Buying A Houseboat: Types, Benefits, Costs, Questions, and More


Buying A Houseboat

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Many people love the idea of living somewhere unique and different, and many of these people would choose to buy a houseboat. Life on the water would appeal to many of us. Waking up to the sound of the lapping waves, or looking out onto a tranquil lake is many people’s idea of paradise. 

But where do you begin? There are so many things to consider when you buy a houseboat, for example the cost of running it, where you might purchase it from and what are the best companies for houseboat purchases as well as many other things that go into the purchase. 

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Types Of Houseboats

When we use the word houseboat, many things might come to mind. There is no set rules as to what a houseboat might look like and its essential that you find the right type of boat for you. The type of boat you opt for will depend on where you wish to moor the boat, what size houseboat you require and your personal preference, of course. Take all of these things into consideration before you buy a houseboat.

Some people may opt for a stationary houseboat, or a floating house whilst others will want the option of sailing off into the distance. You may choose a barge style boat, these are usually slimmer and made from mostly wood. You will often see them decorated with beautiful floral arrangements. There is the option to moor your barge permanently or explore what the rivers have to offer.

There are yachts which are on the more luxurious end of residential boats. Larger yachts are often associated with high-flying billionaires, but there are many more affordable options to suit every budget. Yachts are great for entertaining and enjoying the sea air and can be used in the ocean, lakes, or rivers.

A floating house, whilst not a boat as such, still falls into the category of houseboats. A floating house is a stationary building which is placed on the water to achieve the feeling of being on a boat. There are some beautiful floating homes available that can be bought or built.  If you’re not looking to go exploring the water in your houseboat then this is a great option to get the best of both worlds when you are buying a houseboat.

The size of the boat is also something to take into consideration. With a huge range of boat sizes, you have many different options available to fit your budget and needs. You will want to think about where you plan to moor your boat and how many people will be on board as well as well as think about how much time you will be spending on the boat. Some people will want to stay on the boat as a permanent home but others may choose to use it for vacationing or entertaining.

The size you need will be entirely dependant on your plans for the boat. If you are wanting to have 15 people on board regularly then you won’t want to purchase a tiny houseboat. 

Houseboats can be extremely luxurious or very basic, again you need to think about what you need from your boat and what its use will be. In some countries such as the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and France, houseboats are used primarily for permanent habitation whereas in other parts of the world such as the USA and Canada, they are used more frequently for vacationing or parties. 

What Are The Benefits Of Buying A Houseboat?

For those who want to get closer to nature, buying a houseboat is a great way to do that. Life on the shore can be stressful and wear you out but while on board your boat, those stresses and strains can just seem to drain away. For most people owning a houseboat is a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

For the boating enthusiast, there is the advantage of being able to combine your  home life with your passion for boating and the water. Buying a houseboat can even help eliminate the strain of having to travel from your home to the water and back again. Instead of vacationing on the water you can live on it! 

One of the major benefits of buying a houseboat is the community you will get to join and enjoy. As with any hobby, you will meet lots of like minded people who all share a love of boating. Making new friends is a huge advantage and for many people being part of a wider community is a great way to belong but also an enjoyable part of boat ownership. 

With the modern day approach to boat building, you will miss none of the amenities or luxuries that you are used to on land. You will have all your creature comforts with the added bonus of a beautiful view of the water and its wildlife.

When buying a house on land, you are usually pretty limited to what you can do, what with things like rules and regulations as well as the limits of the traditional home. When you opt to buy a houseboat, you can work closely with the designer to create a boat that fits your lifestyle perfectly as well as your personal tastes. The list of custom options is endless.

Most people will go with a motorized houseboat so that way they can move around whenever they are tired of the scenery in a particular location. You can also go to a different area if the weather isn’t conducive to houseboat living year around where you are currently at. 

For those who are looking to retire, a houseboat can bring a whole new experience of life that you can fully enjoy after a lifetime of working. Now is the time to enjoy your leisure time and a houseboat could be the ideal thing to do that with. Not only do you have the freedom to move around but living on a houseboat is often cheaper than being stationary on land. So not only will you be able to enjoy the scenery in many new locals but you can also stretch your retirement dollars even further. 

Questions To Ask When You Buy A Houseboat.

Before you buy a houseboat, you should do the proper research and find out everything you can to make the experience as easy and simple as possible. Some of the questions you might want to find the answers to are:

  • What is the boat going to be used for? 
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A permanent residence, vacations, entertaining, fishing, day trips? Knowing what the use of your new boat will be, will give you a better idea of the type of boat you will need.

