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Think You Could Live in a Houseboat?

by J. Money on Tuesday, August 10, 2010

house boats
I am thinking….ummm…. YES PLEASE! Check out these pictures I took while out in Victoria BC (which, btw, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to on the West Coast!)  I highly recommend you dropping by some time – esp. if you’re looking for someplace romantic. Just don’t go with your parents like I did in that case ;)

But anyways, yes – back to the house boats.  I about died when I saw these!  They’re so fun and charming and minimalist all wrapped into one! How awesome would it be to say you’re living on a BOAT?  Which is a HOUSE?  Which is a killer bachelor pad and/or place to live out a totally unique experience?! (answer: VERY)

I’m not joking, I seriously contemplated calling up the realtor of one of these guys (3 were FOR SALE!!!) to help prepare my presentation for Mrs. BudgetsAreSexy (who wasn’t on our trip). Guess how much they cost there?  $200-$350k!!! A steal considering you could get half a condo – if you’re lucky – for that here in DC ;)

Then, of course, reality set in.

  1. How the hell could I live in Canada?  My job is in DC as with all my friends & family!
  2. The Mrs. gets motion sickness you FOOL!!! (you would I would have stopped here)
  3. How on earth do you maintain a houseboat?  Both “You” in the general sense, and also “YOU” as in J. Money, as in the guy who can barely take care of his own townhouse?
  4. And lastly, could you REALLY take all those tourists poking through your windows and taking pictures all over the place of your beloved home?
  5. And lastly, lastly (sorry, forgot about this one) – can you live off of only 30 amps of electricity?

Many many questions were popping up the second I really started considering this. Some I had answers for (#1 – I couldn’t live in Canada at this very moment, but I could move to Annapolis MD which has house boats!  And #3, yeah I could deal with that – just need to put up curtains when I’m feeling shy), and others I did not (#2 – think this stops it dead in its tracks, and #5 – no idea how much 30 amps gives you. maybe a tv and a light at the same time?)

house boats landscape
But I’d like to think that if you really truly want something in life, you can make it happen.  It may no be today or next month, or even the next 10 years (like my plan to become a millionaire!) but anything is doable if you put some passion and cajones behind it. And if it makes sense.

So unfortunately, as much as I’d absolutely LOVE to live on one of these guys right now, it’s the “making sense” part that’s gonna keep me from it. Which kinda makes me sad :(  I like living in the world of “doing whatever you want” w/out thinking of the consequences!  It’s like high school and college all over again. Big dreamers who were too naive to see the downfalls!  I miss that part of the old me… Then again, that guy had a constant flow of $0.00 in the bank at all times ;)

But just because I’m passing on this chance right now doesn’t mean you have to! Who else is interested in living like Sleepless in Seattle? Anyone out there actually making me jealous and DOING it? I want to know!  Maybe we can all pitch in and buy one together :)

————
PS: Check out these other crazy lookin’ houseboats… insane


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brad Chaffee August 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm

MY first answer would be YES, but as you came to realize, there are other factors to consider! haha!

My question: Can the “house” leave the dock, or is it just called a house boat because it is floating? :) I’m sure it’s the latter because I have NEVER seen a picture of a house floating on the water away from land.

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2 krystalatwork August 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

WHAT! You were visiting MY hometown and didn’t even visit me? *cry*

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3 Kate Kashman August 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I always thought we would live on a boat one of these years, then suddenly (!) we had four little kids and I was afraid they would fall overboard. Now we have four bigger kids and I am afraid that they would push each other overboard.

I think it sounds awesome, though.

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4 Brad Chaffee August 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

@Kate Kashman – Hahaha! That is a very legitimate cause for concern especially with older siblings!

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5 J. Money August 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Haha…. that is too funny there Kate :) Being a big brother myself I could totally see myself doing that!

@krystalatwork – OH NO! That’s where you live???? Can you believe I actually DID think of you while there but thought you were on the opposite coast? Dang… you better believe I’ll be hollering the next time i’m there :) And there WILL be a next time too, believe me.
@Brad – Oh man, there are all SORTS of houseboats out there! Ones that float away (on purpose), ones which don’t, some that look like they could FLY away!, and others that you wouldn’t even guess is a houseboat :) But the “average” one, as far as what I can tell in my 48 hours of researching, are just bigger boats that you can live on. Those pictured above are more like houses on water and the kinds I REALLY like. And will own one day as soon as I can figure out how to do it w/out losing my wife & future kids ;)

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6 Tracy August 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Time Share? I guess in the long run time shares work out. But that house is awesome. Living on a house boat might not be worth it. Boat stands for Bust out another thousand.

