After such a restricting year, locked in our homes without being able to breathe the fresh air of the ocean for most of us—can something seem more dreamy than buying a houseboat and living on the water?
Finding your perfect houseboat: the options you can find on the market
The term "houseboat" is pretty vast and needs clarification before going any further in the subject. Practically speaking, a "house-boat" can be any kind of boat where we could live on with the basic comfort: bed, kitchen, bathroom. Some people comfortably live on a sailboat, a yacht, or even a powerboat.
In the article, we'll only focus on the often-called "floating houses". These houseboats, even though they are on the water, are not made to navigate—or only for small distances in calm water. Very often, you'll find these boats moored, anchored, and tied up to the dock they belong to.
Yet, you'll be able to find a wide selection of houseboats for sale. To facilitate your research, you'll need to know what kind of floating house will fit your lifestyle and wishes the best.
Canal-style: a very long boat
Also called narrowboats, this type of boat has been built to fit very narrow in-land canals and locks. Because they are very narrow and to ensure a certain comfort, the canal-style are often very long and quite low boats. They are very popular in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands—countries with numerous rivers, bridges, and canals.
Marina-style: a more square boat with multiple floors
The look of a marina-style houseboat is radically different than the typical canal boats. To fit in a marina berth, the houseboats adapted a more square look. Often designed from box configuration, they usually feature multiple floors and a flat roof for a bit of outdoor space.
Lake-style: a more spacious and open concept
What's different with a lake-style houseboat concept? Because a lake allows you to have more space, these houseboats will sometimes look like traditional houses—but floating. With a large outdoor space, houseboats on a lake seem to offer a pleasant open concept and a spacious living environment.
Living aboard a houseboat: real costs, maintenance, and monthly fees
Buying the houseboat
Buying -or renting- your houseboat will, inevitably, be your first big expense. As with traditional houses, the prices vary from one region to another, and of course one model to another. If you have a limited budget, your best option will be to take a look at used houseboats for sale and purchase a pre-owned vessel.
So, here is a rough budget estimation:
New houseboat: starting price around US$300,000 and can go up to US$ 1 million
Used houseboat: price range between US$20,000 and US$400,000
Docking monthly fees
Because your houseboat will be docked at the marina the majority of the time, the costs that come with it are important to plan and to take into consideration when estimating your budget. Because the prices vary drastically depending on the destination, we'll give you some averages.
In a marina: US$ 15-30 per foot and month so an average of US$850 for a 40ft long houseboat (here is why the houseboat in the marina are usually shorter but higher—optimization of space is welcomed)
In a canal in Amsterdam: for a longer boat, let's stay 22m (75ft), the annual fees will be around 2,000€—so 170€ per month
To these fees, you might have to add a pump-out fee or other liveaboard fees. You can add a monthly provisional of 200€.
Luckily for houseboat owners, living aboard a houseboat is often free of tax. It is not true for every county or state around the globe, but it is a point lots of houseboaters raised when they made the switch between traditional and floating houses.
The insurance for a houseboat varies per location, boat size, and conditions— but averages $175 per month.
Maintenance: Although it is difficult to give a budget estimation for the maintenance, repair, or other upgrades for your houseboat, you must estimate and plan these fees when buying your vessel. If you're purchasing a used boat, you can ask the previous owner and evaluate based on his/her answer. If you buy a new boat, the manufacturer can easily give you an estimation of the maintenance cost.
Pro and cons by experienced houseboaters
Pro - Nature and water is surrounding you
Con - If you're docking in a marina, your neighbors will be close, very close, to you, your boat, and your privacy.
Pro - No yards maintenance
Con - No yards...and a lot of boat maintenance
Pro - You can move your house to another spot
Con - Your house will pick the curiosity of passers-by, who can sometimes be excessively intrusive (taking pictures, asking to visit, etc.)
So, after reading this, are you ready to buy a houseboat and move in a floating home?