Houseboat Buying Guide from Boatshed London
Where to start your search...
Houseboats for sale in London are marketed on a variety of marine and property websites. Boatshed London has the biggest range of boats currently for sale in London so obviously we think that's a good place to start but Rightmove, Zoopla and Apollo Duck have plenty of houseboats for sale on their platforms. Apollo Duck in particular always seems to be popular for houseboats, it's not the easiest website to navigate but a lot of private listings find their way on there. An important decision to make early on is whether you want to be a continuous cruiser or live on boat that has a London mooring. The cruising lifestyle is a lot less expensive because you're not paying mooring fees but takes a lot more work and could be viewed as a second part-time job. You will have to keep moving every two weeks as well as move to empty your sewage and fill up with water.
If you're looking for something with a mooring, it's a good idea to walk around the marinas or along the canal to get a feel for the area and the moorings so you can start to narrow down your search to one or two locations. Anything with a London mooring will usually be more expensive; because of the high demand for mooring spots, these boats will sell for a premium.
Picking which boats to view...
Firstly, you need to work out your budget. The vast majority of houseboats in London are bought as cash purchases because banks do not provide traditional mortgages for boats. There is marine finance available but it is fairly expensive and normally requires a 30% deposit minimum.
If you've never owned or lived on a boat before, it's important to try and see as much as possible so you've got comparable listings and can judge boats against one another. The asking prices of boats can vary quite a lot depending on who has valued them and it's important to scrutinise the price and try to work out if it's realistic. The London market for boats is not like property where you can find all sorts of data on house prices for a particular street and a private seller may think their boat is worth a lot more than a professional brokerage. Estate agents will often take on a houseboat without much prior knowledge about this niche market and their valuations can also be a tad optimistic. If you know the location you want to be in, you can pick out a few boats to see in each place and then make sure you understand how much the mooring fees are for each boat and what facilities are available at the marina or mooring. The fees are usually set on the length of the boat so the smaller the boat, the less your monthly outgoings should be.
Each marina charges different amounts though – see our marina guide.
Boats that have recent surveys or have been out of the water recently are always good choices because it shows that there has been a decent schedule of maintenance done by the current owner and will minimise your costs in the short term. The owner or broker should be able to share the most recent survey report with you. I'm always happy to show you a range of boats in each marina so you can see what your budget will allow you to buy.
What questions to ask on a viewing...
- When was the boat last out of the water?
- When was the engine(s) last serviced?
- Ask them to start the engine for you to see it running.
- Why are they selling?
- Is the mooring transferable and/or is there an approval process to go through?
- What's the community like on the mooring?
- How much are the mooring fees? (All our listings have this info included upfront)
- What is included in the mooring fee, council tax, electricty, water etc.?
The Purchase Process...
Boatshed London have a tried and tested purchase process that is designed to ensure smooth progress through to completion whilst keeping both seller and buyer protected. Once a sale price is agreed, we will require a 10% deposit to secure the boat under offer and a Sales Agreement will be signed by both parties. Then you can move onto having a survey if that was part of the offer condition. The deposit is held in our client account whilst the deal progresses and is refundable if the sale falls through due to a poor survey. If you're undertaking a private deal with a seller, you may want to appoint a solicitor to hold the deposit for you. There are template sales agreements available online for private sales and it's important you get something signed before proceeding.
SurveysAs a first time boat buyer, even if the boat has a recent survey, we think it's a good idea to get a full out of water survey done to go through the process and find out exactly what you're buying. If the boat hasn't been out of the water for a while, then it is essential to get the boat lifted and don't let the vendor or agent tell you not to bother. We are aware of an estate agent who claim to be “houseboat specialists” regularly recommending that buyers only need to get an “inwater” survey done. It's the buyer's responsibility to request (and pay for) the out of water survey so beware of anyone trying to put you off doing one. We'll organise the logistics on your behalf. London is not well served for dry docks and cranes so we know the best people to contact and can supply a list of good marine surveyors to choose from.
Once the full report is produced, you can make a decision whether to proceed or not. We are on hand to advise both parties and help the deal to progress if there are some minor issues that need attention before completion.
Mooring Transfer and Fees
If you're buying a boat with a mooring, make sure you get sight of the terms and conditions in advance from the marina and confirm the fees with them directly. We try and provide accurate current figures on our website but it's sensible to check with the marina to avoid any nasty surprises down the line.
Many of the marinas with houseboats in will charge a transfer fee which is usually a percentage of the sale price. This will normally be payable at the point of completion. Boatshed will make sure all the paperwork is in place for this because we're familiar with each marina's process.
Completing the deal and paperwork
The broker or vendor should produce a Bill of Sale to confirm the transfer of ownership once all funds have cleared. As mentioned above, there may be some forms to fill in for the mooring transfer and these should be done in advance of the handover.
Then, all being well, you are ready to move in and start a life afloat. One of the nicest parts of my job is seeing the people we've sold boats to loving being on their houseboats and becoming part of the community. A lot of the time they are more interested in seeing Tilly again rather than me but there we go. We always make sure we are on hand to help people with any questions or advice as they learn the ropes.