River Homes News & Events
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A spectacular fireworks display marked the end of the Thames Festival as crowds enjoyed music and dancing on the South Bank. A colourful carnival procession and jive dancers took over the area from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge as part of Boris Johnson's event at the weekend.
Packed-out stalls lined the river offering international food, drink and souvenirs, and children even played on a sandy beach alongside the Thames.
The two-day event is London's largest free outdoor arts festival, with all entertainment and activities being focused on the river.
Press Centre - River Homes, London, UK
You will find the most up-to-date events listing for the tidal Thames on the Port of London Authority website – see our links page - as promoters of all river events are required to notify the PLA under River Byelaw No.10. Interested parties may, however, wish to contact the lead organisation in advance of an event to confirm accuracy. For the non-tidal Thames try our friends at the Environment Agency, www.visitthames.co.uk/qintro.html.
Mail on Sunday -
My Girlfriend Cherie Loves to Visit; She's Always Been Passionate About Boats. When Former Dragons' Den Investor Simon Woodroffe Was Looking for a New London Base for Himself and His Daughter, He Decided to Take a Punt on the Thames
By MARK ANSTEAD
Step inside Simon Woodroffe's luxury houseboat in Chelsea and you find yourself walking into a floating palace. There's no need to duck or stoop anywhere while strolling around the open-plan living area the boat is as light and spacious as a penthouse flat.
With outdoor decks at either end of the 84' long boat and enough space for twin sofas and two armchairs the millionaire founder of the Yo! Sushi restaurant chain has not been slow to realise the party potential. Last year, Simon held a summer bash with guests arriving dressed as pop and rock stars (and close friend Sir Bob Geldof came as himself).
But the secret that keeps a smile firmly on the 55-year-old entrepreneur's face is the knowledge that two years ago he bought his 2,000sq ft of Central London living for less than half what it would have cost in bricks and mortar. And he got into London's most expensive moorings, along Cheyne Walk, before demand began pushing up prices.
'The river represents the last undeveloped piece of real estate in London,' says Simon, who was also one of the investors on the first series of BBC2's Dragons' Den.
'The potential has yet to be fully exploited, but I think people now realise living in a houseboat doesn't have to mean damp, cold or cramped conditions.'
Simon, who lives here with his 17-year-old daughter Charlotte, reckons he has already doubled his investment since moving in 2005.
Having spent £240,000 buying a rundown barge, and a further £330,000 on a full re-fit and a 25-year mooring lease, he has since seen prices rise steadily. Now he reckons his boat is worth at least £1million.
'There's a three-bedroom boat at the other end of the mooring selling for £800,000 and it needs a lot of work,' he says. 'You only have to spend £200,000 on it and suddenly you have a boat worth £1million. I imagine if I were to sell mine it would fetch more than that, but I'm not selling.
'I've always liked the idea of living on the river. You get such a beautiful view in the morning and more space to enjoy it than your money would ever buy in an apartment. That's why people are beginning to call it the new Notting Hill.' Boats bob on the water when other vessels pass, but in Simon's home he says it's not enough to make visitors feel seasick or even to unsettle an opened bottle of wine. When the tide goes out, he says, the boat ends up on the gravel five metres below its high-tide position.
Before he bought the barge, Simon was living between two locations.
He owned a five-bedroom house in Langham, Rutland, and a one- bedroom apartment off Oxford Street, bought ten years ago and from which he launched his first restaurant in 1997 (with five staff working out of his front room before his business premises were ready).
The house in Langham was bought as a weekend retreat so he could be closer to his daughter when she and her mother, Claire, moved there ten years ago.
Simon has been divorced for 15 years, but his relationship with Claire has been friendly enough and they have shared Charlotte between them without acrimony.
Four years ago, Simon sold his controlling stake in Yo! Sushi, pocketing £10million in the process. He still retains a 22% share as well as a 'royalty in perpetuity', a notion he borrowed from the world of rock music and which ensures even his future grandchildren will benefit from his enterprise, whether he sells his remaining shares or not.
But when Charlotte, who is studying for her A-levels, announced she wanted to live in London with him, Simon sold his apartment and the house in Langham to buy the houseboat. He didn't need to sell either of them, but he prefers the simple life and would rather not be responsible for homes he rarely visits.
