As boat sales rise, private docks are becoming precious real estate


Joan Falla decided that she needed to get bigger: a bigger house and a bigger boat.

Her home in Harwich, Cape Cod was not large enough to be brought together by her close-knit family – two sisters, a son-in-law, a nephew and a dog. After the lockdown, the 51-year-old tech administration from Boston worked in their small home, the 1789 building that had been her father’s city law firm for 30 years. She needed a place to live 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’s boat fleet, which at the time was a single 11-foot boat with a motor and oars, built by her father in the early 1960s. He couldn’t keep the entire clan safe, so when she and her father saw a used 16-foot cat boat at Arey’s Pond Boat Yard in nearby Orleans, he grabbed her.

Joanna also found her new home at the boat station. One day, while checking the boat’s inventory, she noticed a house on the opposite bank. It had everything a Cape Cod house should have — weathered roof tiles, blue shutters and views of the water — and it was on a hill. It was an impressive 4,983 square feet with five bedrooms, 5 ½ bathrooms and about 200 feet of pond frontage. The location in Orleans was perfect, and it was high above the water level to protect it from storms. Directly below him, in a thicket of bright green marsh grass, was a boathouse.

Perhaps best of all, the property had a 100-foot jetty with two boats tied to it.

Jim Falla afloat in a 100-foot dock at his daughter Joanne’s home on Arey Pond in Orleans, Massachusetts. He has driven a boat all his life, he owns (from left to right) an 18-foot boat, a 16-foot cat boat, recently purchased from the Areya Boatyard. The family goes on a boat ride together.


Tony Luong for The Wall Street Journal

View of Arey Pond from the terrace of Joan Fall’s five-bedroom home, which will be the gathering place for the family. The boat house, located at the bottom right, was a big selling point.


Tony Luong for The Wall Street Journal

At the insistence of her father, she and the broker took a tour of the house. They found it to be a quality, modernized home, ready to move in and large enough to accommodate their family. The boathouse will be a great office for Miss Falla, who also has a home in Boston.

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

Today, the amenities she loves most about her 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, dams and lifts are in high demand as Americans buy pleasure craft in record numbers in an effort to distance themselves from society and stay healthy outdoors. Boat sales hit a 13-year high in 2020, up 12% from a year earlier and exceeding pre-2008 recession sales, according to the National Association of Marine Equipment Manufacturers based in Chicago. More than 310,000 motor boats were sold in the US last year.

This growth in sales is partly due to the fact that people work remotely in what used to be their weekend home. Moving them can now justify the significant investment in the boat.

Mr. Falla spent the money on two new boats for his family: a used cat boat, which cost about $ 15,000, plus an additional $ 26,000 that Joanna paid for restoration work, and a used 18-foot boat for $ 11,000. He also bought a $ 2,200 mast and cable kit for his 1963 boat, without his labor.

In some coastal villages, new docks are difficult to find. At the Cape, environmental restrictions place restrictions on new construction, although homeowners can restore or replace existing ones, said John Hagenstein, a partner at Beacon Marine Construction in Mashpee, Massachusetts. He has already registered his four month old twins, Wyatt and Mila. , they can get a docking station permission in 20 years.

Other areas with inventory shortages include parts of Maine, the Florida Keys and nearly 700 miles of coastline in Talbot County, Maryland, where homes on the market tend to sell quickly.

Joe Giardino’s $ 150,000 Seahunt GF is moored to his dam off the Venetian Coast in Islamorada, Florida. During the season, he uses the boat for fishing for mahi, tuna, perch and sea bass.


Mary Beth Coet for The Wall Street Journal

Maine broker Heather Shields, senior vice president of Legacy Properties, Sotheby’s International Real Estate, calls the inventory situation “challenging.” A few weeks ago, she sold a 5,100-square-foot, four-bedroom, 3½ baths home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine via FaceTime for $ 1 million, but the buyer has yet to see it. Her most recent top-list is a 4,679-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom home on Sebago Lake in Standish for $ 3.5 million. It has a jetty, stone bulkhead and sandy beach on a 150-foot lakefront promenade.

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

In the immediate aftermath of the impact, Covid sold a 5,251 square foot, four bedroom, 5 ½ bath home for $ 2.8 million, 1,700 feet of coastline, small sandy beach and panoramic water views in Oxford. There is also a pier and a boat lift. The buyers are Karl Williams, 58, the chief operating officer of a technology company based in Theisens Corner, Virginia, and his wife Amy, 50. They will live in a country house – 90 minutes from the family home in Arlington, Virginia – with their three children: sons Philip, 16, and Christian, 19, and daughter, Katarina, 26. The sudden death last year of Ethan’s third son. 22 years, after a short illness, became the catalyst for the purchase.

“We always knew we would have a second home that would become a magnet for our family and friends,” said Mr. Williams. “The timing was right for us and it was a great decision.”

His first boat is now docked: a white 27-foot Boston Whaler. He declined to name a price, but said he negotiated a 25% cut right before the dealership closed on Christmas Eve. He learns to operate it through an online course. “I’m an army guy,” said the 1985 West Point graduate. “I have not been to Annapolis.”

In the Florida Keys, according to Brett Newman of the Newman Team, Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, any home design is giving way to its location on the water and boat arrangement.

According to broker Brett Newman, the Florida Keys’ home for sale ranks second to boat home furnishings.


Mary Beth Coet for The Wall Street Journal

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

He recently sold a 3,382-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home on the Venice Coast for $ 1.95 million to 62-year-old Joe Giardino, owner of the Adirondack Kayak Warehouse, a kayak seller in Amsterdam, New York. Drive (his last name), but he has the sea wall of his dreams.

He didn’t like the real home. It had a 1975 design and a blue mansard roof. He tore off the roof, redid the plaster on the outside, and inserted hurricane glass into about 37 windows at a cost of $ 125,000. He describes the new look as the Florida Coastal Modern.

Mr. Giardino closed on July 2, just a day after the sale of his 3,576-square-foot, five-bedroom home in the same area for $ 1.975 million. The new home has a boat lift for his $ 150,000 Seahunt GF and a 350-by-7-foot dock that likely cost the former owner $ 350,000 to set up, according to broker Newman. Mr. Giardino bought his first home in Keys in 2004 but has been looking after this new one for at least ten years.

“The stars finally came together and I could figure it out,” he said.

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