  • What is my budget? 

It is important to know how much you are willing to spend on your houseboat and to research what you can realistically get for your budget.

  • Do I want a new or used boat? 

Your budget might determine whether you buy a new boat or a second hand one but you will want to consider your personal preference if your budget allows it. I personally prefer to buy used boats that have seen better days and repair and update them to my liking. That can often be done far cheaper than buying a new custom boat.

  • If buying second hand. What has the boat been used for in the past and what is its condition now? Why is it up for sale? 

As with buying anything second hand, you want to make sure that the seller can provide as much information as possible and can be honest about any issues that may need to be addressed once a purchase is made. If you don’t know much about the mechanical aspects of a boat it is a good idea to get someone who does to do an inspection of the houseboat before you make the purchase.

How Much Does A Houseboat Cost?

The cost when you buy a houseboat can vary greatly, depending on the material the boat is made from to the size and the brand. However, the average cost to buy a new houseboat is between $125,000 and $250,000.

If you look at used houseboats you can pick up a dilapidated houseboat for a few thousand dollars or a giant houseboat for $300,000+. Ultimately the prices for a houseboat vary greatly because the size and materials used on the boats are varied as well.

What is important to remember is that the initial cost of buying the boat isn’t the only cost that you will incur. Just like a regular house, there are ongoing costs involved in the running of your new houseboat.

One of the first things you will need to do is to insure the boat. You will need to use an insurance company that specialises in marine insurance, and there are plenty of them around that you can choose from. It is important to do your research in order to find the right type of insurance for your boat. One of the many reputable marine insurance companies out there is BoatUS. Most every insurance company will cover boats but make sure you get a few different quotes so you can be sure you are getting the best price for the coverage you need. 

Many people assume that your boat would be covered by normal home insurance but this is not the case, and to insure an average cost boat, you would be looking to spend around $1800 per year. The cost of this insurance will protect you against damages to the vessel and liability amongst other things.

You also need to take into consideration your slip rental, which secures your boat a place in a marina. Again this is something that can be billed annually but every marina will charge a different price. On average slip rental comes in anywhere between $150-$550 a month depending on factors such as where in the marina your boat is moored and the marina itself.

If you are planning on living on your houseboat full time there will be many different places where you can anchor or beach your boat for a time and not pay dock fees at all. Just make sure to check the local laws and make sure you are allowed to do that in your location. 

Just like in a house on land, you will need to factor in the cost of your utilities, things like electric, pumping and water as well as the fuel needed to move the boat and run the generator. Again these prices will vary greatly depending on where you keep your boat, and it is important to research the costs involved.

Where Can I Buy A Houseboat?

Buying a houseboat may be an intimidating experience if you are new to boating, however there are plenty of places you can find the perfect houseboat for you. Start by looking online, where you can not only browse boats but also read reviews on particular sellers to ensure that this life changing purchase is going to be a pleasant experience and not a nightmare. 

Boat Trader is a great place to buy a houseboat, here you can find a variety of new and pre-owned boats. The website is laid out similarly to a marketplace site where you can browse by category, price, age, size and more. If you are willing to buy an older boat, you will certainly find some very reasonably priced ones here. Always be sure to go and see the boat before you hand over any money. Having a professional inspect the boat before purchase is always a good idea as knowing about issues ahead of time is far better than being surprised later. 

Buyaboat.net claims to have the world’s largest selection of houseboats, and it does have a fantastic inventory. The website enables you to search for a boat with a keyword or you can sort by price. There is also an option to sell your boat with the website, for those who may be wanting to upgrade their houseboats or simply want a change.

Apollo Duck is a website with a huge variety of boats, whether you want a boat for the river, sea or lake, there will be something here. The website is extremely in depth and offers sales on every continent, so no matter where you are, there will be boat sales nearby.

The main thing to remember when looking for your houseboat, is to research and always purchase from somewhere that has a good reputation. This is a huge purchase and it is important to get it right. If you are buying from a private seller doing a proper inspection is vital. Never buy any boat sight unseen! 

Houseboat manufacturers

As with any product, there are many houseboat manufacturers. If you are looking to buy a houseboat brand new, you can go straight to the source and buy direct. If you are looking to buy second hand or through a third person, you will want to know the best and most trusted houseboat manufacturers.

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Some of these manufacturers specialize in the more luxury end boats while others make standard boats. Depending on the type of boat you are looking for, you will have to to find which manufacturer is best for you.