'I was attracted by the possibility of a long lease,' he says. 'Property prices in Chelsea are ridiculous at the moment, but houseboats have never before offered any security of tenure. When I got a 25-year lease out of the Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company, a houseboat started to look like an asset worth investing in.'
For the past five years, Simon has been working towards launching his new venture, Yotel, offering small but luxuriously appointed hotel rooms (not unlike the bedrooms on his barge perhaps he drew inspiration from his surroundings). These can be hired by the hour for business travellers and the first one opens at Gatwick airport later this month.
He bought his two-storey barge in a probate sale. The recently deceased owner had allowed the condition to deteriorate and the mooring lease had run out, so the boat came with a new ten-year licence and Simon negotiated 15 years on top for an additional £30,000.
Then he hired a shipwright to gut and refurbish it in three months, turning the 16ft-wide space into a luxury home with four bedrooms on the lower deck and a new kitchen, living room and office upstairs.
He remodelled the layout, installing central heating, thick carpeting and double-glazed windows. A floating staircase rises from a wide hallway below that doubles as a TV snug, and a huge master bedroom boasts unusually curved tiled walls in the shower and cleverly concealed storage in the hull.
Simon's girlfriend is the actress Cherie Lunghi, 55, famous for her eight-year stint as the lead character in the romantic Kenco coffee ads of the Nineties. The pair can often be seen on the Thames on their way to lunch in Richmond in one of the two speedboats kept attached to the his houseboat.
'Cherie really loves it,' says Simon.
'She once had a boyfriend with a yacht in the Mediterranean and she is a very good boat driver.
'A few months ago, it was reported that she kicked me out of my own boat when I want a smoke, but that's not true - she is just as likely to have one as I am. My friends all remember her from the coffee ads, but get it wrong and think she was the Nescafe girl. In fact, she's a talented actress and artist and I'm very lucky to be with her.'
There are estimated to be 15,000 people living on England's waterways, but only a few of them live in boats as spacious and grand as Simon's. The mooring at Cheyne Walk is also home to Damien Hirst, and the boats there are often referred to as 'millionaire's row' given their size and prices.
River Homes, one of London's main riverside home agents, says boats on the Thames are in short supply and it has only ten for sale. Prices are difficult to compare because lease lengths may vary from between 5 and 60 years, and the condition varies wildly.
'There's no doubt they are a cheaper option than houses in the area,' says Russell Day, of River Homes, 'and people's perceptions of living on the river are changing and the idea is losing its gipsy image. But you cannot buy a boat with a standard mortgage so they are going to wealthy purchasers, often as an unusual pied-a-terre.
'The main value of any boat is in its length of mooring. Most boats are sold on a 10 to 15-year renewable lease. Simon negotiated hard for a 25-year lease, but his boatyard is now trying to standardise its terms. The boats themselves may depreciate in value if they are not kept in good condition, but in most places along the river prices are rising because the moorings are becoming sought after.' The last boat sold along Cheyne Walk earlier this year was 1,021sqft and it went on a 21-year lease for £500,000, which works out as £490 per sq ft. That compares very favourably with the more usual £800 per sqft cost of houses. In January one luxury apartment sold in Chelsea for a remarkable £3,000 per sq ft.
Despite shorter leases, buying a boat can be like purchasing a leasehold apartment when it comes to the finances. An annual mooring fee is similar to a service charge (Simon pays £8,000, including the cost of pumping out sewage, or water rates).
Even so, you pay council tax and get resident's parking and the cost of insurance is roughly the same, but the boat hull will need to be checked every five years.
To landlubbers this might sound an awful lot of hassle and expense, but to boat lovers like Simon it's a price worth paying for a life afloat.
The first Yotel is due to open later this month: www.yotel.com.
Buoyant with investment potential
POINT PLEASANT, WANDSWORTH: £665,000: Three-bedroom 80ft- long houseboat, two floors, roof deck, living room with open fire, office, utility room.
Agent: riverhomes.co.uk, 0800 074 0750.
Channel 4: Property Ladder - May
After assisting Channel 4 with the research for over a year, riverhomes' Director Russell Day appeared on Property Ladder with Sarah Beeny to appraise a recently refurbished houseboat at Wandsworth's Lighterman's Walk.
riverhomes were called in as we are recognised as the leading houseboat & mooring specialists in London selling and renting waterside properties of all types!
