A life afloat for every budget

Six homes on the water

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View of boats on the Thames.

As Ratty observes in The Wind In The Willows, "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

And an increasing number of would-be homeowners agree. Particularly in London, many people are realising that living aboard a boat is a low-cost way of getting on the housing ladder - as well as a delightful way to live.

There are a few things to think about, of course. If you're planning to live on a river or canal, you'll need a licence, costing around £500 to £1,000 per year.

More expensively, you'll probably need a mooring. While it is possible to get what's known as a continuous cruising licence, you'll have to keep moving from spot to spot every 14 days - and just moving 100 feet or so doesn't count.

However, mooring costs vary enormously according to location; while a farmer may charge just a few hundred pounds a year, a prime London mooring can cost £1,500 a year or more.

And there's rather more hassle involved in day-to-day living; while some moorings have water and electricity piped in, many don't. Meanwhile, emptying the sewage storage tank is never a great deal of fun.

But most live-aboard boaters say they love the experience, especially when it gives them the chance to live in a prime spot for a fraction of the price local landlubbers pay.

We look at half a dozen floating homes that are on the market right now.

Could you live in one of these tiny houses?

Barge, Wapping, E1W

The interior of the Wapping barge.

If proof were needed that living afloat doesn't necessarily mean roughing it, this 1930s steel barge should do the trick. Moored up at London's St Katharine Docks, it measures a massive 4,154 square feet, with an enormous open-plan living area and five large ensuite double bedrooms. There's even a separate office building with views of Tower Bridge at the end of the 50-foot deck - and a platform for launching a jetski. However, none of this comes cheap - mooring and maintenance charges are estimated at £18,000 a year, and the boat itself costs £3,700,000 through agent River Homes.

Narrowboat, Docklands, E14

The Docklands narrowboat

At the other end of the London housing scale is this 57-foot narrowboat that gives you the chance to live in central London for the price of a small flat in the sticks. Built in 2004 but probably fitted out in 2007, this narrowboat has one bedroom and is beautifully kitted out in traditional style. Amazingly for this price, it comes with a permanent mooring, with facilities including a managed office, laundry, shower block, WiFi, pump out station, CCTV and security guard. While houses nearby average well over £800,000, this boat costs just £65,000 through agent Peach Properties.

Canal boat up for sale at bargain price - but there's just one snag...

Houseboat, Oulton Broad, Norfolk

The Norfolk barge.

If city living doesn't float your boat, check out this one-bedroom houseboat on the Norfolk Broads. It's one of only a few to have residential mooring status in this area of natural beauty, and can only be reached by water. It's a bit of a doer-upper - there's no mains water or electricity - but this could be fixed with solar panels and a tank with a pressurised water system. There's a small covered terrace on the main living level, as well as a roof terrace, to soak up those beautiful views. Houseboat Katrina costs just £50,000 through agent Premier Houseboats.

Converted lifeboat, Isleworth

The lifeboat.

Himalaya Pup is an unusual converted lifeboat measuring 31 by 11.5 feet with a lovely end-of-pontoon location. It now has a wheelhouse/lounge, kitchen and double bedroom with ensuite shower. The mooring - which has stunning views - offers mains electricity, water and sewage and wiring for telephone and broadband. Bottled gas provides cooking and hot water, and there's a multi-fuel stove to keep you toasty in winter. It costs £195,000 from Riverhomes.

£225 million superyacht sails into London

New build, anywhere



A stylish modern home that just happens to sit on the water rather than land, the Floating Penthouse is available to order and customisable. But it's a real boat, insist its builders, and can be navigated on rivers and even the open sea. All mod cons are included - even underfloor heating - and options include fireplaces, underwater lighting, hot tubs and saunas. Each one comes with a 20-year warranty. One will cost you around £500,000 - contact River Homes for more information.

Lightship, Kent

The unrenovated lightship.

When daydreaming about your perfect home, it's unlikely that a lightship floats into your mind. But the enormous space on offer and the quirky original features give it the potential to become a characterful four-bedroom home. It you're wondering what on earth to do with the lantern, the vendors point out that it's big enough to be a room. Built in 1954, the ship has seen service off the Irish coast, but now rests peacefully on the river in Medway, in Kent; it costs £210,000 from Premier Houseboats.


The perfect home for Hobbits

The perfect home for Hobbits