Private 'hillavators' are a rare but luxurious amenity for some Bay Area homes — here's how they work



  • Funiculars, or “hillavators,” are outdoor cable cars sometimes featured in homes in hilly Marin County, California.
  • This real estate trend combines practicality with luxury, as many overlook the ocean.
  • Hillavators are sometimes installed when homes don’t have room for an elevator.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Marin County, California is home to what would be an architectural oddity in the rest of the country.

Some homes located on hills have clear cable cars, called funiculars or hillavators. Many of the most expensive homes are built on hills to take advantage of the view, which only makes a funicular more necessary.

Camara Scremin is a real estate agent who has sold hundreds of homes in Sausalito in Marin County over the past ten years. While she says that funiculars aren’t part of every house in the area, they aren’t uncommon either.

“Our hillside terrain effectively requires them when people don’t want many, many steps up to their front door from the street or garage,” Scremin told Business Insider in an email. 

Although they’re convenient, hillavators require regular upkeep and extra precautions for the weather. The company that installed the funicular at 147 Beach Road in Belvedere, California come back for regular maintenance at least once a year, Joe Root from Cottage Coastal Builders, who worked on the house, said.

We have a cover for inclement weather and are installing a backup generator system to cover that and the house during outages,” he said.

Scroll to find some examples of the hillavators of Marin County. 

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This Belvedere home overlooking the San Francisco Yacht Club Marina is on the market for nearly $8 million.

147 Beach Rd, Belvedere

It has a custom hillavator that seats 4.

Scremin said “Obviously these hillavators are an alternative to an elevator as sometimes people don’t have the space for an elevator and they can be prohibitively expensive,” although this hillavator is a high-end amenity to an already luxurious house.

Hillavators are a way to manage steep climbs, and also to show off a stunning view.

Residents can ride up to the house, and take in a view of the Bay.

This 4 bedroom Sausalito home is also located next to the Marina.

123 Woodward Ave, Sausalito

The property has 85 steps, or a funicular to take visitors to the main house.

“Because Sausalito has very few brand new homes I would say that nearly all of our hillavators are added later as a way to ‘age in place’ or just create more convenience,” Scremin said, as with this home, built in 1999 and remodeled in 2012.

“It’s exciting to watch the views expand as you ride up the hill” this home’s listing agent, Marsha Williams, said to Business Insider in an email.

This Somerset home with a large funicular sold for nearly $2 million in 2016.

Real estate agent Camara Scremin said of the funicular at this Sausalito home, “never before have we seen one more beautiful than the one at 244 Spencer.”

This home was sold with Golden Gate Sothebys International Realty. Scremin has since moved to Compass Real Estate.

“One too many loads of party supplies up a lot of stairs or a broken leg and people start to think it [a hillavator] may be a good investment,” Scremin said

“It was constructed of all glass walls to catch the beauty of the Bay Views and the drama of descending to the gorgeous home below and offered a bench seat with cushion as well. It truly was a vision,” Scremin said of this funicular.