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Sailboat On Water
April 5, 2021

Boat Living: An Affordable Alternative for Florida Locals?

by The CE Shop Team

Boat Living Might Be More Common Than You Think in Florida

When it comes to alternative living arrangements, living on a boat might be one of the best options around. That’s especially true if you live in Florida, because who doesn’t want to occasionally sail to the Keys — or even the Bahamas — every now and then? Living on the water, not surprisingly, is already a popular notion among Floridians looking to keep their cost of living down, but if you have a client considering a maritime existence, you have to ask: Is it really a worthwhile option?

Living on the Water 

Perhaps it’s the evening glasses of wine on the water, the culture, or just the simplicity of life on deck, but there’s something poetic about living on the water. To execute it properly, a few things need to be sorted out first. 

For starters, your client will need to find a place to secure a vessel. Docks can be purchased or leased depending on the long-term plan, but most will come with a monthly utility fee ranging from $250-$1000 per month (even if purchased).

Then your client would have to purchase a boat. Livable boats can range from a $60k tri-cabin cruiser to a seven-figure yacht. Of course, the bigger the boat, the bigger the dock must be, so both you and your client should plan accordingly. 

Additionally, there’s the cost of fuel, maintenance, insurance, and vulnerability to storms. Needless to say, the cost of living on the water can add up pretty quickly. According to a couple who chose the boat life, it cost $2,200 per month to live on the water. When you consider that the average rent for an apartment in Miami is $1,737, it may be wise to advise your client not to worry about establishing their sea legs just yet.

If they just can’t help themselves, you may be able to facilitate the purchase or transfer of a boat deck as a real estate agent, but financing might be tricky. Unlike traditional residential property, clients might need to have some cash or collateral before a bank will issue them a loan. In that case, they’re likely better off purchasing a property with a dock and renting out the associated house/condo while they live on the boat (if allowed per HOA guidelines).  

People on Boat

Most Boats Are Not Investments 

If pursued for short-term cost savings or as temporary housing, a reasonably priced boat at a reasonably priced dock might cost less than renting a place. However, those looking to stay for a longer stint might want to consider purchasing property instead because of one simple notion: Boats aren’t investments. 

"The cost of ownership for a 60-foot, $1 million yacht is going to be about 10% of its value, or $100,000 per year," Peter Schmidt, Founder of United Yacht Sales, said in a United Yacht blog. Even 10% of a more modestly priced vessel could cost around $20,000 per year. 

Like RVs, boats depreciate in value over time as well. Real estate, on the other hand, is likely to appreciate in value. That’s thanks in part to a shortage of homes nationwide, a smoldering hot real estate market in Florida, and more fluid lending practices. Not to mention, you can borrow against the equity in real estate, get a lower interest rate, and a longer loan term to bring the monthly cost down. 

So if your client is considering living on a boat to save money, perhaps a modestly priced apartment or condo in Miami is a better option. That way, their asset doesn’t depreciate, lending is easier, they can enjoy more square footage, and it can be rented, all likely for the same monthly cost as living on the sea - or less. As always, real estate wins! 

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