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post #19 of Old 09-02-2011
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A few years back, I bought a 50-foot covered moorage in a condo slip on the southwest shore of Lake Washington, in Seattle (Parkshore Marina). Monthly condo dues are about $100 (versus over $500 to rent a covered 50-foot slip elsewhere). Plus, the slip has appreciated enough since 2005 that if I sold it, I'd recoup all my condo dues paid to date, plus make a nice little profit.

My feeling is that if you can find a condo slip to buy, do it (at least for the Pacific Northwest). How many new marinas are opening each year? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get all the permits to build a marina? It took the developers of the Elliott Bay Marina over 20 years; and environmental laws, rules and regulations have only gotten harsher since that was finished. In 2003, there was a severe storm and the City of Seattle marina at Rainier Beach was severely damaged; the City didn't rebuild it but tore it out and made a salmon preserve. That took about 70 moorages off the market, and you can bet it will happen again at other marinas that suffer major damage (think boathouse fires - they let them rebuild the Seattle Yacht Club docks, but that may not happen again).

Things to be careful about - as one poster noted, read and understand the condo CCR's - Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. Also find out if there are any underlying contingencies that could result in your losing your slip. For example, the Duwamish Yacht Club slips are subject to a contingent sale contract under which the Delta Marine shipyard, just upriver, can execute a right to purchase the entire marina some time in the 2020's. I don't know the details, and whether they'll have to pay market value to each slip owner, but it scares me enough to keep me from buying there. And as you get closer to the buyout trigger date, I think prices will go down and down.

Also, the Newport Shores Marina in Bellevue, although you "buy" the slip, you actually buy some sort of funky 75-year license to use that originated in 1978 - meaning you lose your slip in 2053. As you get closer and closer to that date, you lose resale value. Also, ownership at Newport Shores requires that you join the Newport Shores Yacht Club, with a $2,000 initiation fee and monthly dues of $50.

Another thing to be sure of is that any marina you buy in owns the land under the docks - some rent it from the Washington Department of Natural Resources - and you could get kicked out if the DNR decides not to renew a lease, for whatever politically-popular environmental reason.

As to Semiahmoo, I'd be very careful if that marina's on tribal land. You won't own anything, except a license to use or a lease. For example, the community of Shelter Bay, near LaConner, is on the Swinomish Reservation. The homeowners own their homes, but the land below is subject to a master lease that expires in 2044. If not renewed, the lease provides that the homeowners may remove (but not destroy) their homes, but the land reverts to the tribe at that time. I don't know whether Semiahmoo is on tribal land (I've seen references that it's "traditional Lummi land" and further references that the Upper Skagit Tribe has invested in the development, but I don't know if the land can be held in fee-simple.

In sum, I know I've been happy owning my slip, and think that it was a good investment. Another possibility to consider, if it's within the realm of reason, is buying a waterfront house with a dock. Given what's happened recently with real estate prices, this may be an viable alternative.
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