The Distinctive “Floating Home” Is for Sale

The recent Architectural Digest peek inside Jeff Wapner’s “floating home” at the harbor was a prelude to it being listed for $4.9 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, Wapner bought the rundown Thomas Jefferson—the WSJ calls it a houseboat, but it’s not drivable—around eight years ago, when it was listed for $650,000. “With help from his father, Wapner tore down the home and essentially rebuilt it […] at a cost of about $2 million, he said. He moved back in after the work was completed about two years ago.”

The selling points include not just the location and the novelty, but also the rarity: Wapner told the WSJ that it’s “one of only four houseboats allowed in the harbor” and “his spot was grandfathered in after the city banned new houseboats in 2015.”

The home is around 1,300 square feet, with a workshop and laundry room on the lower floor and a kitchen, dining area, bedroom, and bathroom above. It has been a source of fascination and consternation to many, but I think we can all admit that it’s quite handsome. See for yourself: open houses are scheduled for this Thursday and Saturday.

P.S. The listing agents say that the monthly costs for slip fees, live-aboard permit, and utilities total approximately $700.

Photos by Roy Hathon (except the bathroom, which is by Jenna Peffley).


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ES Corchero

A bit of Amsterdam or something charming for our salty harbor — it would be fun at least for a while. But I do wonder: Are there meters for your water and power just to this floating home? Where does your trash go? How many car covers will you go through in a year while parking your vehicle under the seagull canopy in the harbor? How quickly will it take you to learn to never wear socks on a smooth wood staircase without a railing?

Ryan C.

The cost to build is surprising to me. $2m and they didn’t have to hire an architect and apparently built it mostly themselves? $2m mostly in material seems dubious. The asking price is laughable considering you won’t own the “land” underneath the home (the city of Santa Barbara owns the slip). You can still purchase a VERY nice house on land in Santa Barbara with garage, sizable yard etc etc for less than $4.9m. It will be a lot of fun watching this sale. Will they cut the price? Will someone actually cough up the asking price for a floating box

Sam Tababa

This particular “thing” is an eyesore and should be removed from the harbor. A change in the rules would take it away. Require every vessel docked to be an actual sea worthy, self propelled vessel and pass a coast guard inspection as if it were in open water. Also, important to know that boats are taxed annually as both property by the county and as vessels by the DMV. This could be a very expensive cost on a $4.9m vessel.

I am glad the city changed the rules on so-called houseboats. It’s bad enough that there are dozens of dilapidated, decaying old boats that are used as apartments down there. Boats that never move and are covered in junk while they leech their old copper and lead bottoms into the harbor killing marine life. There are hundreds of people who want a slip for their actual working vessel, the waiting list is decades long. Hence the side market for slips…

If you buy it, know you’re likely going to be in for a protracted legal battle and will probably lose it’s slip. The harbor slip leaseholders and the city all hate it and want it gone. At least the old Thomas Jefferson had character and looked like a maritime craft of sorts, or something from the movies and the past, this thing is just plain ugly and an affront to every boat owner and leaseholder. Get rid of it.

ES Corchero

You do not have to pay registration/DMV fees for a houseboat like this. It’s an allowed exception. (CVC §9840: A floating, stationary residential dwelling (floating home) not designed to have power of its own, dependent for utilities from a source on shore, and which has a permanent sewage hookup on shore)

As for Santa Barbara residents and they’re protective nature about the beauty of a harbor full of fishing boats and Orca toys — definitely do not spend time in San Diego, Sausalito, Portland or Seattle… the place is jam-packed filled with unsightly floating residences for its quirky, adventurous residents!


Thanks for the clarification on the taxes and classification. I had no idea this thing was connected to the city’s sewer, I wonder how that works with the water line and tide changes. You know as far as price goes, for $4mm you could buy a 65-85+ft, luxury yacht. Heck, for $3mm you could buy a heck of a nice yacht and have $2mm left over to pay for a slip, fuel, maintenance a crew and the ability to roam the globe for years. Not sure why anyone would buy this when you could have a bigger, more luxurious option that is, well built to float and sail and will take you anywhere in the world. I suppose there’s a buyer for everything, at the right price. The WSJ article on this houseboat sure is pretty though. Worth checking out.

Dan O. Seibert

I’m sorry but the nicer it is (floating in salt water) the more it will lose value from the. . . . salt water. The old houseboat that was there would have retained it’s value more than this. Zillow should put a depreciation clock on this that we can all watch wind down.


As an RE appraiser, all I can see is the lack of safety railings, inside and out – lol!


Had a chance to buy this for $450k 7 years ago.
Glad I didn’t go through with it.
And yes, there will be very high city property taxes on both the slip and the personal property (the building). And there are two sips involved as a slip was added to the landward side of the ‘Building’. Better have DEEP pockets and love unique and small tiny homes.