How are Houseboats Different From Other Houses? | LakeWizard

People who have just heard about a houseboat –or are even planning to buy one – might wonder how a houseboat is different from other houses.

Houseboats are growing in popularity, which has caused a lot of people to wonder about the added benefits that this particular type of house can offer, which are not available with traditional houses.

Some of the key ways that a houseboat is different from other houses are: a houseboat is on the water, is much smaller, generally cheaper to buy, has lower ongoing costs, and is generally more fun. However, it is also more vulnerable to water problems, and is less safe during storms.

Some of the most popular types of houseboats include barges, pontoons, and catamarans. Many houseboats are propelled by engines, but others do not have a motor at all. The non-engine houseboats are usually kept on the dock so that the land is easily accessible.

Based on extensive research, we have come up with the key differences between houseboats and other kinds of houses. In addition, we will discuss the primary reasons that one should experience living on a houseboat at least once.

Table of contents


Differences between Houseboats and Other Houses:

A houseboat is on the water:

Naturally, the first and biggest difference would be that, unlike other kinds of houses, a houseboat is constructed on the water. In fact, one of the biggest attractions of a houseboat is the water. You get to enjoy the amazing views, sceneries, and fishes, at a mere few feet away from your living room, kitchen, or even bedrooms. This is especially tempting for people who love to spend time in and around water.

A houseboat is considerably smaller:

This difference is particularly pronounced for those living in the US and other parts of the developed world. For instance, even a small home in the US can often have a size of more than 1000 square feet. As per Statista, the size of an average house in the US in the year 2018 was 2,386 square feet.

In comparison, the living space in a houseboat is generally around 500-600 square feet. So, compared to an average- sized house, an average-sized houseboat is much smaller.

For those who prefer leading a minimalist life and having a small carbon footprint, the smaller size of a houseboat is an advantage. Living on a houseboat means that you will have to get rid of any excess stuff, and only keep the more essential items. On the other hand, some people find that a houseboat is too small for them and their families for spending a vacation, let alone living permanently.

A houseboat is cheaper to buy:

Even though this is generally true, it is not a given.

For instance, several 1000-square feet houses in the Midwest cost around $50,000. In contrast, a new houseboat can often cost more than $70,000-90,000. This means that there are instances in which a regular house would be cheaper to buy than a houseboat.

However, like we said, a houseboat being more expensive than a regular house is the exception rather than the rule. For instance, in Phoenix, Arizona, even the cheapest available houses for single families can cost around $130,000 to 150,000. Not to mention that these houses are almost always completely stripped from the inside. In such cases, a houseboat is definitely cheaper than a conventional house.

This difference becomes even more pronounced when we consider used houseboats. For almost 90% of the USA, you will find that a used houseboat is cheaper than any traditional house.

A houseboat has lower monthly expenses:

Residing on houseboats is considerably cheaper, especially for people who are living in areas where the rent is on the higher side. This becomes even truer when you consider that a houseboat allows you to reside literally on top of the water – a luxury that you will not find with even the most sophisticated houses.

So, a houseboat can certainly help save money in terms of purchase price or rent. But in addition to that, a houseboat is also associated with lower ongoing expenses.

For instance, with houseboats, the periodic dock fees will usually include electricity, and will sometimes even incorporate water. However, you will need to ensure that the septic is being pumped out regularly. But even that will cost less than the sewerage charges that you will have to pay in a regular house.

A houseboat is less secure during a storm:

This is perhaps the biggest deterrent to making a houseboat your permanent residence. For areas that endure several storms across the year, a traditional home offers a great deal more safety than a houseboat.

Areas like the Midwest deal with multiple significant storms during the months of early summer and late spring. Now, imagine residing on a houseboat and being forced to evacuate multiple times during multiple months. Imagine having to keep a close eye on the weather forecast, and making short-term residential arrangements every time a storm is on the radar. Sometimes, winter storms cause the houseboat temperature to drop to a point where it might not be safe enough for you to stay aboard.

All in all, houseboats are very undesirable during times of storm or other harsh weather conditions. So, if you reside in an area where storms are frequent – and you are unwilling to move to another region – you might want to reconsider your plan to live on a houseboat.

A houseboat is more vulnerable to water problems:

As we mentioned, when you live on a houseboat, you live ON water. This, naturally, means that houseboats are more vulnerable to problems such as moisture and flooding.

While flooding is definitely a possibility, it is not a major concern as long as you are not in the middle of the storm and your boat is not being bogged down by excessive weight. In order to prevent water from getting inside the houseboat, you need to ensure that the boat is high on the water. During storms, keep your houseboat on the dock.

The much more common problem is that of moisture. While moisture itself does not pose a real problem (although it can certainly be annoying), moisture that is not addressed in a timely fashion can certainly become a massive issue.

Moisture and water can find their way into possessions like furniture and clothing. Pretty much any area that is not completely sealed will become vulnerable to moisture.

When moisture enters exposed wood or between walls, it can create mold and even cause the wood to rot. Frankly, rotten wood is easier to deal with, since it will have to be completely replaced. Addressing mold, on the other hand, can become quite the headache.