As Russell says: "Valuing and selling houseboats is quite different from the bricks and mortar market."
As well as advising vendors, purchasers and other estate agents our advice is also sought by journalists and the press on a regular basis.
Telegraph Property - 5th May 2007
...Rising house prices are prompting a widespread move to water, with buyers snapping up both static boats and cruisers.
...Boats on premium moorings in Oxford command more than £125,000. And in prime London locations such as Cheyne Walk or Wandsworth, a craft with long-term mooring rights can sell for more than £600,000.
The value of a houseboat is dependent on its location and duration of its mooring rights. A "right-to-renew" clause on certain mooring licences has enabled boat owners in London to secure "bricks and mortar" mortgages for the first time, further bolstering the market.
Mark Burrow and his wife, Briony, put their four-bedroom, Chelsea house on the market for £2.95 million and bought an unfitted, re-conditioned boat on Cheyne Walk earlier this year. Having lived on a houseboat years before, they knew exactly what they wanted and employed professional boat-fitters and joiners to create a three-bedroom, family home with open-plan living, high ceilings and a spiral staircase. With underfloor heating, state-of-the-art kitchen, and en-suite bathrooms, the boat rivals their former house. But now they enjoy a private waterside terrace and Briony, a jewellery designer, works from a huge desk in the hull, with views down the river to Putney.
...In London, a houseboat in Chelsea is considerably cheaper than a house. Scarlet O' Hara, a two bedroom houseboat on Cheyne Walk is for sale with riverhomes for £350,000, while a similar sized property across the road will cost at least £850,000.
...It is this ability to live independantly that is spurring professionals to enter the houseboat market...
Evening Standard - 23rd April 2007
A houseboat described as one of the most desirable homes in the capital has gone on sale for £655,000.
Thought to be the most expensive vessel of its kind, the converted 80ft Thames lighter has three bedrooms and a large roof deck. It offers breathtaking views of the Thames from a secure residential mooring with a long lease.
The owner, who built the boat eight years ago, is selling to move to Holland, where he has plans to build a houseboat on a canal.
He said: "I can say with 100 per cent certainty that this is the only way to live life in a city. I am biased, but I am sure most people would agree that it is possibly one of the most original and desirable lilfestyle opportunities in central London at the moment."
The boat, moored at Point Pleasant next to Wandsworth Park, has a huge living area with panoramic windows, a large kitchen, a reception with open fire, two bathrooms, a study and a utility room.
The purchase deal includes an underground parking space at the nearby Riverside Quarter development, where the boat's owner can also use the swimming pool & gym.
Unfortunately for prospective buyers, mortgages are not generally available on houseboats because lenders view them as insecure. Some marine specialists will lend the value of the boat itself for up to 15 years but at much higher rate of interest.
Patrick Boakye, sales manager at River Homes estate agents, which is managing the sale, said: "Once you look into the figures, plus the monthly costs of mooring and other expenses, it's a fairly expensive option. But if you have the money, this is the houseboat worth buying. It has a 54-year lease on the mooring, which is the longest lease in London for a property of this nature."
The Telegraph - 29th July 2006
River life is different: calm, reflective, stress-free. John Day discovered this when he and his wife moved into a house at Strand-on-the-Green in west London. Day, a former head teacher, was in his second career as a management consultant, which involved travelling all over the country.
"There is nothing like getting home on a Friday night, sitting on the terrace, and looking at the river go gently by," he says. "We didn't realise when we bought it that in fact we were getting two houses in one: a city house and a country house."
In 2003 Day was beginning to think about retirement. And then he had an idea. Both his sons were estate agents in west London. "It seemed like a good idea to take the traditional agency approach and apply it to riverside properties," he says.
Accordingly, he raised £200,000 by remortgaging and plundering his savings (his wife still works). The money was to pay for two things. First, a website.
"The original plan was to have an internet-based company," says Day. But it wasn't long before he had opened an office in Chiswick. For one thing, he had hired a young woman assistant, and felt awkward asking her to work in a bedroom. For another, it turned out that people still like to go to an office, look over photographs and meet the staff. The company has since opened offices in Putney and Tower Bridge.
The second reason the money was needed was that in August 2003 Day's sons joined the business. They needed salaries, and estate agencies wait for money for months while property sales go through.
