The Pros and Cons of Houseboat Living



Considering the high cost of purchasing a traditional home, some people choose living on houseboats. You might want to consider this yourself but don’t jump into it without first thoroughly studying what it entails. One of the first things you’ll notice is the dramatic reduction in living space. For people used to living in an 1800 or 2000 square foot house, downsizing to 400 or 500 square feet means giving up a lot of amenities and comforts.

The most popular sizes are 40-60 foot length boats with widths ranging from 8 to 20 feet. But the specific design has as much to do with living space as the dimensions. For instance, you could have a wraparound deck that reduces the interior space but places the deck at water level. Alternatively, you could have a roof top deck for more interior space but your outside space is well above the water.

Types of Residential Boats

First consider the types of live-aboard boats. People are known to live on almost anything that floats from tugboats to sailboats to luxury yachts. Some are permanent homes that sleep two and others as vacation homes that sleep a dozen people. A floating home is the closest to a traditional home. These aren’t intended for water travel. Rather, they follow land-based building codes with the utilities connected to city water, electricity, and sewage. Most of these are subject to property taxes.

On the other hand, a houseboat is an actual boat that is used as a residence. These are for navigation, have a seaworthy hull, and their own source for powering through the water. You can change your view and mailing address whenever you want. These come with an annual vessel registration fee but not property tax.

Economics of Houseboat Living

People often choose living on a boat to save money or for the spectacular views or both. You can expect to save money compared to living in a metropolitan apartment or house. And if the boat is on a rural lake or well away from the city you’ll save even more. However, you will trade some land-based expenses for unique marine-based expenses.

For instance, a pre-purchase inspection requires a specialized inspector/diver to inspect the underwater hull as well as other aspects of the home that are marine unique. If you aren’t a diver, you’ll need to hire one periodically to clean and possibly make underwater repairs.

You can take out a mortgage on most residential boats which means you’re going to have monthly mortgage payments. A houseboat as a primary or secondary residence makes your loan eligible as a tax deduction. Generally, buyers will need a 20% to 35% down payment and the interest rates are higher than a normal home.

In addition, you’ll almost certainly have to pay a slip fee to a marina. This can run between $250-$550 per month depending on the location and what is included. The slip fee may or may not include utilities such as water and electricity. The marina may also have amenities such as a laundry. Something to carefully consider is having a residential slip before buying the boat. Most marinas have a limited number of live-aboard slips and a waiting list.

There are other costs associated with boat living. The reduction is square footage can mean paying for a storage unit. Almost certainly, you’ll need to have a sewage tank pumped out monthly at a cost of about $50. Boat maintenance can be unique and more costly than land based homes. In some areas, sellers are not required to provide full disclosure for houseboats. You should require this in your purchase offer. Otherwise you may be surprised at the cost of deferred maintenance. In areas where large water bodies freeze during the winter, you’ll have winterization costs and possibly have to haul the house out of the water for the winter.

As you can see, life on the water comes in many shapes and sizes. Cost savings are typically traded for square footage. But your view of a brown lawn and driveway becomes watching the sunset or sunrise over the water. It’s not for everyone but some people will never trade being lulled to sleep by gentle waves for living on land again.

Please add your houseboat lifestyle comments below.

Photo Credit : Breezway 

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.

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