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7 Brad Chaffee August 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm

@Tracy – I definitely agree. If these are time shares I would run without looking back. Time shares are a financial black hole for everyone except the person selling them.

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8 Jessica W August 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Ok, this is more like a blog rebuttal than a comment…. is there a prize for longest comment? For the record, I’m a near life-long Seattleite (or near Seattleite) and there are some fantastic houseboat communities in Seattle (Freshwater and Saltwater) and in Olympia. I think, but I am not positive that there are also some in Bellingham and Everett areas. And yes, they are movable, but you hardly want to cruise in most of them. There’s houseboats which get barged places, and there are “liveaboards” that are boats that people live on full time, but which were designed for boating, not floating static.

There’s a lot of costs in boat-living. $800/mo moorage? I’ve always loved houseboats and planned to have one until we had kids, now I’m too afraid of the kids/water combo. True, the killer with the houseboats is the moorage and the plumbing fees. (I used to work renovating wood boats, so knew a lot of houseboaters). Also, it’s a really “crappy” day when a Harbor Seal decides to sleep on your front porch mat. Literally. they can leave a steamy warm MOUND on your porch! Life here on the Left coast is expensive, but you’re in DC, right? It’s crazy-killer expensive there. I have an aunt who lives close to the white house and has a townhouse in Georgetown. Lovely places, but so tiny for the money. That said, I was in Kansas City Missouri this year and discovered that I could get a beautiful 5 acres and farmhouse for the price of a used Kia.

Unlike townhouse maintenance which I gladly delve into myself (painting, small electrical work, plumbing) I’d never attempt a houseboat maintenance myself (the underwater stuff is SERIOUS BUSINESS, thought I understand if you’re on freshwater it can be done by SCUBA contractors) and you can’t move yourself in–you have to hire houseboat movers who move everything in by weighing it first to ensure it’s level and doesn’t capsize or stress the structure of the boat (YIKES!)

I can handle the maintenance on a sailboat, but it’s outrageously expensive, because you have to hire a lift ( a couple G’s up, and a couple G’s down) and “yard rental” while it’s being scrubbed of barnacles and repainted with special copper paint that costs ungodly amounts and zinc panels to prevent electrocution from lightning strikes. (Best to store wood boats in saltwater, best to store synthetic boats in freshwater).

Depending on if you do it yourself or with others its days or weeks every 2-3 years where you don’t have a place to live while your boat is out of water. And then there’s the woodwork–that was my specialty. Each year, sand all of the varnish off entirely and put 5-12 coats of varnish carefully on all of it. If any varnish dries to quickly or too slowly or gets splashed on, you sand it all off and begin again. It is a task truly never complete. Replacing the custom woodwork is VERY expensive, so it’s best to maintain well.

Many of the famous houseboat communities are on freshwater but have access to the saltwater (Remember Sleepless in Seattle? That was a freshwater houseboat, on Lake Union, a short boat ride to the Ballard Locks and access to Saltwater–for a lockage fee (I think it goes by the foot). Yeah, boats are a giant hole in the ocean that you pour money into. I was raised in a boating family. (smaller, cheaper boats, but always several boats at once… seems like they always required so much maintenance and work we never got to enjoy them).

Remember, even small boats have annual licenses, insurance and launch fees and LUXURY TAXES (they’re not real estate!) . But seriously, if you like having money in the bank, proceed VERY cautiously with boat endeavors.

I’ve looked into liveaboard sailboats so many times–but the whole living near water with kids thing is scary enough. Our condo is on a pond. My tot doesn’t have a “line of sight” to it, so I don’t worry too much, but in the five years I’ve lived here, three tots have drowned in this basically, overgrown, man-made duck pond. I cant imagine the hazards of marina plus kiddos, plus weather, wildlife, etc, etc, etc. I think it is something I will pursue in retirement.

A boat I would/will invest in within the next few years will be kayaks though. I want two doubles, so we can take both kids out. I love them and they’re virtually maintenance-free and you can get up-close to everything.

(I once had “drag” on my kayak–my first time out actually–couldn’t keep up with my friend–looked behind me and literally hanging on to the back of the boat was a seal. A big A$$ seal lounging back there letting me do all the work. I shouted at my friend “do these carry rabies?” She shouted back “aren’t you sitting on a camera you idiot?” )

Later in college, I bought my own kayak, but I got an inflatable which I could put in a big backpack and then hike down to the beach on campus and launch there for free–the inflatable boat had a clear bottom, perfect for jellyfish watching! My college dorm room was a 6bdr, 1 ba apartment with six girls and four kayaks in the living room. It was awesome.

Ultimately though, for tidal waters, the inflatable boat wasn’t the safest, so I sold it to a friend, and will buy a real ocean-going Kayak one day when I’m rich and famous (or at least debt free…).

