What are House Boats?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Depending on your point of view, a houseboat is either a boat with living facilities or a house built to float on water. Some houseboat owners consider it a permanent residence, albeit anchored to a waterside dock instead of the conventional plot of land. A houseboat resident can receive utility services, send and receive mail and enjoy all the other benefits of living on land. The difference between a residential houseboat and a traditional home may only be location.


Other houseboat models are more akin to landlocked recreational vehicles. A houseboat intended for occasional use may have a more compact design than one used as a home, but it may still feature most amenities. A residential houseboat may spend all of its time anchored to a dock, but recreational houseboats often have powerful boat motors to provide mobility. Instead of hooking up to outside sanitation and utility services, a recreational houseboat may have its own electric generator, water tank and waste containment system.

There are many reasons why owning or renting a houseboat may be appealing. Some owners have a strong interest in living near a scenic body of water. Often the land surrounding a lake or river has not been fully developed, allowing the houseboat owner to enjoy a more natural setting. Obtaining the title to a houseboat slip or other property on the water may be less expensive than similar offerings on land. Houseboat owners often form their own tight-knit communities, since they tend to live in close proximity and share a common interest.

While houseboat ownership may be a niche market in the United States, many European and Asian communities have used some form of houseboat for centuries. Fishing communities along the coasts of Asia are often no more than a collection of shanties floating on logs or pontoons. In Amsterdam and other cities with extensive canals, thousands of people live in well-maintained houseboats along the waterways. Visitors can either use steps leading from the street or drive a boat right up to the front door.

Before investing in a residential houseboat, it may be helpful to check out local laws and regulations. Many cities with riverfront property have strict rules on the use of houseboats, especially when it comes to sanitation and utility connections. A houseboat with permanent or semi-permanent residents must be connected properly to the sewage system and power supplies. Vacation-style houseboats temporarily moored at a dock may not be subject to local laws, but owners and renters need to be aware of the hazards of carbon monoxide and improper waste disposal.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


How much gas does the average house boat use? I used to own a fishing boat and I have an idea of what that used but I have been thinking about getting a used house boat and I am trying to evaluate all the costs. How much gas do they usually use and how much do they hold? I figure most of the time it will be in a slip but of course I would like to take it out cruising as well.


You can find house boats for sale at amazing prices if your go down to a big marina and start asking around. especially these days. With the economy the way it is a lot of people have been forced to try and sell their boats, often for bargain bin prices.

This is unfortunate for them but their loss can be your gain. A lot of these boats are only a few years old and in great shape.


A few years ago I took the whole family down to a big lake in the south part of the state and we rented a house boat. We spent three days exploring the lake, fishing, swimming, lighting fire works and generally having the time of our lives. We also slept each night on the boat.

I was really fun and also really economical. Basically your hotel, entertainment and all your restaurants are rolled in to one. You cook most of your own meals and sleep on the boat which provides huge savings for a family of 6 like ours.

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