Today, my wife and I checked out Open Houses in Vancouver's lovely (and busy) Coal Harbour. We weren't in some $400K high-rise condo though (although there are a lot of those to be found - we were down at sea level, looking at detached homes for under $200K. Real detached. In fact, they barely touch the earth. They were floating homes, or sea homes, moored down at the Coal Harbour Marina.
Living in a sea home has been a dream that's been growing in our minds for a couple of months now. It's not for everyone: you must buy the home, and then pay yearly moorage, kind of like living in a trailer park. In the Coal Harbour neighbourhood, I bet moorage runs in the neighbourhood of $900/month, which is enough to make most people run for the moorage-free hills. It amounts to almost paying two mortgage fees, so if you can't float that, you're sunk for sure.
There's definitely a novelty, "gee-whiz" factor (if you'll permit me to talk like I'm from the 50s) to living in a house that floats. Back in the 80s, when I worked as a pedi-cab driver and studied art down on Granville Island, I looked at the floating homes all the time. It seemed like a pretty sweet life if you could swing the money part: $350-$500K for the home, plus whatever the Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission decided was a fair moorage rate. Still, bobbing around on the water, watching all the ships, sea birds and an occasional seal go by, and walking 5 minutes to the local shops to stock up on goods.
Local Futurist and columnist, Frank Ogden (aka "Dr, Tomorrow"), lives in a funky sea home, that resembles the nose of a submerged 737. Sailboats and Yachts are coming and going alkl the time, so the neighbourhood is varied, to say the least.
Today, we did a tour of three extremely cozy sea homes in Coal Harbour: "Cumberland", "The Caribou" and "Sweet Pea", all seemingly built from old fishing vessels or something, and quite charming in their own way. Check them out here:
("The Caribou" reminds me of the kind of sweet, oddball place that Popeye the Sailor might retire to. It also has the largest deck of the three we saw, located on it's roof. Overall, it's a bit too small for us, but still just as charming as hell...)
In addition to Coal Harbour and False Creek, there are a few Marinas that have floating communities: Mosquito Creek, just west of Lonsdale Key on the North Shore, and there are others in Richmond, Fort Langley, and in Ladner, near the Reifel Bird Sanctuary. There's also Fisherman's Wharf Marina in Victoria, BC. Here are listings of sea homes in these other locations, most of which are a bit less expensive than Coal Harbour: http://www.floatinghomes.com/classified.htm
We're city mice who require lots of shops or at least one 7-11 and two coffee joints within walking distance of our humble abode. Victoria appeals to me very much, but North Van seems the most likely for us, Our cunning plan is to pay off our current condo mortgage over the next 10 years or so, sell it for a nice profit, and buy a sea home all-in, and then use profits from the sale to cover the first year's moorage fees, etc.
It's not a cheap prospect, but I think we can do it. Oh - what a lovely dream...