Buying a Houseboat - Part 1 (of 3)
The following article is by our good friend and top boating lawyer, Hannah Cash. As well as being a leading authority on the legal aspects of buying a boat, Hannah has lived aboard Katherine of London (which we have for sale here) for a good few years, so is equally well versed on the practical aspects of the live-aboard lifestyle. Over to you, Hannah . . .
This is the first of a 3 part series on buying a houseboat. This first part focuses on the different types of boats suitable to use as a live aboard.
There is a huge choice of boats suitable for living on. What you go for ultimately depends on your budget, your lifestyle, and the level of comfort you desire. It also depends on whether you are happy to be permanently moored and for your boat to be without an engine; or would you like the option to cruise UK, or even international waters?
There are many specialist boat builders who will make a boat to your exact specifications or, alternatively, you may wish to buy second-hand. As well as budget limitations, you should also consider whether you want to buy a boat that is already habitable or take on a project and deal with the conversion yourself. Here is a summary of the most common types of boats used as live-aboards:
Narrow boats/canal boats – What these boats lack in width, they make up for in length, which makes them easily adaptable into decent living space. These boats are often modified to create permanently moored houseboats (see below) but can otherwise be used to cruise the UK canal network and are relatively easy to manoeuvre.
Dutch Barges – These are very popular house boats as the wide beam, length, and outside deck space combine to provide spacious living accommodation. Dutch Barges range in size, but are invariably wide and so are most frequently found on large rivers rather than canals. If you intend to travel extensively, you might also want to look out for a barge with a collapsible wheelhouse, otherwise you might find yourself cruising range restricted by inability to pass under some bridges. Most Dutch Barges originate (unsurprisingly) from Holland, although there are many now registered in the UK.
Sailing boats – These range from cruisers to small sailing boats. Depending on your idea of living space (generally limited) and comfort (generally basic), these vessels are typically more suitable as temporary homes for those who wish to sail UK coastal or international waters and can’t afford a super-yacht.
Houseboats – These offer permanently moored accommodation, constructed on barges or specially designed boat platforms without engines. Sometimes referred to as ‘floating mobile homes’, houseboats can be built to your specification or purchased second-hand. Either way, you will need a permanent mooring and may have to put your name on a waiting list for popular berthing locations.
Fishing vessels/tugs – These decommissioned vessels are often purchased as a ‘project’ to fit-out. Their large size makes them ideal homes but do remember to factor in the (significant) costs of converting them to residential status. And remember that extra space requires extra maintenance too! Nevertheless, the beauty of this type of vessel is that it is offers both space and suitability for sailing coastal waters or rivers – although their size makes them unsuitable for cruising inland waterways.
Luxury Yachts and motor cruisers – If money’s no object, some of these beauties can offer you the floor space of a residential apartment! Prices generally range from £250,000 to several million pounds. These live aboards are no small investment and, of course, you will want to moor your luxury yacht in a reputable marina for maximum security and peace of mind. And perhaps hire some crew!
A top tip is to try and view as many houseboats as possible, this will help you decide which vessel is right for you as you’ll get a feel for the kind of boat you would like as your home. Before you commit to buying a houseboat, don’t forget to download our “Guide to Buying a Boat” from our website – it’s free! and will help guide you through the boat buying process.