With average rents inflating by 20% in some markets in 2021, many people are looking for alternative housing. Many people are moving out of the cities because they just can’t afford the rent increases. RVs are nearing record sales volumes as more people take to the van life to escape high housing costs.
Vans are great, but what about houseboats? Why pitch up at a parking lot to spend the night when you can fall asleep to the sounds of waves crashing in the distance or the soft gurgling of a lake or river? Research shows that those living on water benefit from the health effects of a “Blue Mind.”
Living on a houseboat is just as affordable as staying in an RV, and it has several additional benefits compared to RV living. The thought of living on a houseboat seems somewhat romantic. Spending those quiet nights in the marina under starry skies while you enjoy the weather is what life on the water is all about, right?
So, if you’re keen on giving houseboat living a try, check out our guide to buying a houseboat. We’ll unpack everything you need to know about buying and living on a houseboat, helping you with your decision.
- What Is the Average Price of a Houseboat?
- Is Houseboat Living Affordable?
- What are the Types of Houseboats Available?
- What Do I Look for When Buying My Houseboat?
- Can I Finance My Houseboat?
- New or Used Houseboat – Which Is the Better Choice?
- Do I Pay Property Taxes on My Houseboat?
- What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Houseboat?
- Will My Houseboat Depreciate in Value?
- Can I Live on My Houseboat Year-round?
- Pets and Houseboats
- In Closing – Pre-Owned or Brand New?
What Is the Average Price of a Houseboat?
A houseboat might present an affordable accommodation, but it’s still a relatively expensive purchase if you decide to buy overtaking a rental. Like homes, houseboats vary in pricing. The cost depends on the region you want to live in and the size and model of the boat.
If you’re on a limited budget, you can find plenty of rental options in marinas up and down the coastline. Renting is affordable, but buying a houseboat can end up being even more affordable. You have options for purchasing a new houseboat or purchasing a pre-owned model.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks here. How much can you expect to pay for a houseboat?
A brand new houseboat will retail for anywhere between $300,000 to $1-million or more. The price depends on the size and model and the fixtures and fittings on the boat.
Purchasing a pre-owned model will cost you anywhere from $20,000 to $400,000. The average price for a used boat on the pre-owned market is around the $50,000 mark for a 600-square-foot model.
While $50,000 is a lot of money, we challenge you to find a home, or even an RV, offering you this kind of value in a living space; it simply doesn’t exist.
You have plenty of boats retailing on the pre-owned market for under $50k, and you might even find a deal for a houseboat under the $20,000 mark.
However, if you’re going under the $50,000 range, you’re likely to end up with a houseboat requiring some repairs. That’s okay. The cost of the repairs will likely turn out much less than you expect, and you’ll have a houseboat ready for life out on the water.
Is Houseboat Living Affordable?
Living on a houseboat is way more affordable than buying a home. It’s comparable to RV living and a great way to save money on your housing costs. Whether you’re buying or renting a houseboat, you’re going to experience significant savings over buying or renting a house or apartment in a city.
The average cost of houseboat living is around $6,000 per year. So, you can see why it’s such an attractive housing option. With some apartments in the city renting for upwards of $3,000 per month, you can make some massive savings by living out on the water.
What are the Types of Houseboats Available?
There are many different houseboat styles. Some are just boats with living quarters, while others look like floating houses. However, the barge or pontoon boat is the most common houseboat style offering you excellent stability out on the water and plenty of floor space.
Pontoon houseboats often feature split-level living quarters, and they might also feature decks where you can enjoy the sunset as you sip on a cocktail. Spend some time reviewing local listings for pre-owned boats, and you’ll get a good idea of the types of models available and the price range.
It’s also important to note that there are houseboats and floating homes. A houseboat has a trolling motor or outboard, and it’s a mobile living arrangement. A floating home tethers to a dock, and it doesn’t have an engine. Typically, floating homes are more expensive, but they offer you bigger living quarters.
What Do I Look for When Buying My Houseboat?
Your houseboat needs to compliment your lifestyle. Moving into small living quarters isn’t an option if you have a family or pets.
The tight space will eventually have the whole family arguing with each other, and your pets will make it a hassle to clean, and let’s not even go there with the mess they leave behind. The last thing you want is a houseboat smelling like animal poop.
When considering a houseboat, ask yourself the following qualifying questions to see if it’s the right choice for your lifestyle.
- How much space do you need?
- Do you have a family or pets?
- Do you cook at home?
- Do you spend a lot of time at home?
These questions help you navigate your decision. When considering a prospective model, don’t let your passion and excitement get in the way of inspecting the boat and choosing the right model, or you’re going to end up with some severe post-purchase dissonance.
Can I Finance My Houseboat?
Yes, it’s entirely possible to finance your houseboat purchase. If you’re purchasing a floating home, you can get the bank to finance a mortgage, much like buying a house. However, some lenders might have an issue with financing a pre-owned model.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to phone around and speak to different lenders about your financing options before you start houseboat hunting. Get a pre-approved loan, and you’ll have dry powder ready to close on a deal when you find it.
