‘Levitating Lighthouse’ with $230,000 price tag raises eyebrows on Zillow

SEATTLE — A controversial treehouse in one of Seattle’s priciest neighborhoods was for sale but got pulled from listings by the owner Thursday evening.

Back in 2014, The “Levitating Lighthouse” treehouse was featured on the TV show Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet. It has no electricity, sewer, septic, or bathrooms. A rain collection basin collects water to be run out of faucets but that’s the only modern luxury it offers at what was a $230,000 price tag.

It’s a treehouse Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections deemed “illegal,” but that didn’t stop interested buyers from calling daily over the course of the last month’s listing.

“There’s been a lot of calls on that property, phones been ringing off the hook for it,” said Matthew Gerrish, Owner and Designated Broker at Premier Real Estate Partners.

The treehouse was listed as off the grid, but it wasn’t listed as a home or dwelling. The future buyer can’t live there, and if someone wanted to buy it, they needed to bring cash.

“Conventional financing won’t work for this. It would have to be a livable dwelling. It’s Pretty much just a recreational property, not really a dwelling or anything. There’s no electricity, there’s no bathroom,” said Gerrish.

The builders, Nelson Treehouse, and the original owners didn’t get permits for construction from the city, per the Department of Construction and Inspections.

In a statement, their spokesperson, Bryan Stevens said:

We recently became aware of the illegal “treehouse-like” structure in Magnolia being listed for sale. This structure has a history of code enforcement issues for construction near the water in a landslide-prone area without a permit.

The code enforcement case went to court and the owner was supposed to obtain permits or demolish the structure. The owner did not comply, and the court entered judgment against him.

This slope has had a well-documented history of landslides, so I’m unclear whether anything could be legally built in that location without an extensive investment and proper due diligence with our staff here at the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI).

He also said the owner was ordered to either get permits or tear down the treehouse in 2016. That hasn’t happened and there is now a $100,000 fine for noncompliance.

Gerrish, whose company did not have a hand in the treehouse’s construction said per county codes, the structure doesn’t need a permit because it’s smaller than the 200 square feet threshold.

“The un-livability of it, it does help rectify it not having a livable dwelling permit. Mainly a little day getaway.  We’re an open-door policy. We’re very open with any due diligence they want to do on the property,” said Gerrish.

That county code reads:

The International Building Code exempts certain structures from needing a building permit if they are less than 200 square feet and unconditioned space. Exempted structures do not require a building permit from the County but must comply with all King County code requirements.

When asked about the landslide concerns raised by the city, Gerrish echoed what the builder, Pete Nelson said during that 2014 episode of Treehouse Masters.

“This heavy stone is keeping the land here, so trees have been able to grow up straight,” said Nelson in 2014.

Gerrish said “With it being secured to a tree maybe that has a little more assurance than being secured to the ground itself.”

The city says if the owner wants to make the property legal, they have to either get permits or knock the treehouse down.