10 Houseboats for Every Budget

When summertime rolls around, people hit the water -- from swimming, sailing, and fishing to floating on a raft or in a canoe.

(Image credit: Thinkstock)

When summertime rolls around, people hit the water -- from swimming, sailing, and fishing to floating on a raft or in a canoe. For thousands of Americans, however, the water is their year-round home.

Just how many is hard to say. As of 2012, there were 108,542 households with a full-time residence either on the road (in an RV or van) or on the water, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Census doesn't break it down any further.) Some people live on sailboats or on houseboats with motors, giving them the flexibility to move from place to place at a moment’s notice. Others live in stationary floating homes, which sit on underwater foundations, in marina communities across the country -- simply to enjoy a merrily, merrily lifestyle with no yard and less stuff.

Mobile houseboats, much like cars, depreciate in value -- typically about 20% in the first year alone and 5-10% a year after that. "The corrosive nature of water requires the replacement of systems, such as the engine or other hydraulic parts, at a much faster rate than conventional housing," explains Michael Bryant, president of the National Marine Lenders Association. Floating homes, on the other hand, can appreciate in value at rates similar to (or faster than, in some locations) traditional homes. In Portland, Ore., which has a large floating-home community, these structures appreciated at a rate of 21.7% per year on average from 2011 to 2013, compared to 10.2% for land homes, according to Andrew Berlinberg, a Portland, Ore.-based real estate broker with Keller Williams Realty.

Here's a sampling of 10 houseboats and floating homes for sale across the country. All have at least one stateroom (bedroom), a full bathroom and a galley kitchen. Keep in mind that living on or in the water comes with fees and maintenance costs that can equal or exceed traditional homeownership costs. For example, houseboat dwellers typically skirt real estate taxes, but instead pay for a marina docking slip which can cost $2,000-$4,000 a year, says Ian Morton, editor of All-About-Houseboats.com. Marine fuel is more expensive than gasoline for moving around. Insurance for a 30-year-old lake houseboat worth $50,000 will run $600-$800 annually, according to Bankrate. Then there's the fee you'll pay every few months to have someone pump your sewer tank, adds Brady Kay, executive editor of Houseboat Magazine. Kay's rule of thumb: Figure to fork over an extra 10% of the total cost of the houseboat over its lifetime. Hop aboard.


NOTE: The listing price does not include the cost of a marina slip. All of the houseboats and floating homes featured in this slide show were for sale as of July 10, 2014.

Andrea Browne Taylor
Contributing Editor

Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.