What are the advantages of floating houses

Houseboats & Floating Houses: Everything you need to know about living on the water

While living space is scarce in most major German cities on the mainland, in some places the gaze wanders towards the water. Because some areas of water are also suitable for being used as living space. This is not for everyone, and not all municipalities are open to houseboats and floating houses.

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Berlin, for example, generally rejects houseboats. Lakes, rivers and their banks are there for everyone, according to the Berlin Senate. Also for reasons of nature conservation, no new building permits will be issued for areas on the water. Hamburg, on the other hand, takes an example from Amsterdam and its inhabited canals: years ago, the Hanseatic city issued the plan to colonize part of the urban waterways and is thus a pioneer in Germany. There is even a dedicated permit guide and houseboat coordinator.

Apart from the fact that this approach can be a building block for alleviating the housing shortage, the appeal of living on the water speaks for itself. The closeness to nature, a feeling of freedom and independence, all of this is associated with houseboats. But what does the reality look like? What are the potential disadvantages of living on the water, and are there any additional benefits?

Houseboat or floating house?

Not everything that is commonly referred to as a houseboat is one. Basically, a distinction is made between two types of living on the water.

Houseboats, just like classic boats and ships, have a displacement body that can be used as storage or living space. They also have a built-in motor, so they can be moved on the water without assistance. In theory, you can also go on vacation with your accommodation. However, you need a sports boat license for this.

Floating houses, on the other hand, are real houses or house structures that are supported by a pontoon or other floating system integrated into the construction. They have a permanent berth and can only be towed by a boat. Therefore, you do not need a driver's license if you are not driving the tractor yourself.

In most cases, houseboats and floating houses serve as a second home or holiday accommodation, and occasionally also as an office. It is rare for someone to take up permanent residence in this type of accommodation. This is partly due to the space available: houseboats must not be more than 24 meters long and are cut quite tightly. Floating houses can also be significantly larger. But if you can tolerate life in a tiny house, for example, you won't be put off by the confines of a floating dwelling.

Why a Home on the Water?

Houseboats and floating houses have a very special charm. On the one hand, you live on the water and have nature on your doorstep. On the other hand, the berths are often central and close to the city center. And yet there are not many who choose this type of living. On the one hand, this is due to the high costs. On the other hand, the approval and development procedures can take a long time.

Some do not put off these hurdles. You will recognize in it an extraordinary form of living that enables a completely different life. In addition to the unique location, today's houseboats also impress with their modern architecture. Most of them are designed according to the personal wishes and needs of the customers. Because only the outer walls are load-bearing, the interior room layout can be designed in a completely flexible manner. Today's designs have little in common with the rather narrow houseboats, which were supposed to offer cheap living space quickly in the post-war period.

Even for passers-by, a house on the water is still considered an exotic form of living, which means that the dwellings automatically attract curious glances. Anyone who is bothered by this should, as a future houseboat inhabitant, incorporate appropriate countermeasures into the architecture. For many, this is solved, for example, by the fact that certain living and working spaces are wholly or partly below deck.

How much does a houseboat cost?

You can expect the same costs for a houseboat as a boat with lavish furnishings. You get that from around 50,000 euros, there is no upper price limit.

The running costs have a significant impact here: the maintenance and repair costs are higher than for a normal residential building. Wind, water and the high humidity put a strain on the material, which causes costs of up to 5,000 euros per year.

The fees for a berth vary greatly from region to region. A 15-meter boat usually costs 2,000 to 8,000 euros per year. Added to this are the energy costs, which are roughly double what a conventional home on the mainland requires.

A floating house presents you with significantly higher construction costs. In return you get a full-fledged house, just on the water. The house itself costs about the same as a house of the same size on land. Small floating houses in a simple design and without interior fittings are available from around 200,000 euros.

