by our house,” he says. 



#1 RE: Floating homes weather housing crisisGuest 2013-01-16 14:35:33
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
0 #2 RE: Floating homes weather housing crisisGuest 2014-04-04 01:01:35
You ask Portland's leading floating home Realtor about the value of these homes? There is an impartial source!!

OMG..Gold mine? Is that why about 30% of these homes are for sale? Half at the marinas with the heaviest monthly fee increases which have no limit in sight?
Quote | Report to administrator

More Articles

Cream of the Crop

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Bill Levy of Pacific Ag talked to Oregon Business about new residue markets, the company’s growth strategy and why a biofuel plant is like a large cow.


5 takeaways from the rural Oregon economic report

The Latest
Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released a report on the vitality of rural Oregon this week.  Media reports focused on the number of Californians moving to the "Timber Belt," but the document contained other interesting insights regarding regional challenges and successes.


Downtime with Patrick Criteser

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Live, Work Play with the President and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery Association.


Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


5 questions for ImpactFlow CEO Tyler Foreman

The Latest
Thursday, August 13, 2015

Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.


New green wood building product takes off in Oregon

Thursday, September 10, 2015
091115-cltjohnson-thumbBY KIM MOORE

Oregon is set to become a hub of a new type of wooden building design as a southern Oregon timber company becomes the first certified manufacturer of a high-tech wood product, known as cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02