live in a houseboat

Houseboat Living

Affordable and Fun Year Round Vacation Style Living

From California to Florida, coastal areas and large inland lakes make for great on-the-water living. Most houseboats are parked year round in one spot. There are so many varieties and price points that your budget rather than options will play a role in helping you narrow down the choices.

Many houseboats are different than trailered boats in that they are built to stay in one place. Pontoon style house boats do not have sea legs so if you decide to buy a houseboat make sure you love where you put it. Or, you can opt for a less house-like houseboat and get a powered houseboat to have more location flexibility.

Houseboat Benefits

No grass to mow, no bushes to trim. Your yard is the water surrounding your houseboat home. The natural views are about as good as it gets if you like fresh breezes, water, and bird watching. Houseboats operate a considerably lower annual cost than a traditional home the same size because everything from taxes to utilities are generally less expensive.

Some houseboats look like a house and act like a house in that they are completely stationary, built on pontoons, and must be moved with a tug or tow. Others, more true to the category of boats, are purpose built boats with large living areas, or conversions of hull space into living space. Most of these are a bit more ungainly than a regular boat, but do travel under their own power and can be moved from place to place.

pontoon houseboat for sale  houseboat for sale
Images of houseboats for sale for $78,000 and $167,000 courtesy of Trulia

Houseboat Lifestyle

Where You Park Your Houseboat
Most house boat communities exist in little known nooks and crannies along the coastline of lakes big and small, with a few more famous exceptions like those on Lake Union in Seattle, Washington or north of San Francisco in Sausalito. You can find communities by using the search term houseboat community and the state of interest.

Consider the Economics of Your Location
Year round living is possible almost anywhere but it will be a lot cheaper and a lot more comfortable in mild climates. If you are in a very short seasoned location, your off-boat housing expenses can skyrocket if you’re forced off the boat due to temperatures or conditions. Alternatively a warm weather location allows you to choose a lower cost community and make it your only residence. You will have to pay a houseboat docking fee and a residence fee for staying on the boat full time.

Limitations of Houseboat Living
You will be in the rare position of “feeling” the place you live since it’s water, and water moves. The bigger and more stable the boat, the less this matters. Lots of little squeaks, splashes, and the murmur of boat and dock making contact. Some houseboaters complain of claustrophobia because they don’t have a yard, but that can be offset by larger scale docking, and the green space of the marina or community. Storage is more readily available in than some smaller and tiny house ideas, depending on the size of your houseboat, but you are extremely unlikely to have a storage shed, somewhere to stash bikes, etc. On a houseboat you live with everything you own, recreation equipment, tools, and all the things for day to day living as well. There are lots of rules in houseboat communities, and you will be monitored for proper waste removal, noise levels, and neatness of your docking areas. Neighbors in many communities are in close proximity, and completely visible to each other all day long unless in the deepest recesses of their homes.

Upgrades and Add-Ons
Many houseboaters see two things as must have upgrades. An upper deck will buy an even better view and is usually a good investment. In a houseboat there are rarely washers and dryers, so when your shopping for a boat, see if there is a spot where you can eventually tuck a marine washer and dryer. Another obvious upgrade is water toys and utility vehicles. Many houseboaters have a golf cart, small dinghy, and jet ski for fun and transportation.

Costs of Living on a Houseboat

There are a few expenses specific to houseboat living you should keep in mind. Most expenses are similar to owning a small home.

Houseboat Purchase from $50,000 up to millions
Docking Fees from $150 a month to $2000 in urban or exclusive communities
Residency Fees typically $100-$350 a month
Moving a Houseboat depends on the locations but can exceed $20,000
Washing and Waxing the Boat $75-$100 a month is a safe estimate
Cleaning the Boat Bottom from $75 quarterly
Sewage Removal around $25-30 a month