As boat sales skyrocket, private docks become valuable real estate

Joanne Falla decided she needed to expand: a bigger house and a bigger boat.

His home in Harwich on Cape Cod was not large enough for his close-knit family – two sisters, a brother-in-law, a nephew and a dog – to reunite. Since the lockdown, the 51-year-old Boston-based tech executive had worked in her tiny home, a 1789 building that was her father’s law firm in town for 30 years. She wanted a place she could share with her 80-year-old father Jim during and after the pandemic, for family vacations and weekends throughout the year.

She also wanted to expand the family fleet of boats, which at the time was a single, 11-foot, motor-powered boat and oars, which her father had built in the early 1960s. He could not. contain the whole clan safely, so when she and her father saw a used 16ft cat boat at Arey’s Pond Boat Yard in Orleans, he picked it up.

Joanne also found her new home at the shipyard. One day, while checking the boat’s inventory, she spotted a house on the opposite shore. It had everything a Cape Cod house should: weathered shingles, blue shutters and a view of the water, and it was on a hill. It was an impressive 4,983 square feet, with five bedrooms, 5 ½ baths and approximately 200 feet of pond frontage. The location in Orleans was perfect and it was well above water level to protect it from storms. Just below was a boathouse perched in a thicket of bright green swamp grasses.

Perhaps the best of all amenities, the property had a 100 foot dock with two boats attached.

Jim Falla on the 100 foot dock float at his daughter Joanne’s home on Arey’s Pond in Orleans, Mass. A long-time boater, he owns, starting from the left, an 18-foot single scull, a 16-foot catboat recently purchased from The Ary Shipyard. The family goes boating together.


Tony Luong for the Wall Street Journal

The view of Arey’s Pond from the deck of Joanne Falla’s five-bedroom home, which will be the family gathering place. The property’s boathouse, lower right, was a big selling point.


Tony Luong for the Wall Street Journal

Urged on by his father, the two toured the house with a broker. They found it to be a quality house, improved, ready to move in and large enough to accommodate their family. The boathouse would make a great office for Ms. Falla, who also has a place in Boston.

But at $ 4.4 million, she dismissed it as out of her budget. Until the price drops just when she could benefit from the IPO of her company, Snowflake, based in San Mateo, Calif. “I made an offer for $ 3.5 million and a few hours later the broker called to say it had been accepted,” she said. Ms Falla closed the house in February and her father moved in the next day. .

Today, the equipment she is most passionate about in the new home is the dock, which can accommodate two or three boats. She is not alone in her passion.

Homes with private boat docks, bulkheads, seawalls, and elevators are in high demand as Americans purchase pleasure craft in record numbers in a bid to socially distance themselves and stay healthy in the great outdoors. According to the Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Assn., Boat sales hit a 13-year high in 2020, up 12% from the previous year and surpassing sales before the 2008 recession. 310,000 motorboats were sold in the United States last year.

Part of this increase in sales is due to people working remotely in what was once their weekend home. Their relocation can now justify the considerable investment in a boat.

Mr. Falla splurged on two new ships for his family: a used catboat that cost around $ 15,000, plus an additional $ 26,000 that Joanne paid for the restoration work, and a used gig 18 feet for $ 11,000. He also purchased a $ 2,200 mast and line kit for his 1963 boat, labor not included.

New docks are difficult to find in some riverside communities. In Cape Town, environmental restrictions have capped new construction, although homeowners can restore or replace an existing home, said Jon Hagenstein, partner at Beacon Marine Construction in Mashpee, Mass. He has already recorded his 4 month old twins, Wyatt and Mila. , for wharf permits, they could get it in 20 years.

Other areas experiencing a lack of inventory include parts of Maine, the Florida Keys, and the nearly 700-mile shoreline of Talbot County, Maryland, where homes on the market tend to sell out quickly.

Joe Giardino’s $ 150,000 Seahunt GF moored at his seawall in the Venetian Shores area of ​​Islamorada, Florida. He uses the boat to fish for mahi, tuna, snapper and grouper in season.


Mary Beth Koeth for The Wall Street Journal

Maine broker Heather Shields, senior vice president of Legacy Properties, Sotheby’s International Real Estate, calls the inventory situation “difficult.” She sold a 5,100 square foot, four bedroom, 3 ½ bath home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for $ 1 million via FaceTime a few weeks ago, and the buyer still doesn’t have it. seen. His latest top listing is a five-bedroom, four-bath, 4,679-square-foot home on Sebago Lake in Standish, priced at $ 3.5 million. It has a dock, a stone wall and a 150 foot sandy beach by the lake.

In Maryland, Cliff Meredith, owner and partner of Meredith Fine Properties in Easton, says their business has tripled this year over the 2020 period. “The appeal of this area is that it is within reach of New York, Philadelphia. , Baltimore and DC, ”said Mr. Meredith, who estimates that about 90% of his sales are from waterfront properties. “Everyone is afraid of getting on a plane, so the safest thing to do is get in a car with your own family. “

Immediately after the Covid strike, it sold a $ 2.8 million, 5,251 square foot, four bedroom, 5 ½ bath home with 1,700 feet of shoreline, a small sandy beach, and sweeping views of the sea. water in Oxford. It also has a dock and a boat lift. The buyers are Karl Williams, 58, COO of a tech company based in Tysens Corner, Va., And his wife, Amy, 50. They will share the vacation home, 90 minutes from the family home in Arlington, Va., With their three children: sons Phillip, 16, and Christian, 19, and daughter Katarina, 26. The sudden death last year of a third son, Ethan, 22, after a brief illness, was the catalyst for the purchase.

“We always knew we would get a second home that would attract our family and friends,” said Williams. “The time had come for us and it was a great decision. “

The wharf is now home to its first boat: a 27-foot white Boston Whaler. He declined to give the price, but said he negotiated a 25% discount just before the dealership closed on Christmas Eve. He learns how to use it through an online course. “I’m a guy in the military,” said the West Point graduate in 1985. “I haven’t been to Annapolis.

In the Florida Keys, any home design takes a back seat to where it is on the water and the layout of its boat, according to Brett Newman of Team Newman, Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate in Islamorada.

In the Florida Keys, a home for sale takes second place after setting up the property for a boat, says broker Brett Newman.


Mary Beth Koeth for The Wall Street Journal

“You don’t even go into the houses, you just go to the back and check out the dock,” he said. “If it’s in poor condition or the water is too shallow or the channel isn’t clean enough for baitfish to survive in a bait pen, it won’t work.”

He recently sold a 3,382 square foot, four bedroom, three bathroom home in Venetian Shores for $ 1.95 million to Joe Giardino, 62, owner of Adirondack Kayak Warehouse, an Amsterdam kayak retailer, NY Not only is the house on Giardino Drive (his last name), but he has the seawall of his dreams.

He didn’t like the real house. It had a 1975 design and a blue mansard roof. He ripped off the roof, redone the exterior stucco and put hurricane-proof glass in some 37 windows, at a total cost of $ 125,000. He describes the new look as Florida Coastal Modern.

Mr. Giardino closed on July 2, just one day after selling his 3,576-square-foot five-bedroom home in the same community for $ 1.975 million. The new home has a boat lift for its $ 150,000 Seahunt GF and a 350 x 7 foot dock that likely cost the previous owner $ 350,000, according to Mr. Newman, the broker. Mr. Giardino bought his first home in the Keys in 2004, but he’s had his eye on the news for at least a decade.

“The stars finally aligned and I was able to get it,” he said.

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