Things to think about in Buying and Owning a Houseboat
In buying and owning a houseboat, there are a lot of things to think about that are similar but different than a normal home or condo. As I round out my first year on my houseboat, here are some items that come to mind for other prospective buyers:
Buying a Houseboat- Inspections and Surveys
When you are buying a houseboat, you are buying both a vehicle and possibly some “property,” as well as possibly common elements. You will want to have it all surveyed and inspected appropriately- your boat, your slip, the dock, etc.
It seems like you can go for a full haul-out survey, where you take the houseboat to a haul-out and have it thoroughly inspected. This is the most time consuming and expensive, but it definitely is the most thorough.
I opted for a dive inspection of the hull (with video footage) and a survey of the interior, with the haul-out as a contingency/backup if the dive inspection had any concerns. This was less time consuming and less expensive for me and for the seller, and covered the major bases. I did find out that while surveyors will do a reasonable check of your engines, they are not necessarily mechanics and will not give a certified read on those. I did not have a professional mechanic inspect my boat, although in many situations you might. We used Jerry Edwards and Sterling Marine for the Suvey and Dive inspections, and both were tremendous.
Owning a Houseboat
Owning a houseboat is also an experience with a steep first year learning curve. The joke seems to be that any part or service on a boat needs to have the phrase “marine” in front of it, and the phrase “marine” means “more expensive.”
From basic plumbing and electrical, to engine maintenance and bilge systems, everything requires a bit of regular upkeep and annual servicing, and many parts and supplies are not available at the local Home Depot- you either need to find them at a marine supply store or order specialty parts online.
I have been very fortunate to have not needed a whole lot in my first year, and was referred to several great professionals to help. David Bowes is a general marine handyman who has done everything from troubleshooting the fact I had stale gas in my engines to fixing some pumps, as well as some minor electrical work. Josh McPhearson is a great plumber that helped me with a few piping problems. When I had some fiberglass cracking and repair concerns, Scott Anderson from CS Marine was awesome with quick estimates and inexpensive repairs.
And of course, above all else, the folks at Fisheries Supply on the north side of Lake Union are some of the most friendly and helpful folks around, and the store has a huge inventory of almost anything that one could need- and thankfully, they are pretty good about not applying the “marine price hike” to all their parts and goods!
These are just a few of the many things one should think about in buying and owning a houseboat, and I am fortunate to have not had to call more services, but hopefully it’s a good start for folks to think about.