Young couples faced with the daunting task of establishing a foothold on the property ladder can be forgiven for wanting to jump on a boat and sail as far as they can from the glittering circus of estate agents, sky-rocketing prices and penury caused by endless saving. Anyone who follows through with this escapist urge might be surprised to find their getaway vehicle is the answer to all their problems.
“We were just so put off by the stupid house prices,” says chef Alex Cooper. “After three flats fell through on us, my wife [Felicity] and I decided to do our own thing. We were staying at my parents’ place in Greenhide, which wasn’t practical, but then the houseboat popped up on Zoopla and we haven’t looked back.”
The previous owner, a project manager in the City called Paul, lived in the Dutch barge named Luctor for 12 years, and invested serious money turning it into a stylish living space complete with halogen lighting installations and a Smeg kitchen. Paul bought Luctor for £60,000 in the early noughties when it was just a shell. He sold it to Alex and Felicity for £200,000 – a bargain, according to Alex. “It’s a massive 120ft boat – 37 by six metres – with two big bedrooms, and a big living area and kitchen. Paul did it up really nicely with industrial lights and scaffolding planks that he sanded down and varnished. It looks more like a warehouse flat in somewhere like Islington or Shoreditch than a houseboat.”
It’s impossible to get a mortgage for a boat, so Alex had to rely on the money raised from the sale of his one bedroom flat in Brixton. The flat, which he bought for £150,000 with money left to him by his grandmother, sold for £250,000 only a couple of years after he bought it. You’re never going to get such good returns investing in a houseboat. Does it worry him?
“We went into it with open eyes. The boat wont go up in value exponentially, but they’re already building very salubrious flats nearby [in Barking]. In the next year they’re knocking down a local industrial estate and building flats and cafes in its place.”
The boat is mobile, but Alex and Felicity are happy in their Barking harbour, where mooring fees set them back a reasonable £400 per month which, combined with the £100 they owe to the Port of London Authority, adds up to a monthly expenditure easily covered by renting out the self-contained cabin at the back of the boat.
With minimal outgoings, Alex is well-placed to pursue his creative ambitions. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris, he won admiration among London’s foodie classes for the Underground Supper Club he ran out of an old Tube carriage in Walthamstow. Having moved into Luctor, he’s expanding into nautical modes of transport with Ship’s Kitchen. Here’s hoping he makes quite a splash.
This three-bedroom Dutch barge comes with central heating throughout, a bespoke fitted kitchen and even space and a mini crane to load a small car on and off the vessel.
Priced from £860,000; call Hamptons International on 020 7346 5801
This collection of luxury residential barges is one of the first developments of its kind in the UK. It will offer 10 custom-made French or Dutch barges in Battersea with a dedicated Piermaster.
Priced from £995,000; call Savills Waterfront on 020 3430 6880
An example of one of the luxury barges on sale as part of the Oyster Pier development in Battersea. It’s a traditional 40m Dutch barge with three cabins and hardwood flooring throughout.
Priced at £1.5m; call Savills Waterfront on 020 3430 6880