Where do I buy a Houseboat?
May 28, 2012 3:16 PM   Subscribe

If building a house is cheaper than buying a house (if you exclude land costs) and buying a houseboat is cheaper than buying a house, could it be cost effective to have a "boat" designed and built outside London and then moor it in London to get a relatively cheap London house? I'm aware moorings are rare and can be expensive, but do you think the costs would work out?

Do you know anything about the boat building world? I know nothing.
Where would one go to design/commission a boat? How much might it cost?
I saw an episode of Grand Designs where some guy spend £50k on a badly made boat, but he had no grasp of project management or planning or design, could a well planned boat be cheaper?

Are there any other clever tricks you can think of to get a nice place to live without needing an enormous mortgage?
These could be boat based or non-boat based. Perhaps a Zeppelin moored above town (Like Sporticus!)
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There are lots of houseboat builders in the UK who you could get quotes from. My guess is that it's more expensive than buying a used boat and doing it up yourself.

You need to bear in mind that boats may have substantial maintenance costs, and that London moorings cost approx £300/month, if you can get one.
posted by roofus at 3:34 PM on May 28, 2012

House on a trailer?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:48 PM on May 28, 2012

They're called 'narrow boats' and there is nothing particularly clever or novel about this idea; there is a large culture of people who live in such boats on canals across Britain including in London and you can find lots of information by googling. I found some boats listed for sale. It looks like £50k can buy you a nice used boat. However, I have the distinct impression that getting a London mooring is next to impossible. They will be highly highly coveted. Whether the costs work out depend on a lot of things. I gather boat-dwellers are not likely to save any substantial amount of money in the long run, but they derive a lot of pleasure from the lifestyle.

Another 'clever trick' if you are ambitious or handy is to convert a warehouse into a live-work space and then sublet the rooms and turn a profit. There are lots of these up in Manor House / Seven Sisters which is where I live, and doubtless in other parts of town as well. But the ultimate answer is to find a disused property and squat. Rent-free!
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:49 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can moor more than just narrow boats in London.

I vaguely looked at buying a boat when I was thinking about buying a house. Boats depreciate, new boats more than older ones. There's only a few marine mortgages you can get.

Your costs are more than just the mooring fees, there's insurance, maintenance fees. Lots of things are harder on boats, which makes the costs add up - everything from you have to use caravan appliances to you won't have a landline so you'll need to have a wifi dongle...

Everything I learnt about this, I learnt online, mostly from the Canal World Discussion Forum.

People do do this. And boats are cool. But I think it really does have to be your dream for it to work.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:28 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A boat is a hole in the water surrounded by wood into which you pour money.

You might get a used narrow boat for £50k, but it will be nothing like a house - more like living in a caravan that floats. If you want a houseboat, it will cost you a lot more than a house of the equivalent size and maintenance costs will also be much much higher. Plus, you'll have to pay to moor it unless you plan to be continually mobile. Plus, keep in mind how you'll get simple things like water and electricity on board and how you'll dispose of waste.

Yeah, boats are cool. Yeah, people live on them. It has to be something you actually want to do, though, not a way to save money. Refer to my first paragraph.
posted by dg at 5:15 PM on May 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Livingonboats articles and FAQ may give you a good start.
posted by K.P. at 5:51 PM on May 28, 2012

The word boat and the word cheap don't belong in the same sentence. Boats are like weddings if you take boat onto a word it makes it much, much pricier and on a boat there is always something to fix.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:47 PM on May 28, 2012

Just thought I'd chime in to say that BOAT is an acronym meaning "break out another thousand."
posted by oceanjesse at 8:28 PM on May 28, 2012

A boat that can match the space and amenity of a flat or house will be pricey. E.g., well presented two-bed houseboat, moored outside London (but once moored in Canary Wharf): £165,000.
posted by jonathanbell at 3:44 AM on May 29, 2012

However, you don't pay council tax on houseboats, so there's that.

I don't think there are many tricks other than squatting. There are people who live as 'guardians' in disused properties for cheap rent, but there are significant limits on what you can do there and you can be asked to leave with two weeks' notice. I'm someone who really needs security in where I live so it's not something which appeals to me, but if, for example, you are an artist who needs workspace it could work for you.
posted by mippy at 6:53 AM on May 29, 2012

I once spent a month on a houseboat. After a month, I was so grateful to live somewhere that didn't move, you have no idea. Terra Firma, that's the good stuff.

I have a couple of friends who have houseboats, one in London, one near Amsterdam, and one near San Francisco. I think all of them still pay a tax similar to property tax, they all have maintenance issues, just as though it were a house with a foundation, and all of them pay a higher insurance rate than if their belongings did not have the chance of sinking. It does not strike me as a less expensive option, if one calculates cost per square foot.

That said; their places are beautiful and they love the lifestyle. It would make me crazy, but they're very happy.
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 AM on May 29, 2012

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