When he is not in Hollywood there is nothing the Twelve Years a Slave actor Chiwetel Ejiofor likes better than messing about on his houseboat. And he is not alone.
The number of people being seduced by life afloat is on the rise with an estimated 30,000 people now living aboard 15,000 boats in the UK, ranging from the super luxurious to the frankly rather ramshackle.
Beryl McDowall, general secretary of the Residential Boat Owners’ Association, believes the recession has driven an increase in the nation’s boat-dwelling population. “People say to themselves: “Ooh it is cheap accommodation, cheaper than a house, but we encourage people to do as much research as they can before they go out and buy a boat. It is a lovely life, but it is not easy.”
Nigel Day, director of River Homes, which specialises in selling residential boats, agrees that house boat sales held up well in the recession – as did prices. “I think that because there are only so many out there they tend to hold their price pretty well,” he said.
He agreed that prices compared to bricks and mortar can be enticing. “You can get 13,000 or 14,000 sq ft on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, for £800,000,” he said. “On land you would pay twice that.”
Steve Sutton, director of Premiere Houseboats, is based at Port Werburgh, Kent. He says the upturn in the market is prompting a buying boom because people who had struggled to sell or remortgage their homes during the recession in order to buy a boat are now on the market. “I really need more boats to sell,” he said.
Would be boat buyers need to have some equity since it is almost impossible to get a mortgage on a boat. And this is not a cheap lifestyle. As well as the cost of the vessel itself – which can range from under £100,000 to well over £1m – Beryl points out that owners must pay council tax, insurance, and for various licenses and registration documents.
They also have to pay for their moorings, a fee that can range from around £1,500 a year to up to £20,000, depending on where they choose to “park” their vessel. Buying a boat without a mooring is a huge risk since a shortage of spaces could mean you end up with a boat but nowhere to float it.
Another issue is that boat life is hard work. Maintenance is an “endless task”, said Beryl, and not always glamorous. Chemical lavatories must be emptied and every bit of water you need will have to be carried on board.
“We have unfortunately seen quite a high churn of people who have bought a boat selling up after about a year and going back on land,” said Beryl.
Nigel feels most people who buy a boat stick with it. But what he has noticed is, alongside the usual artists, musicians and sculptors who are attracted to living on a boat, an increasing number of forty and fifty something (male) divorcees. “I think it is their chance to do something a bit whacky and different and start the next chapter of their life,” he said.
For those who can cope with the hard work the advantages of living on a riverboat are, says Beryl, many. “You can go away whenever you like and you can take your home with you,” she said. “There is a good community spirit among boaters and they will always help out where they can. You make a lot of friends living like this.”
Steve agrees: “I have sold to everyone from builders to bankers who would not mix on land,” he said. “But on boats there is no pretension and everybody just gets on.”
For more information on riverboat life, contact the Residential Boat Owners’ Association (www.rboa.org.uk).
Boats for sale
1. At the absolute top end, life afloat can cost you well into seven figures. Luxuriously appointed Dutch barges which are easily as big as a terraced house have been appearing on the market over the last few years. Currently for sale is a 1,500 sq ft vessel moored beside the River Thames at Fulham, priced at £1.05m.
2. For a more traditional experience (on a relatively shoestring budget) £120,000 will buy you a one bedroom flat bottomed Dutch barge, moored at Burgoine Quay near Hampton Wick.
3. A floating home can cost well under six figures. You could tour the River Avon aboard a two bedroom houseboat, on the market at £89,000 and currently based at Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire.
Is your May front garden an explosion of colour, or does it look more like an eruption of weeds and untidiness, asks Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes?
If it’s the latter, urgent action is required. May is a marvellous month for selling houses, so catch the eye of your potential purchaser and draw them into your home. This does require a little effort – but you will be surprised how much you can achieve by spending just 15 minutes per day brandishing suitable tools. You should think of your front garden as a shop window that needs careful ‘staging’ to tempt people inside.
- Keep up with the lawn – it will need mowing once a week, or at least fortnightly.
- Plant up your summer pots – use the largest pot you can find to make a good display.
- Use a mixture of trailing and upright varieties including geraniums, begonias, small dahlias, pelargoniums, fuchsias, coreopsis, cosmos lobelia, ivy, and trailing heucherella.
- Clear weeds from paths and block paving for the ultimate ‘clean’ entrance. You can remove them physically or resort to weedkiller if necessary.
- Prune shrubs when they have finished flowering. It will keep them neat and also encourage further blooms.
- Make the most of your outdoor space by creating an ‘uncluttered’ appearance. Too many ornaments or randomly-placed structures can make it feel cramped.
- Create gardens that look and feel ‘useable’. They can act like an extra living space and can be a great selling point.
- Give your lawn edge a good, crisp shape, but avoid too many fiddly curves and corners.
- Visit RHS Chelsea Flower Show, or watch it on (catch-up) TV to give you some creative ideas. The show takes place this year from 20-24 May.
We especially like the back garden of this semi-detached property in Oxford because it has a sense of a ‘destination’. The garden room/summerhouse makes us want to explore. The long, narrow space would look even better with a serpentine path, but there are enough interesting plant forms to break up the area and give it interest. Afternoon tea seated around the garden table would be a very pleasant experience.
Imagine the ‘wow’ factor your house would attract if your front garden looked like this RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibit from a previous year.
If you have enough structure and form it can be just as effective as colour. Shades of green can be alluring, with just a few flowers for the bees.
Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes are passionate about the beneficial impact that outdoor space can have on a property.
An effective garden, courtyard or even parking space can not only provide considerable charm but also offer enormous benefits for occupants of homes of all sizes – from the tiniest, diminutive dwelling to the most expansive country estate. This is why it is essential to make the most of your outside space before putting your property on the market.
