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WakeWorld Discussion Board » >> Boats, Accessories & Tow Vehicles Archive » Archive through January 14, 2005 » Questions about buying a houseboat « Previous Next »
By Tommy G (tommyg) on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 6:50 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
Can anyone provide some feedback as far as what to look out for, what to stay away from, etc? I'm looking for something that's not too expensive, but could be a good home base for when we're out on the delta. Something like one of these...

Any thoughts/feedback etc...are appreciated.

By Matt Legge (leggester) on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 8:04 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
Depends, if you're looking for a "sailable" and long lasting houseboat, here's some of what I found doing research last year:

Most if not all interior cushions should be removable for washing. They will get moldy.

Stay away from Alum hulls - stick with steel.

Power units are a weak point - definitely check them out.

Generators need major muffling. It's not worth it to run electricity if you can't hear your partner speak.

Fresh water supply of at least 100 gal per every 3 days.

Double, triple, quadruple check the propane lines and attachment points. If there is any sign of corrosion, stay away from the boat.

There's a lot more, but I was looking at 50+ footers for Lake Powell. I don't think a lot applies here.

By Rod McInnis (rodmcinnis) on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 10:33 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
That first boat looks pretty nice! Small, but nice. I can't see what the engine is like, however.

The second boat is an old Kayot, which probably used to be a rental boat long ago. The outboard looks like it might be original to the boat, so it is pretty old. The wording "inverter wiring, generator hookup" sounds like the boat used to be well equiped but the seller removed the generator and inverter.

I would fine out what "pontoons completely redone in 03" really means. It could mean that he just had the boat hauled out the pontoons patched up and painted, which is something you just do, you don't brag about it.

For either boat, I would highly recommend getting a survey. Here is the way this works: You decide which boat you want and make the seller an offer with a contingency of a satisfactory sea trail and survey. The idea here is that you are making an offer on the assumption that the boat is in good shape, or at least the damage is known.

If the seller accepts your terms you have a contract. The "sea trial" is usually the trip to the boatyard. The seller (or his agent) will drive the boat and you go along for the ride. This is where you make sure that the motor runs okay and that the boat is basically sea worthy.

Okay, brace yourself for this: You have to pay for the haulout and survey. Sorry, that's the way it works. Expect to pay $10 a foot of boat length for getting the boat hauled out of the water and bottom wash and another $10 a foot to have an expert survey it. The first boat mentions Bethel Island, so I would recommend Marine Emporium for the boat yard. Email me for a recommendation on the surveyor.

If you can, try to be there when the surveyor does his job, it can be very enlightening. If the guy does his job properly he will poke and prod all areas of the boat, crawl into every closet, test every piece of equipment. He will also take a hammer and beat on the pontoons, looking for soft spots.

I guarantee you that the surveyor will find things. If the boat has been well cared for the things will be minor and/or fixable. If the boat has been neglected you may discover that the boat is not worth the asking price. At the end, the surveyor will give you a written report listing the general condition, any deficiencies, and the estimated value.

Ignore any issues that you knew about when you made the offer (for example, if the seller told you that the microwave doesn't work, then you knew abot it when you made the offer, so don't use it as leverage now). There will be issues that are a result of changes in the laws or "accepted practice" since that boat was made, which I wouldn't expect the seller to correct. Take all the things that you didn't know about and renegotiate with the seller.

One possibility it that the seller will fix all the issues that the survey turned up. Doing so will keep the contract valid and the sale will continue. Another possibility is that the seller won't do anything in which case you can get out of your contract. You will be out the cost of the haulout and survey but it might be a lot better then being stuck with a junk pile.

The more likely scenario is that the seller will negotiate with you. The boatyard will provide estimates for all the repairs needed so you can the seller can decide what you want to do. For some items you may just want to adjust the selling price. Some items you may want to have the seller fix. Some things you will just accept. For example, normal maintenance is generally not something that you hit the seller up for. If it has been a couple of years since the last haulout then the bottom needs paint and new zincs. That should be understood, and not something that you hit the seller up for. On the other hand, if the pontoons are full of pin holes and are about to fall apart then that is something you need to work out.

If you achieve closure then you end up taking possession of the boat while it is still in the boatyard. Spend a few extra bucks now: get the bottom painted. Add new zincs. Service the engine (water pump, oil change, etc.) Do all the things that are hard to do with the boat in the water.

The process will take a few weeks but in the end you will have a boat that you know everything about and what its real condition is.

Let me give you a few hints on what to expect:

1) Steel frame boats tend to rust out from the bottom. The pontoons themselves will rust, which can be really bad. If the maintenance had been kept up they could be in reasonable shape. The framework under that boat might be really rusty but still servicable. It is also possible that the deck is about to fall through. If you feel soft spots while walking around the floor, especialy near the edges you should worry about the frame.

2) The roofs tend to leak. Houseboats have flat roofs, and rain water tends to collect and leak in all sorts of places. This can cause dry rot in the walls and the roof itself. Look for water stains on the ceiling and high on the walls.

3) Check that the boat is properly equipped. There should be at least two fire extinguishers. Life jackets. The running/anchor lights should work. If it is an I/O engine the blower and bilge pump should work. The engine should have all marine components.

Be prepared to walk away from the boat if the survey turns up major problems.

If everything turns out okay, you will have confidence in your new boat and you will enjoy it much more.

Good luck
Rod McInnis

By Tommy G (tommyg) on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 10:41 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
Rod, that is hugely helpful. Thanks so much Rod and Matt, the info is appreciated.
By John Klein (jklein) on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 10:42 am:    Edit Post Delete Post

Great Info.

Tommy: Windows are a major issue in houseboats. They tend to leak and let water into the walls. This causes dry rot and mold. Make sure you check carefully under the windows and behind wallpaper that may be bubbled or peeling a bit.

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