People are often curious about where real estate agents live. They spend all day looking at and getting homes ready to sell, so what does theirs look like? Surely, it must be big and beautifully staged all the time with a perfectly manicured lawn and the scent of fresh laundry throughout.
In my case, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, I do laundry, but the scent barely lasts an hour with my son tearing through the house. I also have no lawn whatsoever. In fact, step too far off my deck and you’ll fall right into Lake Ontario. That’s because I live on a floating home. No, not off in cottage country somewhere. Right here in Toronto.
There are just 25 floating homes in Toronto – a city by-law has ruled out the possibility of any more (which doesn’t hurt their property values). Located in Bluffer’s Park Marina, the homes are tied so close together you can jump from one deck to the other without much effort. That makes it a close knit community to say the least.
Some of the original owners have been here since the floating homes were first built between 1999 and 2001. They were built in anticipation of an Olympic bid that never materialized, and sold off to the brave few who were willing to try out living on these structures in the Ontario winters.
So what’s it like to live on a floating home in Toronto? Here are six things I have learned so far:
1. You will rock – and maybe even get motion sickness. But it will pass.
When I first moved in, I didn’t realize just how much floating homes would move. They’re not like houseboats. They’re proper two-storey homes that just happen to sit on concrete barges. They’re tied to the Marina’s dock and to each other. They’re built to be solid and stationary. And yet when the winds come from the North, you will feel it. Any gusts over 50km/hr and you will properly feel it. Cupboards might swing open, doors will slide shut and ceiling lights will swing. Depending on how sensitive you are to motion, you might also get sick. It took me about two months to get used to the movement. In the beginning I would have to leave the house if I knew it was going to be a windy day. Now, I barely notice it. I think the rocking motion at night even helps my son fall asleep.
2. You’ll want a diver to do a home inspection.
Before you buy a floating home, not only will you want the usual home inspection, but you’ll also want a diver to come and assess the underneath of your home. Importantly, that includes how much floatation you have. Depending on what the diver finds, you’ll either need to leave your heavy items in storage, or add additional floatation. And, if you don’t have equal floatation throughout, you’ll wind up living on a slight slant. For the first few months at our place, we were either walking downhill or uphill depending on which room we were going to. It was winter and we had to wait for the lake to melt before the diver could come and add more floatation to level it out.
3. Don’t feed the geese!
Part of the beauty of living on a floating home in Toronto is the myriad of wildlife you see right at your front step. It’s became a sacred ritual for my son to feed the ducks and trumpeter swans every day. We go through about a 25kg bag of cracked corn every two weeks. But one thing we were told by our neighbours as soon as we moved in – don’t feed the geese! And they were right. The few times geese wound up on our deck, we found it covered in poop soon after. Sorry geese!
4. Floamies vs Liveaboards.
Floamies are float homers, or people like myself who live on floating homes. Liveaboards are people who live full time, year-round on houseboats. There are several of those in Bluffer’s Park Marina as well. The relationship between the two is good – we all share a common love of being on the water. But they tend to live on smaller houseboats that don’t necessarily have all the amenities of floating homes. They also move a whole lot more on windy days. It’s kind of like the difference between camping and glamping. One isn’t better than the other, but everyone has their preference.
5. Winters are even more special than summers.
The number one question I get asked when people find out that I live on a floating home in Toronto is, “Isn’t it freezing in the winter?” Sure, it’s cold. But I haven’t found it any colder than other parts of Toronto in winter. It’s also such a special time since all of the seasonal boats are out of the water, so you can see lake for days. The number of tourists also dies down so the entire Marina becomes this beautiful, peaceful haven. When the ice is strong enough, you can even skate right off your deck. Plus, the Marina is in charge of maintenance so you never need to shovel a driveway again!