Could Your Next Step on the Property Ladder Put You in Deep Water?

Substantial numbers of people around the country are finding it progressively more difficult to get on the property ladder. First time buyers face increased debt from student loans, a difficult mortgage market and prices that are still historically high in many areas. Instead of persevering with the dream of owning a static, land based house therefore, many are opting for a floating variation.

Essentially, a houseboat is similar in many ways to owning a small, floating cottage. Sometimes not even particularly small, with models up to 150 feet long. They can range from a tiny 30ft watery bolt-hole for as little as £5000 or £6000 to a 150ft luxury houseboat selling for well over £1,000,000 with all the trimmings you would expect from a penthouse apartment.

One doesn’t have to go to either such extreme though. There are plenty of 80ft or so houseboats on the market for a very reasonable price. A traditional barge, for example, sells for around £140,000 in most cases, narrowboats for £20,000 and a static houseboat from around £90,000 – though these are frequently in need of conversion from commercial use.

A typically sized boat often renders an almost ‘Tardis’ like effect with regards to the space inside. Many people are reported by agents (including Premier Houseboats) to be extremely surprised by the spacious rooms and potential for personalisation. One example, the Johanna Elisabeth, a converted 80ft Dutch coastal cargo vessel, provides a dual level, two bedroom (both double) home with modern kitchen and bathroom. Moored right next to Canary Warf, Central London, she provides a wonderful floating home for her owners with a perfect position, on a par with the up-market apartments just a hundred yards away. (She is for sale through Chesterton Humberts at £325,000.)

There are, however, supplementary costs to be considered. Mooring fees average at about £1.10 per foot per week on a secure residential mooring and it is generally advised that owners reserve around £100/month for routine hull maintenance (Steve Sutton, owner of Premier Houseboats). Salt water is corrosive and there is a certain amount of work involved in keeping the boat watertight and ‘shipshape’.

A level of outlay and hands-on work is therefore involved, but the benefits can be substantial. Boats are a small and oft forgotten part of the housing market, but they do offer a low-cost option worth considering, particularly for first time buyers and those looking to downsize.

26th July 2011