"Our relationship, as you'd expect, has changed dramatically since we became business partners. From my personal point of view, it's quite wonderful that I get to work with my two sons every day." Plus, he says, "their view is something I really respect now, which perhaps I didn't before."
To get their first listings, they walked the river - eight miles, Twickenham to Westminster and back, putting a card through every single door. They also built up a database of every waterside property in that stretch and began writing to them. They scrutinised property ads, looking for agents listing property on the water.
"We offered to sell or rent and split the commission with them. A lot of other agents, we found, don't like the river. It tends not to be family-friendly. It's more expensive, it's not near a tube station. Most agents want a good school catchment area, good high road shops on the doorstep. So other agents said, yes, sure."
Showing river-front property to its best effect requires a little specialist knowledge. For example, they only show property at high tide, and they are careful to explain to prospective buyers that when they come down Strand-on-the-Green they're seeing the backs, not the fronts, of the houses.
"Over time, we had people coming to us saying, 'I'd really like to live in that development' or 'I'd like to be on the river in that part of town'." And there, says Day, is their really significant difference. "The others all really have the same applicant base. With us, we found people saying 'I'll wait until you find that property'. So increasingly people register just with us."
Day had a client who wanted a particular area of Chiswick. After six or seven months of writing to homeowners, one, newly widowed, responded. The house was valued and sold for the full asking price on a single phone call - and then Day had to convince the widow it hadn't been undervalued.
"We had to say, we've been selling your house for seven months, though you don't know that."
They have rigorously stuck to their niche: only properties that really see the water. "It's the views that attract people to the river first of all, but then it's the lifestyle that keeps them interested. After a bit you get interested in what's going on. It's better than daytime television, it really is."
The Telegraph - 20th July 2006
It's a good life for those living on a boat on Cheyne Walk, also known as Millionaires Row. Set on the river in Chelsea, parallel to the King's Road and two thirds cheaper than living on the houses directly opposite, it's no surprise that every one of the 59 berths is taken. And while they house the usual suspects - Damien Hurst and Yo! sushi founder Simon Woodroffe currently own boats here, while actor Nick Cave and Lemmy from Motorhead have recently sold theirs - there are also the more normal investment banker / lawyer / designer residents.
Charles and Janey Boston used the money from the sale of their Holland Park house to buy a home in Somerset and thier boat in Cheyne Walk.
"We looked at flats around £600,000 and they weren't very exciting," says Charles. "This was £360,000 and it's got three bedrooms, gas, electricity and is over 1,000 sq ft." Charles's office (he is a chartered surveyor) is just "six minutes cycle ride away", and while the couple's Somerset house is being renovated, they spend their spare time at their flat in Dorset.
Neighbour Matthew Whittell also has a house in Somerset. He has taken a year out from his job as an investment banker to do a masters in renewable energy at Imperial College. He spends week days on his boat, Broerdertrow, and the weekends with his wife and two children in Somerset. Says Matthew: "The kids are 15 and 12 and I suspect it's not going to be long before a London bolt-hole becomes quite attractive to them."
...John Day of riverhomes.co.uk has been selling property on Cheyne Walk for four years, which included the sale of Nick Cave's boat last year. "It is one of the best locations in London, " he says. "If I was buying a two or three bedroom apartment on Cheyne Walk I would expect to pay £1.5 million. If I was to buy a two or three bedroom boat I'd probably be spending a third of that." That still means £400,000 - £600,000, however, and in cash, as marine mortgages are hard to come by.
Scott and James Hickson are selling thier two-bedroom converted Thames Lighter for £500,000. ..."We are going to miss the river, having that for your front garden is amazing," says Scott.
When Tim Matthews and Tina Beatty's seven children left for university and to "live around the planet" they decided to downsize from thier seven bedroom Chelsea house to a four-bed boat on Cheyne Walk. They paid "circa £400,000" for Fleetside, and hope to move in this September, once the boat has been refurbished."We didn't want to feel like we were downsizing," says Tim. "Even though we have moved from a large house we know we won't feel cramped here."
www.findaproperty.com - 13th September 2005
The brand new office was officially opened by TV's Simon Woodroffe, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony and champagne. Simon is a star of BBC2's "Dragon's Den", the founder of Yo Sushi, and perhaps most importantly on this occasion, a fellow river enthusiast. Indeed, riverhomes.co.uk was the company who found him his very own river home.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Woodroffe said: "The Thames is the last untapped property opportunity in London", and that riverhomes, in their recognition of this, was a company "way ahead of their time".
