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In Tight Property Market, Some Germans Turn to Houseboats

Houseboats in Berlin are coming into focus as property markets tighten. Source
Houseboats in Germany are increasingly in demand as property prices rise and available apartments dwindle.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s property market is attracting lots of interest, as interest rates remain low and investors look for a safe haven from the euro-zone crisis.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Coffee and consumer goods retailer Tchibo is sailing into the houseboat market.
    • Houseboats in Germany can offer significant rental income to investors.
    • Some models have over 200 square meters of space and cost nearly €1 million.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The idea of living on the water used to be for people seeking freedom and adventure outside conventional society. But these days, houseboats aren’t just for renegade captains scorning the capitalist order and living on rickety, poorly heated, converted barges.

Even the staid German coffee and consumer goods retailer Tchibo has discovered the appeal of houseboats. The company, in partnership with houseboat producer Nautilus, has been selling three different houseboats at its stores since mid-August. The smallest is only 16 square meters (172 square feet) and costs €88,000 ($117,000).

Others cost significantly more. For example, four floating houseboats are planned for an island in the middle of one of Berlin’s many lakes. “They are not planned to be vacation houses, but rather very special homes,” said the architect, Werner Baumhauer.

Mr. Baumhauer designed the houseboats under contract with the Düsseldorf developer Martrade Immobilien. With three stories, a living space of 219 square meters and spacious terraces, the houseboats offer luxurious living on unsteady floors.

And life on the water has its price: €900,000.

While these Berlin floating mansions are scheduled to be ready in 2016, the northern port city of Hamburg already has two families living in floating homes on its Victoriakai bank.

Seven homes are planned, said Tanja Kürten, who is marketing the aquatic dwellings for Floating Homes. With prices between €569,000 and €589,000 for houses offering 115 square meters of living space, floor heating, heated water pipes and a 58-square-meter rooftop terrace, the houses are not much like Tchibo’s bargain boats.

 

Hamburg houseboats. Source: Floating Homes
Hamburg houseboats. Source: Floating Homes
Hamburg houseboats. Source: Floating Homes

 

The comfort of such houseboats is comparable to residences on dry land.

Marie Gest, marketing head of Floating House in Berlin, knows that the feeling of freedom and adventure is easy to sell to high earners.

“Living on the water offers an extremely special sense of living,” Ms. Gest said. “Because it is tied to the greatest of all desires, the desire for freedom.”

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