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Making waves – is investing in a houseboat a good idea?

Many people like the idea of living on the water, and houseboats have come to be seen as an increasingly trendy, alternative way of living in recent years, in particular among young professionals in major cities seeking to live a less stressful life.

But what are the pros and cons of investing in a houseboat? How much does one cost? What does a typical houseboat look like? Can they be rented out? And do they incur stamp duty?

To answer these questions, and many more, PIT spoke with Nicholas Austin – sales consultant at riverhomes's South West London office – to get his expert opinion on waterside living.

What is the average price of a houseboat? And what are the additional costs owners need to factor in?

The average price of a houseboat is between £250,000-450,000, although we have narrowboats on our books for less than £50,000 and a floating mansion that’s on the market for £3.5 million.  

Additional costs include the cost of the moorings which are determined by the length of the boat. Obviously, moorings in prime locations like Chelsea will command higher mooring fees than outer locations.  

Houseboat owners also need to budget to have the hull scraped every seven to ten years. At this point, the owner needs to move his or her furniture out of the houseboat while it is placed in dry dock. Most owners take this opportunity to re-paint the vessel.

Can they be lived in all-year round? How can they be kept warm in the winter months in a sustainable, eco-friendly way?

Houseboats can certainly be lived in year-round. Once on board, many are indistinguishable from a bricks and mortar property apart from the sound of lapping waves against the hull.  

While many houseboat owners simply connect to mains at the mooring site to power the heating system, some owners have installed solar panels. Some marinas are also taking advantage of their locations to install solar panels or other eco-friendly power sources.

What would the makeup of a typical houseboat be? How many bedrooms? What other facilities are on offer?

Most houseboats have two or three bedrooms, but the larger houseboats have many more than that. Facilities in larger houseboats are akin to a bricks and mortar property - we are even selling a houseboat with an Aga installed in the kitchen - although some moorings have the additional advantage of being part of a larger development.  

These houseboat owners have access to the same gyms, swimming pools and other facilities available to the flat owners.

Can houseboats be rented out as short and long-term lets? Are there any regulations houseboat owners will need to adhere to if opting for this path?

If a houseboat is let on a residential mooring, it can be let through a AST just like any other property. Typically, they command a higher rent than a flat or house because they are relatively rare to the rental market.  

However, most marinas will not allow houseboats to be let on a short-term basis. The exception is St. Katherine’s Dock in Wapping which has a handful of houseboats available through Airbnb.

How popular are houseboats as holiday homes? Is the demand there and where do most people list their boats?

On the coast, houseboats are a very popular alternative to conventional properties. Details of these listings can be found through local agents. However, in London, most people either live in them full-time or keep them as pieds a terre.

Making waves – is investing in a houseboat a good idea?

How would an investor go about buying a houseboat? Is there a specific process involved, or is it much the same as a traditional purchase?

The purchase of a houseboat is similar to that of a conventional property with one crucial exception: they cannot be purchased with a conventional mortgage. There are marine mortgages available but only through specialist lenders, hence why many buyers purchase in cash.  

If purchased with cash, the buying process tends to proceed very quickly.  It’s simply the purchase of the vessel and a transfer of the mooring to the new owner.

Do you have to pay stamp duty when buying a houseboat? 

Most houseboats are exempt from SDLT. There are a few exceptions in South West London which have leasehold moorings. These are valued around £400,000-£500,000 and are subject to SDLT but they are very atypical.

Has Covid-19 led to an increase in demand for houseboats, as people rediscover nature, the water and seek a more relaxed, off-grid way of living? Or has it gone the other way?

Yes! The demand we’ve experienced since lockdown was lifted has been unprecedented. Houseboat sales are up 880% on last year (yes, really).  

When we ask buyers what is motivating their purchase, many cite that they’ve come to realise life is short and they want a different and better quality of life.

Making waves – is investing in a houseboat a good idea?

What are the rewards (and potential risks) of investing in a houseboat?

Marina communities tend to be very welcoming and close-knit. It’s akin to living in a small village. Some people love that; others loathe it.  

I’d also say that it helps to be practically minded. Boats have their little quirks, so it helps if you have basic maintenance skills.

Poll: Would you consider investing in a houseboat?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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