How To Buy A Houseboat | LakeWizard

Owning a houseboat is the dream for most boaters. But how does one go about buying a houseboat? What's the process like?

Buying a houseboat is super easy these days, thanks to the internet. With a few clicks, you can be the owner of your very own boat. However, you need to consider factors like whether the houseboat is new or used, its price, where you're going to dock, as well as the kind of houseboat you're getting. 

Since buying a houseboat is going to be a major investment for any person, it pays to make sure you do your due diligence in terms of market research and get familiar with everything related to houseboat ownership and management.

Luckily for you, we are the experts when it comes to all things related to houseboats. As houseboat owners, we are in the ideal position to help you find the perfect houseboat.

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How to Buy a Houseboat

Buying a houseboat is incredibly easy these days. If you're not one to head out to the local boat market to buy your vessel, you can always go the online route. There are hundreds of boat traders and boat sellers online, and if you do your research, you can end up with the vessel of your dreams in no time!

However, buying a houseboat is no walk in the park. Along with the buying process, there are also a number of factors to consider, which have been discussed below.

What You Need to Consider

House buyers may explore houseboats as a cheaper and more cost-effective option as property prices on land continue to rise, and the supply of affordable living options continues to dwindle. Before taking the leap, prospective houseboat purchasers should keep in mind that buying a houseboat differs significantly from buying a standard house on land.

Firstly, houseboats exist in a variety of forms and sizes and can be custom-built or converted from a vessel such as a barge, Dutch barges, and even other sailing or motorized watercraft. But even more importantly, in order to be recognized as a houseboat, the vessel must be self-propelled. A permanent mooring is required since, without propulsion, moving a houseboat will necessitate the use of a tug or an expensive crane and road transport.

Another major factor to consider when it's time to buy a houseboat is how you're going to use it. For instance, some folks just want to experience living on the water over the weekends or during vacation, while others might want to live aboard a houseboat permanently. If you are just looking for a weekend getaway, then you might not want to do many upgrades on the houseboat you purchase.

On the other hand, if you are looking to make the houseboat your permanent residence, then you will need to carry out some upgrades that may bump up the cost considerably. Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or a permanent residence is one question that needs to be answered when purchasing a houseboat.

New vs. Used

Deciding on purchasing a houseboat also means deciding whether you want to go with a new or used option. It is recommended to base this decision on your expertise. Go used if you know a lot about boats and are confident in your ability to remedy most problems. Buying a secondhand houseboat might save you a lot of money if you know what you're doing. However, if you are not a boat expert, you may want to spend a little more and acquire something that is covered by a guarantee and is less likely to fail or stop operating.

At the end of the day, it's all going to depend on what you are looking for in a houseboat. While a new option will come with a warranty and is unlikely to break down in the middle of your trip, it also comes with a much higher price tag. Also, because a new one will be custom made to your needs, it will be well worth the investment. A new boat with new parts that are all under warranty would be an excellent investment for your family if you can afford it.

Most builders have a few months' lead time on orders, so be patient and take your time designing the boat the way you want it. Ask if you may take a tour of nearby vessels and look at the various floor plans. Talk to your spouse about the things you both don't want to compromise on, and then give the builder that list. These experts know what they're doing, and they'll construct you a yacht that exceeds your wildest dreams.

On the other hand, if you are able to find a pre-owned houseboat that’s somewhat functional, it could be a great deal after a few upgrades, saving you money to spend on add-ons and other features that are looked for in a houseboat.

The Cost

While the typical houseboat costs around $50,000, this price may differ greatly because of the various types of vessels that are available, each with a distinct price range and unique features. Some will appear to be more normal dwellings, and other options will look and feel entirely like living on a boat.

Flat pontoon and barge-like vessels that are topped with four walls and also have a roof are considered to be perhaps the most common kind of houseboat that many boat enthusiasts opt for. And in case you were wondering about whether you and your family would have enough space, many of these houseboats include a whole second story or, at the very least, a deck where the owners may sit and relax on the water.

While costs vary greatly, you can purchase a good-quality houseboat in the 600 sq. feet range for roughly $50,000. But as mentioned, the cost will ultimately depend on the type of houseboat you are going for, its size, and the location. If you go much less than that, you may be dealing with a fixer-upper. And if you go any higher, you can end up with a boat that is a little beyond its prime. Of course, for the more affluent houseboat buyer, there are more opulent choices for half a million dollars or more.

You'll have to work hard to save up for a down payment for the houseboat. However, if you do not have the finances to pay for the houseboat upfront, there are other options available.  Boat loans are similar to RV loans in that they allow you to buy a boat. Most lenders will want a 20% down payment and a credit score of at least 680.

Although many banks and credit unions do not provide maritime finance, there are still those that do. Brokers can provide you with valuable insight into who is lending for houseboats. Remember that, similar to home mortgages, the interest for a houseboat will also be tax-deductible as long as it contains a bathroom and a galley.

Docking Costs

Of course, purchasing a houseboat will not be the only expense you incur; there are also other added expenses that you will have to pay on a monthly or annual basis depending on whether you are using the houseboat as a primary residence or just for vacations.

The cost of docking or parking a houseboat can range from nothing to thousands of dollars per month, depending on the marina you choose. There are public waters around the US where owners may moor their houseboat and enjoy living on one free of cost.

However, if you want your houseboat to be conveniently accessible from land, you'll need to dock it correctly. Dock owners demand rent in the same way as regular landlords do. On the other hand, dock rents are generally far less expensive than apartment rents.

Houseboat owners should prepare to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 per month for a dock spot. You should be able to power your houseboat without using the motor if the dock has an electrical outlet. You'll have to pay utilities for water and electricity in addition to the dock rental fee.

Important Questions to Ask When Buying a Houseboat

When it's time to purchase a houseboat, the most important factor to consider is your lifestyle.

  • How much space do you require?
  • What is the total number of pets you have, if you have any?
  • Do you enjoy going for a morning jog?
  • Do you enjoy cooking?

All of these activities and your regular routine must be taken into account because you will probably not be able to continue that on a houseboat. You're more likely to make a mistake if you look at your future houseboat lifestyle through rose-colored glasses. When evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of living on a houseboat, be honest with yourself, because both exist.

A buyer, much like when buying a house, should think about the neighborhood and region where they want to reside and should visit the mooring at different times of the day and week, especially in tidal seas.

At low tide, the nice river or estuary scenery may have vanished with the water, leaving somewhat unappealing mud or river bottoms, as well as sunken wrecks. It might also be unpleasant to smell, so docking your houseboat at a smelly harbor is the last thing you want.


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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