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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.