A fascinating new dwelling option will soon be available in downtown Wilmington. A houseboat community to be known as The Strands is taking shape just north of the Wilmington Convention Center. Two docks running east and west parallel to Convention Center Drive will provide mooring for up to 95 floating houseboats. This unique new community is part of the Pier 33, Port City Marina project on the Northeast shores of the Cape Fear River.
There are plans for one, two and three bedroom units available. A prototype one bedroom unit will soon be launched from its construction site across the river. It will take up temporary mooring at the existing dock while docks for The Strands are under construction. Construction on the first of the two piers that will comprise The Strands will begin this summer.
Being located directly beside the convention center demand for rentals at The Strands is likely to be very high. And while the city continues to grapple with the issue of short term rentals The Strands may find itself uniquely above the fray. Houseboats, or floating homes as they are also known, are in fact vessels, not real estate, and as such may skirt many of the issues of residential rental regulations.
The developers do not expect the entire neighborhood to be dedicated solely to rentals but short term rentals will not be prohibited. They anticipating that approximately one quarter of the unts will be full time residences, with approximately equal portions being vacation homes, short term and long term rentals. But of course the market will have the final say.
Specifications vary by models, but each vessel is 46 feet in length and 16 in width with 9 foot ceilings in heated space.
Click on each image to see a larger version.
Southport - 1 Bedroom, 1 Bath starting at $274,500 – Total = 1,241 sq. Ft. (heated + cabana + deck); 1st floor 557 sq. ft. heated + 98 sq ft. deck; 2nd floor 586 sq. ft. deck & cabana. These are the specifications of the current model and prototype. And update version will add 2.5 feet of heated space to both ends of the ground floor. That will add 80 square feet of heated space bringing the total to 637 square feet, a significant gain which should greatly improve the livability of the space.
Masonboro - 2 Bedroom, 2 Bath starting at $289,500 - (approx.) - Total = 1,270 sq. Ft. (heated + deck); 1st floor 560 sq. ft. (heated) + 90 sq. ft. (deck); 2nd floor 500 sq. ft (heated). + 150 sq. ft. (deck)
Cape Fear - 3 Bedroom 2 Bath details to be announced.
Hull – Polypropylene & Steel
Siding – HardiePlank
Decking - Composite
Roof – Membrane
Interior Walls – Purple Drywall (mildew and mold resistant)
Prices include a stainless steel appliance package with a refrigerator, range and dishwasher. As with most new construction there are various upgrades available like granite counter tops and tile showers. Ten hours of time with an interior designer are built into the purchase prices so you may personalize your unit.
There are some additional costs of course. You will be renting your slip initially at $950 per month (developers are currently offering the first 6 months rental free). Eventually you will be able to buy your slip for $200,000. HOA fees are currently set at $210 monthly which includes wifi, water, trash and recycling, mail and postage handling, common areas including a 90 x 30 “pier park”, 24/7 security and one reserved parking space.
The owner also pays for electricity, personal wifi if desired and satellite television. Insurance estimates are running between $4000 and $6,500 annually depending on coverage and deductibles.
A reservation fee of $2,500 allows you to reserve a slip location for 30 days while the purchaser moves to a contract.
I spoke with lender Mark Johnson at The Sound Bank about financing. There are some differences in financing a houseboat as opposed to a residential mortgage loan. Marine Financing is generally kept in house or ‘portfolio’ and not sold on the secondary market like home loans. Loans generally have a five year balloon with a 15 year amortization. Interest rates tend to come down as loan amounts go up and although Mr. Johnson would not commit to specific rates a quick survey of my own suggests the rate would 0.75 to 1.0% higher than one might expect of a current 30 year fixed rate mortgage. Do bear in mind that the loan will be amortized over 15, or perhaps a maximum of 20 years, making the monthly payment higher than a traditional 30 year mortgage. A ‘survey’ or general inspection will be required and a lawyer familiar with marine lending will be needed to close the loan.
Financing can be arranged through The Sound Bank, The Forum, 1131 Military Cutoff Rd, Wilmington, NC 28405, (910) 239-9548.
Can you take your houseboat out for a spin around the river? Not likely. Each houseboat will come with a 125HP outboard motor, but there is no bridge from which to control the vessel. The motor is there to assist docking in the pier area. The motor would not be sufficient to move a vessel of that size and weight against the currents of the river. If you did want to move your houseboat to another location it would need to be towed or loaded onto a barge.
An apartment complex is currently planned for the area just east of The Strands and although not promised it has been suggested that a pool and access to a fitness area may be in the works for the future.
It’s exciting to see the north end of the Central Business District taking shape and The Strands will certainly add a new flavor to our urban residential landscape. I look forward to seeing this unique development taking shape.
Steven C Fox