Want to be a Lighthouse Keeper?

A Notice of Availability was issued this month for the Point Fermin lighthouse, San Pedro, CA (photo: Point Fermin Lighthouse Society)

“I want to marry a lighthouse keeper
And keep him company
I want to marry a lighthouse keeper
And live by the side of the sea…”

For more than a decade, ever since the passage of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, the Coast Guard has been disposing of lighthouses. Each year, the Coast Guard determines which lighthouses are no longer mission critical and then conveys them to lighthouse “stewards” to relieve itself of the annual maintenance costs.

The big catch to being a steward is that you must agree to preserve the historic character of the property and maintain the lighthouse in working condition. That means living under a light bright enough to be seen for miles and, in many cases, the regular sounding of deafening horns throughout the night.

It can be an expensive and demanding proposition, requiring tremendous dedication.  Perhaps this is why the Coast Guard first offers to transfer its lighthouses at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations, educational agencies, and community development organizations. Only if there are no takers does the GSA hold a public auction, allowing regular people like us the fantasy of living by the side of the sea in a house which, by design, has expansive unobstructed views of the water.

The process of conveying these lighthouses is interesting because it requires three separate agencies to work in tandem:  the Coast Guard selects the lighthouses it would like to convey and it sends information on these properties to GSA.  GSA then issues a Notice of Availability (NOA) for each one.  Assuming there are responses to the NOA it is the National Park Service that evaluates them and recommends a single applicant to GSA.  Then GSA manages the actual property conveyance to that applicant.  If the National Park Service finds no (governmental or non-profit) applicant to be qualified – or if no one applies at all – then GSA auctions the lighthouse to the general public.

Shockingly, this process seems to work.  Since enactment of this legislation in 2000, GSA has conveyed 84 lighthouses to new stewards.  The quality of the lighthouses runs the gamut though and you can be sure that if the aforementioned governmental or non-profit entities take a pass then the lighthouse has a bit of hair on it.  As  an example, we note that GSA has one lighthouse for public sale right now – Diamond Shoals Light Station.  You can buy it if you want but we advise you to check out the “Deck01” video first!

Note: At some point the Diamond Shoals link will cease to work when that lighthouse is sold (or fully disintegrates).  To see what lighthouses are currently for sale you can always visit realestatesales.gov.

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