The bank won’t give you a mortgage if you’re financing a houseboat. However, they may offer you a financing deal similar to what you get when purchasing an RV. The difference between this financing method and a mortgage is the interest rate charged on your loan.
Typically, the lender will charge you a higher interest rate than buying an RV. You’ll need to consider these financing costs before settling on your purchase. Some lenders have exorbitantly high-interest rates, and it could end up doubling the final expenses of your houseboat.
New or Used Houseboat – Which Is the Better Choice?
So, should you go with a new or used houseboat? The reality is that a pre-owned houseboat will save you a substantial amount of money over buying new. A pre-owned houseboat can end up costing you up to 75% less than buying a new model.
However, maintenance is an issue with pre-owned models. If you find a well-priced model in the secondary market, the chances are there’s a catch involved. In most cases, the boat may need repairs. Be suspicious of any vessel that isn’t in the water, as you could be dealing with structural damage that makes the houseboat a write-off suitable for the scrap yard.
It’s a good idea to hire an inspection service to go over the boat before finalizing the purchase. It might cost you some money, but if the inspector uncovers structural problems, the inspection could end up saving you a bundle on repairs or total financial loss.
Do I Pay Property Taxes on My Houseboat?
One of the best features of houseboat living is that you don’t have to pay any property tax on the boat. However, there are additional costs over your financing fees with houseboat living. Some of the additional costs involved include the following.
You’ll pay a once-off sales tax on your houseboat when making your purchase. However, sales taxes vary between states. For example, if you’re buying a houseboat in North Caroline, the sales tax is 4.75%. However, if you choose to purchase a houseboat in Florida, you’ll pay a sales tax of 6%.
Like homeowners insurance, you’ll need to get insurance for your houseboat. Insurance policies protect your vessel against fire and sinking and other natural disaster. However, some states, like Florida and the Gulf states, require you to take additional hurricane insurance. Typically you’ll pay around $175 per month in insurance premium costs.
If you’re going to live in a marina, you’ll either be paying marina or mooring fees for your boat. You can consider these similar to your property taxes, but for houseboats.
Docking in marinas is the most expensive option. The marina fees vary depending on the location. Some marinas offer you more amenities and services than others, which affects the costs of docking. Typically, you’ll spend anywhere from $15 to $30 per foot of boat. Some marinas will charge by slip, regardless of boat size. The marina will include the costs of the amenities, such as electricity, security, and laundromat fees.
In Canals and Waterways
If you’re docking in a slip in a waterway or canal, you’ll end up paying a lot more than in the marina. Average costs can be anywhere from $15 to $100 per foot of boat, depending on the location.
Pump Out Costs
You’ll also need to consider the costs of removing your sewage waste from the boat. Some marinas include these services in their fees, while others refer to private companies for pump-outs. Typically, you’ll pay around $20 for a pump-out.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Houseboat?
Some of the financial advantages of owning a houseboat or floating home include the following.
- No property tax.
- Affordable rents and financing costs.
- Tax breaks.
- No yard maintenance.
Some of the financial disadvantages of owning a houseboat are the following.
- You’ll have to pay for sewage pump-outs.
- Marina or docking costs.
- Fuel expenses.
- Maintenance of the houseboat.
Most houseboats require an annual or seasonal inspection for damage and problems. Preventative maintenance and ongoing maintenance are the biggest costs involved with owning a houseboat, and you’ll need to account for them each year.
Before you finalize your purchase, ask the seller what they spend on annual maintenance costs, and ask then for the number of the maintenance specialist taking care of the boat.
Give the specialist a call and ask them about the recent work on your prospective boat to get an idea of its condition and the maintenance costs involved with ownership.
For this reason, many people choose to rent their houseboat rather than own it outright. When you rent, the servicing and repairs of the houseboat are the landlord’s problem, not yours.
Will My Houseboat Depreciate in Value?
Like cars and RVs, houseboats depreciate in value rather than appreciate like a brick-and-mortar home. However, if you’re buying a houseboat, you can deduct the depreciation from your annual tax return. Please speak to your accountant and ask them about the depreciation on your boat.
Some models and brands hold their value better than others – it’s similar to the used car and used RV market. So, if you’re buying your houseboat, you’ll need to account for this depreciation if you plan on selling in the future.
Can I Live on My Houseboat Year-round?
Yes, it’s totally possible to live on a houseboat all through the year. However, in colder northern climates, you’ll need to winterize the houseboat, and this task adds to the cost of purchasing the boat.
If you’re buying a pre-owned model in a cold region, the houseboat should already have all the winterization tasks done to the boat before you make your purchase.
Living out on the water in colder environments is challenging. Being on the water makes the climate inside your boat much cooler than living on land.
Pets and Houseboats
Living with pets onboard your houseboat can be challenging. Make sure that your marina allows pets and that your pet is comfortable with aquatic life.
In Closing – Pre-Owned or Brand New?
We recommend going with a used houseboat if you’re on a budget. You can find some spectacular deals on the secondary market. Even if you purchase a fixer-upper, you’ll find you save tens of thousands of dollars over a new purchase.