A houseboat offers a lot of fun:

When all is said and done, no one can deny that, on the whole, a houseboat is simply a great deal more fun to reside on.

It is routine to live in houses, apartments, and even condos. On the other hand, how many of your family, friends, or even acquaintances can claim to reside on a houseboat? So, if you decide to go for a houseboat, you will certainly have a lot to talk about at your next friendly gathering. You will also get the chance to learn things about marine life that would not have been possible with a regular house. Also, living on a houseboat gives you the opportunity to make great, lifelong friends, as almost every marina is associated with a tight-knit and friendly community.

While houseboat living spells fun for a lot of people, it might not be the case for everyone. For instance, people with large families might find a houseboat too small. However, if you live all by yourself, are one-half of a young couple, or a retiree, a houseboat could be synonymous with permanent holidaying and enjoyment.

Reasons to Live on a Houseboat:

Experiencing a houseboat life can be gratifying. In the second section of the guide, we will cover all the reasons to experience this experience.

An escape from routine:

The beautiful nature and calm waters offer a welcome change. A houseboat simplifies your living experience, and helps you get rid of so many stressors associated with your regular life. A house that floats is a totally unique experience, and one that is hard to imagine.

Stunning views:

Living on a houseboat means that you can enjoy thrilling views all day and every day. From the water surrounding you and the colorful skies above your head, to the cliffs and hills that you can catch glimpses of – all make for some spectacular viewing. And, of course, how can we forget the bliss of getting the chance to observe marine life from up close. Also, you do not have to worry about a new house or any other structure obstructing your view.

Opportunities for photography:

Being surrounded by such natural beauty, you get plenty of opportunities to experience moments that you would like to treasure. With a number of photogenic surroundings, clicking pictures or recording videos becomes an enjoyable experience.

Change and more change:

 When you live on a houseboat, you will understand what the saying, ‘change is the only thing that is constant’, actually means. A houseboat life means that you experience frequent change in your surroundings. You get to take note of the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the skies, the weather, the water, and your surroundings. These changes make for a life that is a great deal more exciting and vibrant.

Breathtaking sunrises and sunsets:

For a lot of people, getting to witness a sunrise and a sunset up close is a fantasy. When you live on a houseboat, other people’s fantasy becomes an everyday thing for you.

Watching the night sky:

Alongside sunsets and sunrises, a houseboat life also provides you the chance to witness the subtleties of the night sky. Watching the shining moon and the glittering stars, makes for a truly beautiful experience. You could also decide to pick a spot for a blazing campfire if the night is particularly starry and still.

Chance to enjoy water sports at any time:

If you are residing on a houseboat, you do not need to travel to a distant spot to engage in watersports and activities. If you are equipped with the right skills and gears, you can just dive right in at pretty much any time of the day. Alternatively, you could also hire a canoe and kayak, and go for a smooth water ride.

Relaxing and peaceful environment:

You get the chance to enjoy a calming and invigorating environment, away from all the hustling and bustling associated with city life. The calming motion of the water will help rock you to sleep every night, while you take in the pleasant, salt-tinged air of the sea. Water, fresh air, and sunshine – what more could you ask for? Such an environment can also help play a key role in your health, boosting your immune system and regulating your blood pressure.

Food availability:

With fishes swimming literally outside your front door, you need not worry about the availability of food. Of course, if you enjoy fishing, you can engage in it whenever you want, without having to wait for a shortage of food.

Romantic settings:

Living on a houseboat allows you to enjoy and cherish many romantic moments on a daily basis. From the scenic beauty to the quiet surroundings, a houseboat life offers the ideal setting for romantic dates.

Ocean cruises:

An ocean cruise is a very unique experience, with the additional calmness and privacy. And, of course, you get to enjoy a number of stunning views.

Optional isolation:

With a houseboat, you can enjoy much-needed privacy at any time that you want. This is particularly desirable for introverts who need to spend alone time in order to recharge their batteries.

Ease of traveling:

Not only can you opt for privacy any time you want, but you can also decide to change your neighbors whenever you wish. This is primarily due to the ease of traveling associated with houseboats, especially those that are driven by engines.

No parking problems:

If you have any vehicles, you do not need to worry about finding a suitable parking spot for them – your houseboat will offer the perfect parking place for all your vehicles (as long as you do not have too many).


Since the supply of houseboats is limited, there is a higher chance of price consistency and appreciation. So, even if you decide to sell your houseboat off in the future, there is a fair chance that you will be able to get a decent investment return. Hence, if you possess the funds required to buy a houseboat, buying one can prove to be a smart financial decision.

No property taxes:

Since a houseboat is not considered a property piece from a legal point-of-view, you will not have to pay any property taxes. Having said that, you will still have to pay personal property-related taxes, just like those associated with a car or any other vehicle.


Living on a houseboat gives you the chance to go ‘green’. You will use up less resources like electricity, fuel, paper, and water, and will also turn to cleaning agents that are better for the environment.

Ease of commute:

With houseboats, you will not have to worry about enduring and conquering the everyday traffic on the roads. Most people who live on a houseboat either work directly from there, or simply bike or walk to work or for other purposes like shopping.


Brian Samson

Brian Samson

I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.

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