Loading the slideshow
The slideshow requires script be turned on to function.
related linksRead more about home and garden
FIND YOUR DREAM HOME OR APARTMENT
must-see on msn
Tooltip Information:Biggest & baddest: US military vehiclesVideo by:Description: The array of equipment soldiers use is dizzying: a set of wheels for every tough & dangerous job imaginable. In honor of Armed Forces Day, see some of the wildest.Rating:Views:
Tooltip Information:How to ease back pain without medicationVideo by:Description: Back problems are among the top reasons for going to the doctor in the US. Acupuncture, talk therapy & stretching are among 15 natural remedies.Rating:Views:
Tooltip Information:Savvy buying tricks to stretch your paycheckVideo by:Description: Paying full price is one of the quickest ways to empty your wallet, but you can wring some serious savings out of your favorite retailers with these nine strategies.Rating:Views:
By Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate
The new floating home: large and customized
Houseboats today are comfortable enough – and large enough – that people can spend long periods of time on them. "Houseboat manufacturers are building upwards of 100- by 28-foot houseboats," says Lindee Anderson, an industry observer and former editor of Houseboat magazine.
"Really the only thing that's inhibiting size right now is length restrictions on lakes" and limitations such as slip sizes. This model, by Sharpe Houseboats, is 75 feet long by 22 feet wide, with four bedrooms and two full baths. Its total square footage, including front and rear decks and cabin is 2,825 square feet.
With a growing trend toward customization, houseboats this size can cost in the mid to upper $800,000 range, says Sharpe's Brent Fothergill. "They're getting so much more elaborate."
In the (party) zone
In times past, "you wouldn't have much up there (on the top deck) except maybe a chair," says Sharpe Houseboats' Brent Fothergill. But this houseboat is a party zone: It's got everything from an ice maker, fridge and grill to an "oxygen bar" for refreshing flagging guests.
The pop-up plasma-screen TV (with satellite and auto-tracking, naturally, so you don't lose your signal as you cruise) swivels for best viewing in the hot tub or at the bar, and descends into the counter when not in use to avoid the elements and so as not to spoil the view when cruising. "It's wild, man," says Fothergill.
He adds that Sharpe just completed a boat that has dueling 58-inch TVs up on the deck; "that way, he could watch two ball games at once," he says of the owner. "He could have 80 people on top of that deck."
Entertaining on the top deck is more popular than ever, but "carrying the food from the galley up to the top deck has been a pain for houseboaters," says Lindee Anderson, formerly of Houseboat magazine.
Now try it with a bottle of wine, three glasses and a platter of hors d'oeuvres. The solution? A custom, mechanized dumbwaiter to deliver your wine and cheese from the galley to the top deck.
All the gadgets of home
Gone are the days of simply playing cards next to a cooler of beer while afloat. This boat's salon, or front living area, has a flat-screen LCD TV in a cabinet of maple with accents of mappa burl from South America. There's an electric fireplace, and a custom stereo system (hidden) controls a “zone” entertainment system so the captain can listen to one CD as he steers while still other music plays on the upper deck and a movie plays in the salon.
Brent Fothergill of Sharpe Houseboats says interest in such tricked-out houseboats "has definitely increased over the years – especially among second- and third-time buyers, who now want more amenities."
This 3,095-square-foot houseboat, which includes all decks and 1,295 square feet of cabin living, costs $575,000.
What's under your bed?"Houseboat manufacturers are very skilled at using every inch of space on a houseboat. They sort of have to be," says industry observer Lindee Anderson.
Many luxury houseboat builders will install a hydraulic master bed, to provide access to the space below. "The hydraulic lifts are pretty popular these days," Anderson says. "You're talking about trying to pack as many amenities into a houseboat as possible, to save space. And a sewing room is not something someone is going to use all the time, so tucking it away under a master bed is a good use of space."
Some people put a washer and dryer underneath their master bed, Anderson notes, while others use this area for a desk or for storage. Because the space extends down into the hull, you can stand up down there.
