Landlubbers pay a premium for living expenses – but what about those who want to live in a boat?
In an increasingly unaffordable real estate market, internet users are becoming increasingly interested in the optics of life on the high seas. Or at least in some cool houseboats docked at local marinas.
According to new research from Rightboat.comA type of dating app designed to match boat buyers and sellers, Americans can save thousands by living on a boat, and many are increasingly choosing to “take the water as a cheaper option,” especially when combining port fees with the rental compare.
In fact, Google searches for “how to live on a boat” have increased by 71% in the past year, while searches for “how to live in a van” – with #VanLife being a vibrant lifestyle that was particularly popular a few years ago The focus was on searches apparently down 11%, Rightboat.com reported. (The site doesn’t sell boats, but it does simplify the boat-buying process.) On TikTok, the hashtag #boatlife has racked up 7 billion views, 33% of them from the U.S. alone.
Queens houseboat owner Ben Sargent can certainly understand that the alternative lifestyle on the water trumps the lifestyle on wheels.
“Van life sounds so great, but every time you stop in a place that’s not in a designated campground, you’re a little bit afraid that the city police are going to come by and tell you to move,” said Sargent, whose Both vessels can provide long-term water parking at a Rockaway marina.
However, if you are looking for the cheapest solution, van life may be more suitable for you. Despite Rightboat.com’s findings that Americans can save thousands by living on a boat, Sargent says the lifestyle isn’t necessarily that much cheaper.
“There is no rent stabilization in a marina,” said Sargent, who has called the larger of his two boats — the smaller of which he is currently selling — home for a decade.
While he admits that buying a boat is generally much cheaper than buying a house, he warns that getting drinking water and heat in the winter not only becomes expensive but also becomes physically challenging – which increases prices for water utilities significantly increased.
“The docks here are not insulated and they essentially shut off the water supply to your boats,” he said of his marina, explaining that this means boat owners have to bring their own water.
“It’s not for everyone.”
Still, Sargent has found community at the marina, where surfers flock in the warm months and then, when they retreat in the winter, “the hardcore surfers of us are left.”
But it’s not just houseboat owners in New York City. Communities around the world are known for hosting houseboats – for example in Amsterdam and Paris. But head west to Santa Barbara, California, and someone looking to live a more luxurious houseboat life now has an option to sell — for $4.9 million. reported the Wall Street Journal last week.
(Patricia Ruben of Sotheby’s International Realty shares the listing with fellow broker Alan Melkonyan and Bryony Atkinson of Maisonre.)
The approximately 50-year-old Thomas Jefferson covers an area of around 1,300 square meters – and his seller Jeffrey Wapner wants to part with him in order to travel more. It is one of four houseboats allowed to float in its harbor after Santa Barbara banned new houseboats eight years ago.
Wapner previously lived in New York but moved back to California to be closer to family. Additionally, he didn’t want to live in a traditional home and began researching boats and watercraft for sale, the outlet reported. At the time, the Thomas Jefferson was asking $650,000 for sale – his briefs were included in the asking price – and it was 700 square feet.
Despite his houseboat’s stylish look, it wasn’t without its challenges, he told the Journal. A year after moving in, he noticed rot, termite damage and problems with the framing.
“I didn’t plan on remodeling the whole house,” he told the Journal. “But I’m not the type of person who could live on a rotten and essentially sinking ship.”
So he tore it all down and rebuilt it – investing around $2 million in the end result, which features a kitchen, dining area, workshop and even laundry space.
But beyond the chic surroundings, there are also aspects that are just plain cool. The Journal notes that his home follows the movements of the tides, but he doesn’t particularly notice it.
Although these houseboat listings are new, houseboat living – at least in the New York City area – has been around for some time. A few years ago, liveaboard users agreed that life in a marina can feel much more pleasant than in most concrete jungle shelters.
“In the city, you rarely know your neighbors,” Will Haduch once told the Post about life on his Pacemaker yacht in Jersey City. “But whenever I walk along the harbor, I have four parties to choose from.”
Williamsburg resident Kristina Marino agreed, recounting her time on a 1967 Euroline ship in Jamaica Bay, Queens. “The marina is so social… Everyone knows everyone. It’s like being in a college dorm.”