Houseboat Living – Is it a Viable Alternative?
With the average house price standing at anywhere between £167,000 and £207,000 depending on whether you listen to the major mortgage lenders or the Department for Communities and Local Government, it’s no wonder that many of us can’t, or simply don’t want to get on the housing market. But is living on a residential boat in preference to conventional home ownership, a real option?
The initial outlay could certainly be more cost effective; the average price of a canal boat (the most common form of floating home) is anything between £60,000 and £100,000.
However, once you’ve bought the boat – like any other home, there is whole raft of other things to pay out for. First of all you need a boat safety certificate – a boat’s version of an MOT and then you need a licence to be on the waterways.
Once you’ve insured your boat, you then need to think about where you’re going to park it. Just like house prices, the location will reflect the price and mooring permits vary wildly accordingly. Some permanent locations in London can be as much as £7,000 per year but will come with essential services such as sewerage, power, water and may come with luxuries such as Wi-Fi, a parking space and sometimes even a garden.
There is a way around expensive mooring charges and that is to have a continuous cruising licence. This means that your boat must move every two weeks and that it must move by more than two miles at a time. Under this licence, boat owners are not permitted to have a permanent place of work or study and must be genuinely of the nomadic persuasion. Not surprisingly, British Waterways (BW) says that these rules are often abused. ‘Bridge hoppers’ is the term given to those who simply go back and forth within the same area and BW can take action against the worst offenders.
There are 34,000 licensed boats on British Waterways, of which only 6,000 are permanent residences. There are stern warnings from the chairman of the Residential Boat Owners Association (RBOA), Rex Warden, about the notion of buying a boat to live on: “Please don’t use the term getting on the ‘property ladder’ – you are not buying real estate and [the boat] will depreciate. So many people sit in a pub garden on a lovely day watching the boats go by and think how nice it would be to own one.”
For more information go to the National Association of Boat Owners website at nabo.org.uk or the Residential Boat Owners Association at rboa.org.uk and BW’s presence on the world wide web is at britishwaterways.co.uk.