In Germany, in order to build and move into a house on the water, the property needs to be fully developed. The electricity, water and gas are supplied via the otherwise common lines. Depending on the access and length of the lines, the development can cost up to 100,000, in individual cases even 120,000 euros. If other loungers in the neighborhood also participate in the development, the costs per household are lower.

All in all, the total costs of a floating house can easily exceed 400,000 euros.

The crux of the matter is water pipes

When you live on a houseboat or in a floating house, you are surrounded by water. For reasons of environmental protection alone, however, the wastewater must not simply flow into the water. How this is dealt with depends on whether your dwelling is mobile or connected to the shore.

Houseboats are usually equipped with appropriate waste water tanks. You can have the contents pumped into the local sewer system in most boat harbors. Newer models even have recycling stations and sewage treatment plants in which at least the gray water that is produced, for example, when washing hands, is filtered and processed for reuse.

Floating houses have a fixed berth anyway, so that they are then also connected to the sewer system. This connection line must be flexible enough to accommodate the tides and waves.

The water pipes of floating dwellings, like those of conventional residential buildings, must be frost-proof and flexible. But if a frozen water pipe breaks here at low temperatures below freezing point, water can spill into the hull, which can be dangerous. For this reason alone, you should pay special attention to the cables during construction. You should therefore seek comprehensive advice from the manufacturer about the insulation of your new accommodation. Because in these cases it not only increases energy efficiency and your well-being, but also protects the floating house from capsizing.

Who is a houseboat for?

There are innumerable potential berths. But before a residence can be established there, possible conflicts with residents, traders and environmental protection must be resolved. Last but not least, many municipalities still do not have a regulated standard procedure for the approval of houseboats and floating houses. So you should bring a lot of patience and be stress-resistant.

Families with children should avoid houseboats as a precaution. Anyone who lives on water will at some point fall into it. This could be dangerous for children, especially those who cannot swim. And a houseboat is only suitable to a limited extent for old age: there is a different way of being barrier-free.

But even if you definitely notice that you are on the water in a floating house on the pontoon: Houseboat residents do not have to fear excessive waves. Most of these houses are in canals and are usually not moved. The interior decoration will therefore not fly over your ears.

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Is there anything else to consider?

Floating houses and houseboats have to meet certain technical standards and safety criteria that a conventional house spares. Houseboats, for example, like other pleasure craft, require a CE seaworthiness rating. This indicates which wind strengths and wave heights the boat has to withstand when fully loaded.

Floating houses do not need this classification because they cannot move around on their own. The Hanseatic City of Hamburg, which has laid down the most comprehensive guidelines and laws for living on the water in Germany, insists on a test of swimming ability. The swimming ability certificate can be issued by a recognized expert or a certification organization and must be presented at different intervals, usually about every ten years. To do this, divers search the swimming platform on site for damage. If any are available and cannot be repaired on site in a timely manner, the floating house may no longer be inhabited temporarily in the worst case.

Shipyards are responsible for building and repairing houseboats and floating houses. Some like Floating Houses, Cruising Home or Floating Homes specialize in the planning and realization of dwellings on the water. Because of their size, floating houses are typically built on-site on the shore and on the water.

And a final note: As a homeowner, you do not own a permanent piece of land in this case, as your home is not in the country and you usually rent the berth. Most of the time you only get a special use permit. This fact can make borrowing from a bank more difficult, as the land charge cannot be registered for a specific property. If you can pay for a floating house with equity, it is definitely easier here.

Advantages and disadvantages of houseboats

We summarize once again all the advantages and disadvantages of houseboats and floating houses:


  • Berths are often close to nature and central at the same time
  • innovative approach to tackling housing shortages
  • modern, unique architecture
  • in the case of houseboats: promise of flexibility and mobility


  • expensive and time-consuming approval procedures
  • inconsistent approval guidelines
  • partial resistance from municipalities, residents and environmental protection
  • limited living space, rather narrow spaces
  • lack of accessibility
  • high running costs for upkeep and maintenance
  • possibly lending problems