Here is a list of some of the most well rated boat manufacturers:

  • Gibson Boats
  • Horizon Yachts
  • Lakeview
  • Catamaran Cruisers
  • Campanoe
  • Metro Ship
  • Nomad Houseboats
  • Myacht
  • Sharpe
  • Sunseeker
  • Sunstar
  • Three Buoys
  • Twin Anchors

Of course, there are many more manufacturers, and depending on where you live, there might be some local houseboat manufacturers that you can go and buy from locally.  Make sure that when you are looking at the website, that you check their ratings and reviews sections, and do independent research on the company before committing to buy any houseboat.

Mentioned in the above list is Nomad Houseboats, they offer their latest boat, the Nomad 25 at a starting price of $79,900. The boat is made to, more than comfortably house two people and can be designed to your specifications. One of the major upsides to Nomad is that they will offer financing for the boat for a period of up to 15 years. Their credit checks can be completed in under 48 hours, so there isn’t a long waiting period. The boat comes in at a little over 26 feet long and weighs 5100lb. If you are looking for the ideal boat for a couple, then this could be what you’re searching for. Nomad is ideal for those who want to dip their toes in the houseboating water and only need a smaller houseboat but want to purchase it new. The Nomad is certainly not a luxury boat and is priced accordingly. 

Horizon Yachts is an Asian company who have dealerships all over the globe. On their website, there is a search feature which enables potential buyers to find their nearest dealer, making it simple and easy to meet someone to discuss your requirements. They offer boats ranging from 52 feet to 150 feet in length, giving buyers the freedom to choose something that matches their needs. These boats are on the more luxurious end of the scale and are perfect for entertaining guests as well as for a place you can call home.

Gibson Boats is a company based in South Dakota. They will custom build a brand new houseboat to your specific requirements. You can also buy a houseboat which is second hand and of their own brand. They offer a repair service as well. The company has been running since 1968, and changed hands in 2017 to owners who are just as passionate about what they do as the previous owners. The company being around since 1968 is helpful in making the case that they know what they are doing. 

Houseboat Builders In Europe

If you want to buy a houseboat within Europe, there are some very good houseboat manufacturers to choose from.

Turks Shipyard, based in the United Kingdom, offers a custom houseboat building service. They also offer boat storage and repairs making them a company that you can work with for your entire boating journey.

Nautilus Hausboote is a German houseboat designer who prides themselves on innovation and a modern approach to boat building. The owner of the company has been awarded prizes for being environmentally friendly and for his timeless designs. With German engineering at its heart, you can be certain that you are getting a top quality houseboat.

Floating Homes Ltd is another UK based houseboat builder with prices starting at around $200,000. They specialize in building boats for any type of water, whether its coastal, estuary, lakes, rivers or anywhere else, the company prides themselves on being able to cater to any need. They also offer a rental program, if you would prefer to opt for that. Floating homes also operates in The Netherlands and pays special attention to being eco-friendly.

HT Houseboats is a Polish company. You can find their boats for sale on some of the websites mentioned earlier in this article for prices around the 200,000 euros range. One of the particularly stunning designs is the Mermaid.

Another Polish houseboat builder is Nomadream who offers extremely modern and stylish houseboats that look sleek and sophisticated.

Aintree Boats located in the United Kingdom specializing in canal barges. These are a very popular choice of houseboat and enables the resident to explore the canal network at their leisure. Aintree handcrafts their boats to the highest standard. For a luxury canal barge, there aren’t many other companies that would match this one. They ensure that they source their materials from only the best suppliers, giving their boats the best finish possible.

You might also wish to look into some of the following European houseboat designers if you are in Europe:

  • Sudnik Motoryachts (Poland)
  • Plan und Tat (Germany)
  • Teltow Werft (Germany)
  • Black Swan Marine (Latvia)
  • Bounty Boats (United Kingdom)
  • Snaily (France)
  • Woterfitz (Germany)
  • Aguavision (Spain)

Wherever you are in the world, there is sure to be a houseboat manufacturer near you who can provide you with everything you need.

Tips For Buying A Used Houseboat

If you would prefer to buy a houseboat that has already been used, there are a few things you should take into consideration.

Are you thinking of buying from a second hand dealer or a private seller?

 If the answer is the latter, you should take great care to ensure that the seller is completely transparent about the boat. You should take plenty of time to inspect both the interior and exterior of the vessel and if your budget allows, take along a professional who may notice things that you don’t. 