And with the sun also in attendance at the event, the appeal of the riverhomes product is obvious: the sunset views of the River Thames are both stunning and relaxing - the perfect way to unwind after a day toiling in the city.
From Bedroom to River Bed
riverhomes.co.uk has been a sparkling success story. From its humble beginnings in the co-founder's bedroom a mere three years ago, the company has grown at a remarkable rate, and the opening of its second office in Putney marked another stage in its ongoing development.
The company "does what it says on the tin", according to its co-founder and managing director, John Day. All riverhomes properties overlook the Thames, at any point from Twickenham to Westminster, and the company has some of London's most prestigious homes on its ever-expanding books.
Listening to John, it's easy to see why riverhomes.co.uk has been so successful. Speaking about his company and its product with pride, enthusiasm and a passion that still burns, it's clear he believes that what they offer is very special. This is no sales pitch; it's straight from the heart.
But it's not only John who is passionate - all the staff, "the family" as he refers to them (and indeed some of them are his own family, including sons Russell and Nigel, also co-founders and directors of the company), are obviously a close-knit team who are all very proud to be part of the riverhomes.co.uk success.
The company deals in sales, lettings and management of waterside homes, and the staff pride themselves on their friendly and knowledgeable service. Both the Kew and Putney branches aim to provide clients with a riverside lifestyle that is unavailable anywhere else in the country.
Commenting at the launch of the Putney office, John said: "Without a doubt the river Thames is London's WOW factor and, in one way, it is still London's greatest secret.
"Those of us who are fortunate to live overlooking the river can claim to have two homes in one: through one door you step into the frantic world of transport and work and routine while through the riverside door, you engage with the relaxing and renewing power of a great river.
"It's really all about a choice of lifestyle and the quality of life. For many, that relaxing drink on the terrace after a hard day's work is the highlight of the day.
"There is, of course, a premium to be paid for a spectacular view but what price your very own piece of London's liquid history?"
www.aspasia.net - May 2006
London waterside property specialist riverhomes.co.uk is going from strength to strength, with the recent opening of its third office within just three years of the company's launch.
Set up in 2003 to help house hunters find property along the iconic River Thames, riverhomes.co.uk is already established in Central and West London, with offices at Putney Bridge and Kew Bridge and has recently expanded to Tower Bridge.
John Day, managing director of riverhomes.co.uk says: "The rapid expansion of the company is a tribute to an excellent product, dedicated staff and a commitment to quality customer service. Together with the quality of riverside developments and the impact of the 2012 Olympics, this means that we have fantastic opportunity to continue our growth.
"With this in mind, we have recently consolidated all our technology systems into a single Aspasia software solution that can handle every part of the business. This means that we are now confident in our ability to cope with an influx of properties and customers."
The decision to streamline the system was not taken lightly, as operations manager Joanne Maher recalls: "We were desperate to merge our systems but we wanted to be certain we got it right first time. We invited 10 companies to demonstrate their software and listened to advice and recommendations from fellow estate agents. It was clear from the start that Aspasia fitted the bill perfectly.
"As a result of having Aspasia on board, our administrative burden has been dramatically reduced. For example, the system automatically loads properties to our web portals and property details can be prepared for newspaper advertisements at the click of a button, thereby enabling staff to manage more properties and freeing their time to concentrate on customer service."
Joanne concludes: "Aspasia ensures that everything on the system is up to date and one hundred per cent correct and as such is an invaluable tool in helping us to deliver a professional service. The fact that Aspasia is an evolving system that can be updated as and when to meet the evolving needs of the market is a real winner in our eyes. There are now no holds barred on our future growth."
www.chiswick4.com - 20th October 2005
A smarter Strand-on-the-Green Rec appears on London news programme.
Strand on the Green Recreation Ground in Thames Road, is looking much smarter after a big clean up by local residents. Spurred on by the glorious October sunshine, more than 50 people gave up their Sunday morning and worked hard to improve their local park. To add to the excitement of the day, ITV sent a film crew and featured the day’s activities on their prime time London Tonight news programme.
