If your parents first met while living on neighboring houseboats, your sister owns one and now so do you, you can say houseboats are in your...

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If your parents first met while living on neighboring houseboats, your sister owns one and now so do you, you can say houseboats are in your blood.

Teagen Densmore can say that. She spent many childhood days playing on the docks of family friends who stayed on the water. When Densmore decided to buy a home, she wasn’t really interested in landlocked choices.

Three years later, lulled by gentle rocking from boats passing on Lake Union; an intimate, sparkling water alley; and close relationships with her neighbors, Densmore, 27, is still a little stunned she pulled off the purchase.

“I love my house,” she said. “It’s so fun to come down here. I never forget how great it is.”

Modest and modern

Some owners have taken houseboats to the extreme by creating million-dollar floating palaces, but Densmore’s modest home embodies the more traditional notion of a quaint, space-limited boat.

With square footage hovering around 500, Densmore’s home is not huge. Her kitchen is barely bigger than a traditional boat’s galley, with an apartment-sized stove and narrow refrigerator. Her double bed squeezes into the Tiffany-blue bedroom on a frame her father custom-built. A sofa fits snuggly in a nook in the common area, and her compact dining table — when needed — expands to seat six.

By the numbers

There are about 500 floating homes in Seattle, clustered in the Eastlake, Portage Bay and Westlake neighborhoods.

A recent check of real-estate listings shows three houseboats for sale, ranging from $125,000 for a tiny one-bedroom to $1 million for a 2-bedroom, 2 ½ bath.

Densmore gets around her limited storage space by keeping some basics in her car trunk, and she stows her snowboard and other gear underneath her bed. She keeps clothes in a second bedroom when she doesn’t have a roommate.

“You don’t need that much stuff,” Densmore said. “When you have a lot, it just runs your life.”

The houseboat has plenty of character on its own, with huge windows, a porthole-style window next to her bed and a rooftop deck. But Densmore also has a simple, modern style that complements the small home. Warm tiger wood floors and yellow paint brighten up the main room, and paintings she bought during a college study in Cuba dot the living area.

Life on the water

Even the most determined houseboat hunters will come up against some obstacles searching for the right floating home. Affordable ones are rare. Densmore waited patiently for the price to fall below $300,000 before she bought hers and renovated the interior.

There are some drawbacks to living on the water. Speeding boaters or storms have rocked her house violently enough to pop the refrigerator door open. Trash is visible at the bottom of the lake on clear days. Plants and other items placed absent-mindedly near the edge of the deck have fallen into the lake.

But the benefits are also myriad. Friends flock to her house to sun on the upper deck, swim in the alley or play in the water. Friends with boats pick her up for outings.

Sometimes popularity has its price: Her home can list to one side if too many people gather on one end or on the rooftop.

Densmore loves the community vibe. Neighbors share a common dock, which serves as a front yard, and people are often outside, sitting on decks and gardening. Her neighbors take her on boat rides, and they watch out for each other.

“Coming home feels like I’m going on vacation,” Densmore said. “Every step down the dock, I feel more relaxed. The sound of the water lapping and feel of the boat rocking makes for a really amazing experience.”

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com