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The Life Aquatic - a home to float your boat

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By : Jamie Mathwig    99 or more times read
Maybe it's a direct result of the current housing crisis, or perhaps there are more esoteric reasons at work, but an increasing number of North Americans are taking to life on the water. The popularity in houseboats has been gaining momentum and in many parts of the US and Canada, these floating abodes represent the ultimate in chic living.

And now Minnesota developer David Nelson, has his sights set on launching a floating condo block that will cruise the waterways of the US. This proposed vessel, to be called The Marquette and due for completion in 2012, will house 180 two-bed condo units, and will be aimed primarily at retirees. With on board facilities to include a golf course, theaters, restaurants and shopping, condos will be available as full-time or partial residencies. The nautical community will visit cities such as New Orleans and Nashville, giving condo owners the chance to travel, while in the comfort of their own home.

Hardly a new thing, houseboats of varying kinds have been in use for centuries around the globe, and this aquatic lifestyle has been popular in parts of the US for well over a hundred years. Lake Cumberland, in Kentucky, proudly claims to be the houseboat capital of the world while significant floating communities have been established in Seattle, Washington since the early 20th century. Other notable houseboat neighborhoods can be found in Portland, Oregon and Sausalito, California. In much of Minnesota the trend is, generally, for recreational houseboat use, as opposed to permanent residence, although some may be found on the Mississippi.

Although many houseboat owners remain elegantly moored in one spot, others take full advantage of their foundation-free dwellings and utilize their portability for changing the scenery outside the galley window, exploring the lakes and rivers that represent their unique neighborhood. On the other side of the pond, so to speak, the UK's narrowboat owners take this one step further. There, they leisurely exploit a vast network of canals, built for transportation during the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, traveling the 2000 miles of waterways that crisscross the length and breadth of the British Isles. Similarly, the owners of some 10,000 houseboats in the Netherlands enjoy the miles of open canals, that thread through the delightful Dutch countryside.

At any one time there are numerous houseboats for sale around the US. There are countless sizes, shapes and varieties out there; from impressive, permanently moored, floating homes to smaller, trailerable vacation models, and everything imaginable in between. One can buy new, or even have a houseboat built to exact specifications or, particularly in the current economy, get a good deal on a used one.

As with any kind of real estate, there are serious issues and pitfalls to be considered when looking into purchasing a house boat. It is essential to do plenty of research into the practicalities of life on the water. It may seem like a romantic way to live, but it's well worth speaking to a number of people who experience it on a daily basis to get a true idea of what it entails. And a survey is absolutely imperative, as boats constructed of certain materials are more prone to deterioration than others, and repairs can be costly. Insurance, too, can be seriously problematic with some types of houseboat.

Used houseboats can be found from a few thousand dollars for a real fixer-upper, to well over two million dollars for a top of the range property in a great location. The appeal seems obvious, the psychological advantage of freeing oneself from the regular 'bricks and mortar' lifestyle, and feeling more in tune with one's surroundings must be a strong incentive. With people all around the country dealing with the stress that comes with living through a struggling economy, no wonder the current market for houseboats is, in keeping with the properties themselves, so buoyant.
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