Say goodbye to cramped berths
This Sharpe Houseboats' master suite features a king-size bed and full closets behind those doors. Those nightstands? Yup, they're granite-topped. The headboard, cabinets and even the pillows are custom-made. "We're able to support all that weight" with today's aluminum hulls, says company spokesman Brent Fothergill.
Good design can make a houseboat feel even more spacious. That's why nicer boats use recessed lighting or have recessed trays to accommodate ceiling fans.
This houseboat, a nudge over 3,000 square feet, retails for $625,000
Afloat, but still connected
"A lot of the boats accommodate a built-in desk area, where you can take a laptop," says Sharpe Houseboats' Brent Fothergill. Houseboats built several years ago never would have had this kind of room, or added this kind of workstation for someone who wants to keep in touch with the office.
Wait, you say: the Internet – in the middle of Lake Powell? Well, sort of. A lot of the marinas have Wi-Fi, or sometimes a boat owner can use a phone with a Wi-Fi card to keep in touch.
This 3,150-square-foot houseboat (including 1,350 square feet of inside cabin space) costs $545,000.
Home sweet $2 million home
In the market for a dinghy? Say hello to one of the most expensive houseboats on Earth. The $1.975 million craft – it's for sale – is full of custom touches, from the curved walls throughout the interior to the hand-carved Brazilian ipe rails and the mahogany stern cabinetry. Designers/makers Thoroughbred Houseboats intentionally mimicked "the yacht style," says Shawn Heinen, president and owner — though this is one yacht you can drive from four different onboard locations. Also, check out the custom bronze-patina horse adorning the stern that fits the boat's name: the Mane Decision.
Interior space alone measures about 1,850 square feet – with ceilings over eight feet high. The total square footage is more than 3,200.
Life on the upper deck
Atop Thoroughbred Houseboats' Mane Decision is a canopied, 44-foot-long upper deck with a horseshoe-shaped bar of black pearl granite that can seat 14 to 16 people. (The boat needs to be 22 feet wide to accommodate the bar.)
Around it are all the amenities for a swell time: an undermount sink, ice maker, fridge, trash compactor and cappuccino maker. Up to a half-dozen more guests can lounge up toward the flybridge as the boat is moving. And if it's a little hot in the sun? A mister ring cools things down by covering 300 square feet with fine spritzes of water.
A '$50,000 bathroom'
Thoroughbred Houseboats' Mane Decision houseboat has three-and-a-half bathrooms, including one on the back deck with travertine sandstone floor tiles. The master suite bathroom (pictured above) is "a very unusual high-end bathroom" for a houseboat, says Thoroughbred President Shawn Heinen.
"The wall is all glass obsidian tiles with smoky topaz glass inserts." The fixtures include a rain showerhead overhead. "That's a $50,000 bathroom," he says.
Ready for liftoff
Amenities have gone, ahem, a little overboard at times. "This is more of an eccentricity, to have a helipad on a boat," says Houseboat magazine's just-departed editor, Lindee Anderson. Anderson recently visited a houseboat that had a movie theater and a climate-controlled wine cellar – though that, too, is not exactly usual, she says.
This boat, built by Kentucky’s Fantasy Yachts, has about 2,000 square feet of indoor living space in four staterooms and three-and-a-half baths. It costs $750,000.
Weatherproof aluminum not welcome
There's plenty of headroom — and elbow room — on this $825,000 boat on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita, which has a 1,550 square feet of interior space. Note the wooden spiral staircase and the burl-wood accents in the ceiling-fan recess.
And not a stitch of weatherproof aluminum anywhere. "The luxury is there," says industry observer Lindee Anderson. Houseboats used to be made of only lightweight materials, she says. No more. "As technology advances, I’m seeing a lot more upscale components going into houseboats."
Wine cellar? Check. Helipad? Check. Theater? Check.
Fred Finney of Finney Boat Works went all out when building La Dame du Lac, or The Lady of the Lake, his 100-foot-long, 28-foot-wide luxury houseboat on Idaho's Lake Coeur d’Alene. It's got a climate-controlled wine cellar (pictured), a helicopter landing pad, a home theater and other perks.
Press reports peg the boat at 6,200 square feet of total space, and its cost at roughly $3 million if built for a private customer.