Volunteers cleared sacks full of litter and leaves, pulled up weeds, swept the playground and cleaned graffiti from the play equipment, transforming the park in just a couple of hours and showing how much this popular space is valued by the community. Park users will be reminded of the day’s efforts in the spring, when the main avenue to the playground will bloom with hundreds of crocuses and daffodils. Bulbs were supplied by Groundwork, funded by BAA.
Adding to the satisfaction of spending a morning out working in the fresh air, there was a fantastic community atmosphere, with helpers of all ages joining in and making new friends. Children were kept busy with football, face painting and a treasure hunt.
The clean up day was organised by the Friends of Strand Rec (FOSR), a newly formed friends group which is working in partnership with Hounslow CiP to clean up the park, improve the range of play equipment, plant more shrubs and encourage more community use and care of the park. CiP manages the park on behalf of Hounslow Council.
CiP fully supported the day and came along with gloves, litter pickers, graffiti removal kit and leaf blowers. They also offered health and safety and event planning advice and had two staff on hand throughout the clean up. The day was sponsored by riverhomes.co.uk.
The Sunday Times - May 21, 2006
For financial reasons or freedom, boat living has its benefits. Cally Law meets the people who have taken to the water.
There is a house for sale in Chelsea that is advertised as having views of the Thames. The Cheyne Walk home also, presumably, has views of the Embankment traffic. The asking price is £6.5m — about right for one of London’s most prestigious addresses. But buy one of the houseboats moored on the river just along the road, by Battersea Bridge, and you’ll get virtually the same address and save yourself about six million quid.
Simon Woodroffe, the 54-year-old founder of the Yo! Sushi chain of restaurants, has done just that, and he’s a happy man. He loves the water, the community, the peace. He also believes he may have discovered the next big thing: “the last undeveloped piece of London”.
The multi-millionaire is among the 15,000 or so people who live on Britain’s 4,000 miles of navigable rivers and canals. Until now, the stereotypical image of a houseboat community has been a hippie one. But Woodroffe is an example of the new breed of owner.
So how did he come to live on the Thames? Well, he had been looking at riverside penthouses — “but they are like being in a prison” — then he met Nigel Day, who set up riverhomes.co.uk two years ago with his father and brother. Woodroffe fell in love with the idea of a boat and asked Day to look on his behalf. “Last summer, Nigel called and said a really big one had come up, a run-down, 83ft, double-ended barge,” he explains.
“I said I’d buy it sight unseen.”
The barge refit took three months; in November, Woodroffe moved in with his daughter, Charlotte, 16. The top floor (or deck) is largely open plan: the kitchen is open to the sitting area, which in turn is open to a great chunk of river and sky. The day I visit, the tide is out and a fat duck is pottering about on the stony beach — hard to believe the King’s Road is a five-minute walk away. Below are three large bedrooms, a snug with giant flat-screen television, and two bathrooms that wouldn’t look out of place in the penthouses Woodroffe so disdains.
The vessel and refit cost £500,000, and its proud owner believes it would already fetch more. Not that he’s selling.
“I have a house in Rutland that I used to go to every Thursday afternoon for years, when Charlotte was at school near there,” he says. “Since we’ve moved here we haven’t been back. I spend a lot of time here, it’s a creative place away from the hurly-burly, and the wind blows away the city sounds.
“Until last year there was no security of tenure, but now these moorings have been granted 25-year leases.” He’s even eligible for residents’ parking.
At Cheyne Walk, the boating community is still a bit posh-hippie, with at least one home-made wind chime in evidence, but the river life attracts people of all persuasions. Woodroffe, whose CV includes stints as a roadie and a rock-show stage designer before making his fortune with conveyor-belt sushi, fits right in: neighbours include artist Damien Hirst, and the boat next door is owned by Bob Geldof’s girlfriend, Jeanne Marine.
This isn’t London’s only houseboat village: go for a waterside stroll and you’ll soon find others — about 300 boats are estimated to be moored in London’s tidal section of the Thames alone.
Bill and Chris Hart, both 54, have lived at Blackwall Marina, Canary Wharf, and round the corner at Poplar Dock Marina, for about six years. They used to have a kitchen/bathroom showroom in Surrey, then a pub. They built a bungalow, sold it, then, in 2000, bought their Luxemotor barge via the internet for £50,000.