That said, everyone has their own brand of crazy or comfort. I’m seriously thinking of selling everything (or paying off the house renting it out and selling everything else) and moving our whole family (currently two kids turning 5 and 12 this fall) to Africa in the next 2-5 years. We could live like kings on $2,000 a month–we were pricing out villas yesterday, and could buy a 3 story villa with a compound for under $7,000 USD in Ethiopia, and we could still afford to do service work. That is where our passion is. (Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya). Most people think that is nuts, but to me it doesn’t seem that strange at all.

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9 myfinancialobjectives August 10, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I don’t feel worthy commenting after Jessica, My comment is a measly few lines..

But anyway, I don’t think I could ever live on a house boat, oh wait, yes, I definitely could lol. I LOVEEEEEE the water and being near it – that’s a HUGE reason why I want to move to San Diego some day. I hate being this far away from the beach!!

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10 Cass August 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm

My boss lives in a houseboat here in Tsawwassen, BC (about 30 mins from Vancouver) and she LOVES IT. She wakes up to Herrings on the water and beautiful trees in the distance. Her husband and her have been living in the houseboat for almost 4 years now and have no regrets. I’m jealous!!

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11 Greg McFarlane August 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I have to admit, I got down to line 10 and the reference to the Mrs. before I realized a dude had written that.

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12 Jim August 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I have never been on a house boat, but i have seen some awesome ones that perked my interest in the past as well. the view would be amazing whether you were having dinner on a top deck or waking up to the sun rise in the morning. i have to admit that would be pretty sweet.

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13 J. Money August 11, 2010 at 8:10 pm

@ Tracy – hah! I like that… pretty clever.
@ Jessica W – YOU WIN THE PRIZE!!! Longest BUT most informational :) I love you so much for sharing all of that with us. I would have never ever EVER realized so much was involved like that – Crazy!! And scary too. I think you might have just sealed the deal for me. Unless I hit the lottery, I’m def. steering clear for a while… although I say that now. My fish memory brain will forget all this next week.
@ myfinancialobjectives – Mmmmm San Diego… I can never think about that place again w/out Anchorman popping in my head! :) I def. want to live there too one day – absolutly beautiful.
@ Cass – Wow, really? That is great they’re living the dream!! Good for them.
@ Greg McFarlane – I am pretty girly. It’s a good thing my ‘hawk changes that in real life.
@ Jim – I agree. Dinner on decks = supreme splender!

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14 youngandthrifty August 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Hey, you were up in Canada? You must have stopped through Vancouver?
How come you didn’t give a shout out man? =P

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15 Katie August 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

You came to Victoria and didn’t say anything? I totally would have taken you out for a drink!

My boyfriend lives in James Bay, and yesterday, totally unrelated to this post, we wandered down to Fisherman’s Wharf for the first time. I thought it was just a fish market; I didn’t know about the houseboats. We had stars in our eyes thinking about owning one. They are so gorgeous, and I love the little community, although I think I would get sick of tourists gawking at my house all the time. Also, we have stuff yet to do before we can ever think about it, but perhaps for early retirement. I fell in love with the idea of living on a houseboat.

But seriously, next time you come here, say something, because I would like to shake your hand. (Even though I only read and never post comments, I love you J. :)

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16 Stella August 15, 2010 at 2:07 am

Living on a houseboat seems like it would be amazing–until you are faced with the reality as explicitly laid out by Jessica. Maybe a house on dry land near water? Ah, a girl can dream…

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17 J. Money August 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

@youngandthrifty – Hey, I tweeted and posted a little on my trip to CA ;) Never made it to Vancouver actually but it is most DEF on my list to check out one day! So we’ll have to meet up for a beer then :)
@Katie – Cooool! Wasn’t it awesome??? I will be sure to reach out to you too the next time I’m there :) Thank you so much for the kind words too! I would totally be up for hangin’ out with ya. Enjoy your weekend!
@Stella – Yeah, possibly. Although I actually live pretty close to water right now and it’s not really that close ;) BUT maybe if I were a few feet from it and/or in a place I actually really want to live in, that would make a difference.

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18 Joe October 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

What about buying a piece of land, digging a pond slightly bigger than the houseboat, and placing it in water just deep enough to clear minimum draft requirements? That would be cheaper and safer than buying houseboat in an area with high cost of living and deep saltwater port.

You could potentially avoid property taxes and a $4000/month mortgage in an area where land-based permanent homes run $500K-$700K.

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19 J. Money October 6, 2014 at 11:57 am

You know, that’s not a bad idea actually… I don’t know squat about how you’d create that, but I reckon it would make a fun project for an architect!

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