How Is A Houseboat Different Than Other Houses?

If you are just hearing about this unique thing called a houseboat you probably took to the internet to try and figure out what a houseboat is. 

In this article I will give some of the main differences between a houseboat and other houses. 

Some of the main differences between a houseboat and other houses are:

  • Houseboats are on the water 
  • Houseboats are much smaller
  • Houseboats are cheaper to purchase
  • Houseboats have less monthly costs
  • Houseboats are less safe in storms
  • Houseboats are prone to water issues
  • Houseboats are more fun

These and many other things are the main differences between a houseboat and a traditional house. In this article I will go into more detail about each of the above differences. 

1. Houseboats Are On The Water

Of course the first and probably largest difference between a houseboat and a normal home is that a houseboat is on the water! One of the best things about a houseboat is you get to enjoy the water views, the fishing, the scenery, and more just a few feet away from your kitchen, living room, and even your bedroom! 

Now to some people this is a plus (those of us who love the water) and for some it is a minus (those who hate water) but it is most certainly the biggest difference. 

2. Houseboats Are Much Smaller

This difference is especially true if you live in the USA. With many smaller homes running 1,000 square foot or more, a houseboat is quite a bit smaller than even these homes. Most homes in the USA are even larger than that as the median home size in 2018 was 2,386 square feet according to Statista.

Most houseboats are around 500 square feet of living space (unless you buy a giant boat) so that is a considerable size difference between 500 sq foot and the almost 2400 of an average home. 

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For some people the smaller footprint is great as they like the minimalist lifestyle and a houseboat will force you to get rid of any extra stuff you have. For other people the size of a houseboat just isn’t large enough for them and their family to live on or even vacation onboard. 

3. Houseboats Are Cheaper To Purchase

This is true most of the time but isn’t always true in every scenario. 

For example in many towns in the Midwest you can buy a 1,000 square foot house for around $50,000. If you compare that to a purchase price of a brand new houseboat for 80-100k then a house is certainly cheaper. 

In most areas though a houseboat will be cheaper than any house that you can buy. I currently live near Phoenix, Arizona. In the entire city that I live in the cheapest single family home currently on the market is 130k and it is stripped inside and needs remodeled. 

As you can see this difference varies across the country but especially when you consider a used houseboat cost a houseboat can be purchased cheaper than a traditional house in 90%+ of the country. 

4. Houseboats Have Less Monthly Costs

For people who live in high rent areas living on a houseboat is far cheaper than renting a traditional home and often even an apartment. This is especially true when you take into account the fact that on a houseboat you get to live right on the water! 

Good luck trying to buy or rent a house right on the water for anywhere close to the cost of a houseboat! Not only will you save money on rent or a payment vs the same on a normal house but your monthly expenses will also be less! 

With a houseboat your electricity and often water is included with your monthly dock fees so you will save monthly costs there. You will have to pay to get your septic pumped out on a regular basis but that is often much cheaper than the comparable sewage charges at a regular house. 

If you plan on moving your boat off the dock you will have the fuel expenses as well. If you are interested in getting a more complete breakdown of monthly houseboat expenses you can read the article I wrote about it here. 

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5. Houseboats Are Less Safe In Storms

This is a huge difference and one of the biggest cons to living on a houseboat. If you are in an area that has many storms throughout the year then a houseboat just simply isn’t as safe as a traditional house. 

I grew up in the Midwest and we dealt with major storms many times a month during late spring and early summer. I remember multiple times as a kid being woken up by tornado sirens and going into the basement as there were tornadoes in the area. 

Imagine living in a houseboat and having to get up and try to find somewhere safe multiple times a month every single spring! Imagine having to get a hotel room every time that there was a major winter storm that might cause the temps to drop too low for your houseboat to be warm enough to stay on board. 

Houseboats just aren’t a very good place to stay when the weather is bad. If you are in a local that has frequent storms then a houseboat is not a good choice because of this major con.

6. Houseboats Are Prone To Water Issues 

Being that a houseboat is quite literally on the water they are definitely more prone to flooding, moisture, and a whole variety of other water issues. 

Flooding isn’t a huge issue as long as your boat isn’t in a storm or isn’t overloaded with people or other weight. Keeping it high in the water and at the dock during storms is the best way to avoid getting water on board your boat. 

The more common issue with houseboats is that they will always have issues with moisture. Moisture in and of itself isn’t a problem (besides being a bit annoying) but moisture that isn’t dealt with can quickly become mold which is a HUGE issue! 

Water and moisture can not only get into your possessions such as clothing, chairs, couches, and more but it can also get into the walls or get into virtually any area where you don’t have a 100% seal. 

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When water or moisture gets in between walls or onto exposed wood it can cause mold or even rot the wood. Wood rot is honestly easier to get rid of since you just have to replace the wood where as mold is an absolute pain to deal with. 

7. Houseboats Are More Fun

I figured I would save the best difference for the last one on the list. Ultimately houseboats are just way more fun than living in a normal house! 

Everyone lives in houses, apartments, condos, etc. but how many people do you know that live on a HOUSEBOAT??? It’s something interesting to talk about at your next party. It’s a great way to learn more about the water. There is almost always a tight knit community at every marina. 

Houseboat living is just a fun life for many people. Now it wouldn’t be fun for everyone. If you have a large  family then living on a small boat wouldn’t probably be the best idea but for many single people, young couples or retirees it is a great way to be on vacation all the time! 

You can enjoy fishing, water sports, amazing views, and even see some amazing animals from the deck of your houseboat. There are quite a few different things to enjoy while on board and there will always be something for everyone no matter their age! 


There are certainly far more differences than just these I mentioned but these are probably the 7 biggest differences.

 Whether you are planning on buying a houseboat or are just learning more about one there are tons of articles that I have written to help you learn all you’ve ever wanted to know and more! 

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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