They moved to London’s Docklands on a whim, as the barge is seaworthy. They like the village atmosphere, and their daughter works nearby. Now they plan to move to Spain, so their 100ft-long barge, with its four double bedrooms, office, bathroom (with freestanding bath) and big living room — about 1,600sq ft all up — is for sale for £250,000 with riverhomes.co.uk. The firm has just sold a one-bed Docklands flat for £265,000, which is about half the size of the Harts’ boat.
Spend time with the Harts aboard their barge and life seems idyllic, but boats do have disadvantages.
“The biggest factor that people fail to appreciate is that you’re buying a depreciating asset,” explains Rod Grant, general manager of Britain’s biggest inland marina, at Sawley in Nottinghamshire. “Unlike a house that will increase in value, a boat will, at most, reach break-even point after three years. But it must be well maintained.”
It’s the mooring that counts: they can be hard to find and expensive. Rates and conditions vary from mooring to mooring, council to council, river to canal, tidal to non-tidal, and the further south you go, the more they cost. Day gets between 50 and 100 inquiries each week for ones in London alone. Many cities, such as Birmingham and Liverpool, have small clusters of residential boatowners, but again, the options for permanent moorings are limited. Manchester, which has next to no residential moorings, is creating 20 in the Old Trafford area in the next two years. But there’s unlikely to be a sudden surge in bankside renovation across the UK.
The Harts pay £8,000 a year for their Canary Wharf spot. They get water, pump-out facilities (sewage has to go somewhere, and the river isn’t an option), and metered electricity. They don’t pay council tax, water rates or service charges. They renew their lease each year, and lack of permanence has never bothered them. “They have their rules and regulations — you can’t hang out the laundry, for instance — but you’d have to do something terribly bad to be moved on,” says Chris.
Buying a boat requires the same sort of care you should put into buying a house. You need surveys and safety checks (averaging about £600); insurance (£150-£300 a year, depending on the craft’s length); and an annual licence (British Waterways charges about £500). Getting a mortgage is difficult: standard lenders usually steer clear, and most are arranged through marine lenders. Mooring fees are typically £4,000-£8,000 a year. Most people who buy boats do so with cash — and it is wise to sort out the mooring first.
“There are cowboys out there who will sell unlicensed moorings,” warns the Port of London Authority’s Martin Garside. “You need to do multiple searches, just as you would with a house.”
“It is a myth that boats are exempt from planning law,” he also warns. “Any houseboat requires two sets of permissions: the permission of the appropriate navigation authority to be there, and the local authority. You’d be well advised to also check with the environmental authority as well.”
For Per Ostrand, 45, and his wife, Sarah Lolley, who moved from the Azores for the sake of their young son’s education, a boat was the ideal option.
“It satisfied two basics for us,” says Per, a ship’s engineer. “We could live on it while cruising around to find a suitable school and moorings.” Three years on, they are moored 200 yards from their son’s Oxfordshire school.
Abi Isherwood, 26, moved from south London to Bristol with her husband, René, 18 months ago. Eight months ago, their daughter, Ramona, arrived.
“We needed somewhere quickly and we needed to buy something,” says Isherwood, “and a boat was all we could afford.” They bought the 32ft Swn-y-mor, a 1950s motor launch, for just under £20,000, and live on a stretch of the River Avon, between Bath and Bristol, with seven other residential boats.
“There’s a real sense of community,” insists Isherwood. “I think people move on to boats for economic reasons, but it’s the lifestyle that keeps you here.”
They pay £2,500 a year in mooring fees, and Isherwood estimates it costs another £300 a month for heating, fuel, water and basic maintenance.
Narrowboats are the most common residential vessels. On average they are 45ft-50ft long and just over 6ft wide, they can be bought new from about £90,000, or second-hand from £25,000-£30,000.
John Rush, 56, and his wife, Pauline, have lived at Sileby on the River Soar, near the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border, for four years. They had enjoyed family narrowboat holidays so much that when their children left home they went waterborne full-time — they even designed their 57ft-long vessel themselves. It cost them £63,000.
“I’ve basically bought my retirement home early,” says Rush, who works at the local marina.
Don’t buy a boat, though, if you think it is a quick way to jump rungs on the property ladder: boats and houses remain two very different markets. But if you’re a waterbaby at heart, it could be the lifestyle change you’re looking for...
Additional reporting, Seb Morton-Clark
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