A houseboat is a boat that is primarily used for people to live onboard full-time. Usually, houseboats will be tied up on a river or canal, or in shallow anchorages on a lake, offering direct access to the water and beautiful views. However, they are not usually powerful enough for ocean crossings, so if this is important to your cruising, read on for more information.
Buy a Houseboat FAQ
Houseboats for Sale Near You
What is a Houseboat?
A houseboat is exactly what the name says – a vessel that is primarily used as a residence for the owner. They may be a standard houseboat, shaped like a floating house on pontoons; or a long canal boat; or even some traditionally built houses on floating docks; while some super yacht owners have even been known to turn their luxury yachts into a full-time home, today we will mostly be looking at the first two.
How Much is a Houseboat?
There are a number of previously owned houseboats on the market, however, if you wish to buy a brand new one, you can usually expect to pay around $100,000 – $400,000. Of course, if you go the brokerage route, you can usually find a houseboat for much less. Before purchasing any new boat, you’ll want to consider a few things:
- Size – How many people will be living onboard? Do you need a large family houseboat or just enough space for yourself?
- Year – Is a brand-new houseboat important to you or will an older model suffice?
- Layout – Similar to the size consideration, will there be multiple living onboard and also working remotely or completing school work from the boat? You’ll want specific areas of privacy if so.
- Location – Depending on where you plan to keep your houseboat, you may want one that can be better insulated if it is somewhere that has cooler winters, than some place more temperate year around.
Can a Houseboat Go in the Ocean?
Typical houseboats are not built to go out into the ocean or cross rough seas. Without a sturdy hull, and with a usually top heavy and boxy design above water, they would not be adequate to navigate high waves, or powerful enough to propel yourself out of dangerous situations.
How Much Does it Cost to Move a Houseboat?
If you purchased your houseboat in another state and need to transport it to where you plan to live, or if you wish to split your time on your houseboat in two different places (i.e. depending on the time of year), you’ll need to consider the costs to ship your boat to its new destination. While prices will vary depending on where you are moving the houseboat to and from, you can usually expect to pay in the tens of thousands of dollars to move your houseboat.
How to Live on a Houseboat?
Living on a houseboat can be a dream come true for some people. Waking up to 360-degree views of the water, starting your day with a morning swim or stand-up paddleboard, or just basking in the sun with your morning coffee, can all be part of your usual morning routine.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Safety – Whether it’s a family pet or your children, making sure you have the right safety precautions in place can help give you peace of mind when living on a houseboat full-time.
- Mooring – Will you be paying for a spot at a marina, or at anchor somewhere nearby? You’ll need to consider this annual cost when calculating your running costs.
- Amenities – Depending on the number of people living onboard, you’ll want large enough spaces for everyone to live comfortably. You will also want to make sure your washroom (or “head”) has a suitable size tank to save you time between pump outs and a working shower so you can wash on board without having to go into the marina every day.
- Licenses – Making sure you are up to date on any boating licenses and knowledge on operating your boat are imperative when living on board full-time.
- Insurance – You insurance needs will change if you are making your houseboat your primary residence so be sure to do your due diligence before making the move.
Can You Live on a Houseboat in the Winter?
You can live on a houseboat in the winter; however it is a bit of a grey area. Depending on how far north you are, this may not even be an option, however, for those areas with cold winters but the water doesn’t freeze, you’ll have to make sure your houseboat is winter ready – extra insulation, extra heaters, and winterizing any electronics that might need it.
Some will also opt to relocate their houseboat further south during the winter months, much like the snowbirds that take their RV’s south during the winter.
Is a Houseboat Cheaper than a House?
Strictly speaking, a houseboat is cheaper than a house. This is especially true in cities with very high housing costs, so many opt to live on a houseboat to downsize, while also saving on house prices. However, unlike real estate, a boat will usually depreciate in value, while a real estate investment normally provides a better return.
Where Can You Live on a Houseboat Year Around?
Most would assume that you need to live somewhere tropical to live on a houseboat year around. However, some of the most well-known cities heaving with canal boats include London, UK and the Netherlands, alongside more temperate places such as Australia and New Zealand. In the U.S., some of the most popular locations to live on a houseboat year around are California, Washington, Florida, Texas, and Maryland.
What are the Disadvantages of Living on a Houseboat?
Living on the water 365-days a year isn’t for everyone. The disadvantages of living on a houseboat include:
- Small living spaces – From the bathroom to the bedroom, everything on a houseboat will be smaller than you are used to.
- No mailbox – You’ll need to figure out a way to get your mail to you if you don’t have a permanent address. Deliveries will also be harder to come by so you won’t be able to get your Amazon packages delivered as easily as those on land.
- Transient lifestyle – With no neighbors and no real roots to put down, not everyone will enjoy the somewhat transient lifestyle living on a boat brings.
- Dampness and bugs – Living on the water (especially if you’re on salt water) will bring an abundance of dampness, and of course, bugs.
- Parking – Will you be keeping your car to easily get around on land when you need to? If so, where will you park the car? And if you don’t have a car, how will you get into town for provisions?
How do You Shower on a Houseboat?
Most houseboats will have a built-in shower on board so you can still carry on your usual morning and nighttime routines while living onboard. The water from your shower will come from a freshwater holding tank you will need to refill periodically, however, if you will be staying tied up at a marina most of the time, you can connect the hose from your dock directly to your boat to ensure constant freshwater supply. The water will then run into a grey water holding tank that will need to be pumped out when it fills up.
Where Does Houseboat Waste Go?
Similar to the shower, toilet waste will empty into a separate black water holding tank that will require regular pump outs when they fill up. Special chemicals can be used in the holding tanks through the sinks and toilets to help with odor control. When it is time to empty the tanks, most will be emptied at harbor through a hose the marina staff will help with. Although not as common with houseboats since they do not do long-distance cruising, each country will have their own regulations on emptying your tanks at sea as well. Boats that are able to empty at sea will have a specific button to release the tanks in open water; but you need to follow the rules in each country as there are guidelines for how far out a boat must be before they can empty their sewage into the water.
Living on a houseboat isn’t for everyone, but for those who are looking to living in close proximity to water or want the freedom to pull anchor and cruise a short distance away to set up a new mooring spot, the houseboat lifestyle may be for you. YATCO.com has a number of houseboats for sale to start your search.
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