If it is a motorized boat, there is no shame in asking if you can take it for a test-drive. If a seller is genuine, they will have no issue with allowing you to do this. When test driving the boat it is important to not only see if it runs and moves smooth but also push the boat a bit to see if there are any issues when accelerating or decelerating quickly. 

It is important you ask plenty of questions, some of which were mentioned earlier in this article. You will want to know the age of the boat and any problems it may have had in the past and what has been done to repair them. You should find out the reason that the seller is selling the boat as well. 

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For some, it may be that they simply no longer require it or they want to purchase a new one for themselves. If the seller isn’t confidant in their reason for putting their boat up for sale, you should be wary. If they do claim to want to buy a new boat, you can probe a little deeper and question what brand or model they are looking to buy, this will help you to confirm what they are saying. 

The seller could still be lying but pay attention when you are doing the walk through and ask specific questions about the boats use etc. Often if someone is lying they will slip up in not remembering the exact details they mentioned before. If there are any red flags it is better to walk away than to be stuck with a lemon. 

You can also question whether the boat has any remaining warranty on it and if so, can it be transferred if you were to purchase the boat. If it does, you’ll want to make the most of it, should it need any repairs down the line.

It is important to know when the boat was last serviced, this is an important question to ask. If it wasn’t recent, you might suggest that the owner has a service done before you consider purchasing it. You can also ask to see a full service history of the boat to ensure that the boat has been well taken care of by the current owner. 

Where the interior, living quarters are concerned, you will want to make sure that everything is working, for example toilets, cooking facilities and electrical fittings. Again you can ask to see these things working.

Whilst on the subject of the interior, you will need to find out whether the owner plans to leave the fixtures and fittings or whether they plan to remove them. This will be a substantial extra cost should they decide to take certain things with them. The electronics, appliances and other things on a houseboat can be quite expensive to replace so be sure you know ahead of time what is and isn’t included. 

Tips For Buying A New Houseboat

If you want to buy a houseboat that is brand new, there are things to think about.

As you have already read, there are a lot of boat manufacturers out there, giving you a huge number to choose from. That being said, this will mean that any manufacturer you speak with is going to want your business. One of the first things to remember is that you don’t need to feel obliged to go with the first one you speak with. Do plenty of research and find out, in depth what each boat builder can offer you. 

It is important to compare on price but just as important not to settle for the cheapest option. With a purchase like a houseboat, you will want to ensure you are getting the very best quality that is going to last.

You should find out about finance options if you do not wish to, or are not able to pay for the boat in its entirety. What are the rates of interest? How long are you able to finance the boat for? Does it come with any sort of payment protection insurance? What will the monthly payments look like? Find out as much information as possible before signing any agreement.

Some manufacturers will offer a custom build service while others will have a range of boats from which you can choose. More often than not there will be customization options and it is important that you ask them to explain fully what your choices are. If you are opting for a custom houseboat, you should ensure that you work very closely with the designer and that they stay in regular contact with you throughout the entire process.

As was mentioned earlier on, one of the most important things when choosing your boat builder is their reputation. You can do online research of many boat builders and create a list of the ones who have great reviews from previous clients. This, along with price, quality and turnaround time will ensure that you get the best service possible.

It may also be worth your while to join an online houseboat community where you can ask for advice and experience with different designers. This will also open doors to meeting people who are already on the houseboat scene and can offer you support through your whole journey.

Different boat manufacturers will make different types of boat, so you should research the appropriate type of company. If you’re looking for a canal barge, you can search for companies who specialize in this type of boat, for example.

A great option for finding out about boat building companies is to attend a convention or show where you will be able to gather a lot of information in a short amount of time. There are regular shows of this type all around the world and again is a great way to meet other people who may have already been through the process of buying a houseboat.

What Is The Most Expensive Houseboat?

For those who want to buy a houseboat that is luxurious, there are, of course, some very grand designs out there. But what would be the most expensive, and why?

Whilst most houseboats will set you back a couple of hundred thousand, there are those out there selling for billions. The History Supremee is worth a massive $4.5 billion. If you’re looking for absolute comfort and luxury, this is where you will find it. The super yacht is 100 feet long and boasts materials such as gold and platinum. It even features genuine T-Rex bones in the master suite.

Summary

Whilst looking at buying a houseboat may seem like a huge task, by following these simple tips and ideas, your journey should be much more comfortable. Remember to take your time and plan meticulously. Ask yourself the appropriate questions and don’t be afraid to seek extra help and advice should you feel that you need it.

Then all you need to do is look forward to your new life on the water.

As always, 

Happy Boating

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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