Buying a House Boat

It’s a wonderful dream for many people – abandoning the every day and investing in a floating home moored on a quiet waterway. But should you take the plunge? How easy is it to buy a houseboat – and what is involved in doing so?

In this article, the home sales specialists at quick home sale specialists Property Solvers will explain the steps you’ll need to take in order to purchase a houseboat, and what you must take into account before you do so.

Types of boat

Firstly, you’ll need to consider the kind of vessel you’re interested in purchasing. The term “houseboat” actually refers to floating accommodation that is permanently moored. 

If you’re looking for something that you can sail from place to place, a narrowboat or Dutch barge may be preferable.

For something a little larger, river cruisers and yachts may appeal too.

Before you make your choice, you need to consider the following things:

  • Your budget
  • The purpose of the boat – i.e. do you wish for it to remain permanently moored or do you wish to travel?
  • Where you want your boat to go – i.e. are there moorings available locally? Do you have a boathouse? If you’re interested in a narrowboat, which canals do you wish to traverse? Some have short locks that will not accommodate longer vessels and some are too narrow for wide beam models.
  • Will you be living on your boat? If so, will this be full time or just for part of the year?

By using these questions as a checklist, you may find it easier to choose your ideal vessel.

Where to look

There are a number of ways to get hold of a houseboat. Here are the most common.

Have one made

If you have a good-sized budget and tight specifications in mind, you could commission a specialist to build your dream boat.

Go to boat shows

Research local and national boat shows online and ensure that the models on sale are likely to appeal to your tastes. You can then attend your chosen shows and take a look at what is on offer. Many sellers will let you climb aboard and have a look around.

Browse online listings and magazines

Sites like boats.com list both new and used boats of all types. You can take a look at the various models available by searching online, or you can subscribe to magazines such as Boat Trader to be updated on a monthly basis regarding vessels for sale.

Boats can also be purchased on sites such as eBay, but it’s important to ensure the quality of these second-hand vessels before you commit to a purchase.

Visit boatyards and dry docks or keep an eye out at marinas

Often, taking a simple trip to a location where multiple boats are moored, restored or cleaned can give you an idea of what is on offer. If a boat owner wishes to sell their vessel, they might post a notice in their window. Listings may also be displayed in boat yard offices or receptions.

Costs

Many people are drawn to living on water because it is considered much more affordable than owning or renting a regular house or flat. However, there will still be some expenses that you’ll need to cover.

The boat

The most affordable vessels are usually canal boats, sometimes starting at less than £5,000 for “fixer-uppers”. However, yachts can easily cost millions.

Your mooring

If you live on your boat, you may opt to be a “continuous cruiser”, which means that your boat must be moved once every 14 days (though this may vary depending on location) and you won’t have a set mooring.

However, most people rent a spot for their boat when they are not using it. Most commonly, these are available on 12 months or 3-year contracts.

Repairs and upgrades

If you’re buying a boat second hand, it may need a little work. You’ll also need to invest in its regular upkeep to ensure it remains safe. Take this into account when budgeting.

Getting your boat surveyed will reveal its true condition and will help you to understand what any repairs will cost.

Licenses

The type of licence you’ll need depends on where you plan to take your boat. For example, if you intend to traverse canals and other inland waterways, you’ll need a licence from the Canal & River Trust. 

The Bridgewater Canal running through Manchester requires a separate licence, and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads require boaters to pay an additional toll. Other waterways may have their own individual costs attached too.

Costs and licences vary across the UK, so do your research before you travel. A typical British Waterways licence costs around £400 per year.

Insurance

It’s vital that your boat is correctly insured before you use it. It’s a legal requirement that your boat has third party insurance to at least £2,000,000.

You also need to apply for a BSS (Boat Safety Scheme) certificate, which will cost you upwards of £100.

Tax

While most people assume that people living on boats don’t pay certain taxes, this isn’t always the case. You may be required to pay council tax if you have a permanent mooring in a particular area. Research the location of your mooring to see if this applies to you before you decide.

Of course, there are huge savings to be made when living on a house boat. In general, your power bills will be far lower than they would be if you owned a house or flat, for example.

If you don’t intend to live on your boat full time, it’s also possible to split the costs between multiple people by working out a shared ownership or “timeshare” style arrangement with friends.

You can apply for “marine loans” or mortgages if you don’t have the funds to pay for a boat upfront.

It’s important to be careful when purchasing a house boat. You need to determine whether the model you have chosen is suitable for your needs, you must budget correctly to ensure you can afford the boat itself and the other expenses that come with it and you’re also required to adhere to all required regulations.

However, if you’re informed and organised, a boat may be one of the most rewarding investments you could possibly make.

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