Their design and maintenance service, Kerb Appeal South East, seeks to enable sellers to enhance their properties with the minimum of fuss and upheaval, thereby maximising the selling potential of any home.
Mortgage lending soared to its highest level for more than five-and-a-half years during April on the back of strong housing market activity, figures showed today.
A total of £12.23bn was advanced during the month, the highest monthly total since August 2008, according to the British Bankers’ Association.
The sum was 52 per cent higher than in April 2013 and also up on the £11.05bn lent in March.
The group attributed the high figure to strong housing market activity, boosted by the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.
But the number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell for the third consecutive month in a further sign that the property market may now be slowing down.
The number of loans in the pipeline for people buying a home also dropped to the lowest level since August last year.
Despite the strong year-on-year increase, total mortgages advances still remain well down on their pre-credit crunch levels, with £19.36 billion lent in April 2007.
Richard Woolhouse, chief economist at the BBA, said: “Our figures show that the housing market is mixed.
“The value of mortgages taken out in April was the highest for six years, however looking ahead mortgage approvals have fallen three months in a row.
“The amount of borrowing is, however, still well below the levels we were seeing before the financial crisis.”
Today’s figures build on growing evidence that some of the heat may be beginning to come out of the property market.
Government figures recently showed that the annual rate of house price inflation slowed during March, while Halifax said house prices dipped slightly during both March and April, although it cautioned that monthly price changes could be volatile.
Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: “The actual number of mortgage approvals for house purchase was below the six-month average of 45,720. This is not a market running away with itself.
“The introduction of the Mortgage Market Review may be having an effect.
“While it’s still early days, with many lenders introducing the new rules weeks ahead of the official launch, its’ impact may already be starting to be felt.”
Meanwhile, retiring deputy governor of the Bank of England Charlie Bean said at the weekend that interest rates could rise to 3 per cent during the next three to five years.
But he added that there was no immediate need for an increase and the Bank would adopt a “baby steps” approach to raising the official cost of borrowing from its current record low of 0.5 per cent.
A 2.5 per cent increase in interest rates would add around £185 a month to a £150,000 mortgage.
Mortgage lending bounced back during April with the average value of new loans hitting a record high, research showed today.
Advances to people remortgaging totalled £4.37bn during the month, 28 per cent up on a year earlier and the highest figure for any April since the recession struck in 2008.
The typical homeowner borrowed £160,806 through their new loan, the highest figure ever recorded, according to LMS.
Remortgage lending was also 21 per cent higher than it had been in March, when the market suffered a slump ahead of the implementation of the Mortgage Market Review.
The MMR, which requires lenders to use tough new affordability criteria, came into force on April 26.
But many lenders implemented the new rules and made changes to their systems in March ahead of the deadline.
Andy Knee, chief executive of LMS, said: “Remortgaging has battled back in April after a dip in March at the early hand of MMR, having also been struck by a creeping up of rates from lenders.
“Total lending value was up by more than a quarter since last year making it the largest amount in April since 2008, while the average loan has also set a new record.
“However, we still fully expect MMR to have a continued impact over the next few months before the market really gets back to a healthy normal for the second half of the year.”
The group, which processes 28 per cent of all remortgage transactions in the UK, estimates the number of people remortgaging was 9 per cent higher than it had been in March.
Homeowners were remortgaging after four years and seven months in April on average, broadly unchanged from both the previous month and the previous year.
They borrowed an average of 59 per cent of their property’s value, down from around 70 per cent when they had first purchased their home.
The group said that while lenders had begun raising their rates in anticipation of future hikes to the Bank of England Bank Rate, there were still good deals available.
Overall, 56 per cent or homeowners secured an interest rate that was lower than the previous one they had been on.
Unsurprisingly, people remortgaging in London had the biggest loans at an average of £269,867, while those in Wales had the smallest ones at an average of £104,842.
If you’re anything like us you may have a slight obsession with Grand Designs. Whether they are full chronicles, programme features or award winners we want to see them all. Below are our top 10 on the market.
How many do you recognise?
1. A Venetian style water tower with 360 degree views of London – it doesn’t get more grand than that. Now on the market for £5.2m.
Five bed in London – Foxtons
2. Featured back in 2004, Kevin McCloud had this Scottish home in his top 20 of all the Grand Designs. He described it as “a beautiful, romantic building, like a ship or an ark”.
Four bed in Helensburgh – Savills
3. ‘The White House’ – a seafront oasis or quirky and cool with stunning views.
Three bed in East Sussex – Phillips and Stubbs
4. Dubbed ‘The Sugar Cube’ this is another truly unique grand design. Now for sale at £1.5m.
Four bed in Bristol – Savills
5. It’s no surprise this unique home was winner of the 2006 Grand Designs best remodelled house in Britain award.
Five bed in Berkshire – Knight Frank
6. A more recent build from 2010 which cost £200,000 to build and was recently on the market for £975,000.
More Grand Designs profits
7. This Holland Park home had plenty of fame before it’s 2012 appearance on Grand Designs. The building, a former recording studio, has previously hosted artists such as Shirley Bassey, The Sex Pistols, Rod Stewart & John Lennon.
Four bed in London – Aylesford
8. A RIBA award-winning London home that featured on Grand Designs.
Five bed in Hackney – Foxtons
9. The renovation of this water works was chronicled on Grand Designs back in 2002. If you’re looking for character then this could be the ideal property for you.
Four bed in Derbyshire – Blundells
10. New to the market is the decagon house from 2007. Its series of glass fronted decagons and courtyards forms a protected and private walled oasis near the city centre.
Six bed in Oxford – Penny & Sinclair