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 How to buy a houseboat in Amsterdam;


I don’t sell houseboats [often], I’m not an agent. I do have 25 years of experience with houseboats in Amsterdam though; buying, selling, renovating, and renting them out.

If you have a boat for sale, I can advertise for you here. if you're thinking of buying one, read on.


The information below is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and is provided with no financial interest or responsibility.
This page is written mainly for English speaking people with no knowledge of the Amsterdam houseboat culture, but if you're Dutch and are thinking of buying a houseboat, you'll also find good information here.


 So you want to buy a houseboat in Amsterdam?

One thing you should know from the start, houseboats in Amsterdam are better to live in, but they usually aren't much cheaper than equivalent apartments.

Much of the purchase process is the same as other real estate; the first thing you'll need to do is get your financing together. If you don't have cash, you'll need to visit your bank and get pre-approved for a loan, and find out what your budget will be.

Getting financing for a houseboat is slightly harder than for a house. You can apply directly to your bank or go through a broker.
Like Fransman

Check around for the best mortgage rate, you could save a lot.
ING is the main lender for residential houseboats in the Netherlands.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you buy a houseboat in Amsterdam, most of what you’re buying is the mooring.
There was a time when you could sail a boat into town, tie it up in an empty spot, and move in. That ended 30 years ago. Today to get a boat in Amsterdam you have to buy one that’s already there. Don't think you can slip in under the radar; it might look chaotic, but all those boats are well documented.

See my page; Amsterdam houseboats for sale for links to most of the houseboats available at the moment.
Words to look for; "Met vast ligplaats" [with permanent mooring], Legal, etc.
Terms you don't want; "zonder ligplaats", " Geen ligplaats" [no mooring]. A houseboat without a mooring can not be brought into Amsterdam, and if you do slip it in, the boys in blue [BBA] will give you little time to leave before they tow you out.


Similar to buying any other real estate, if you go through a registered agent things are fairly safe and straightforward. You can also buy directly from the owner if you have the confidence. That can save you a couple of percent, and you can still have everything checked for you.

You can also hire an agent to advise you; to me, that's 2% for nothing, but for a first time boat owner, it might ease your mind. Check the links on Amsterdam houseboats for sale for agents specialized in houseboats. The same agents that list boats can act as a buyers agent. there are also specialist companies, but I don't have links for them.

 

Then find your future home; check my special link page; Amsterdam houseboats for sale, where you'll find most of the boats for sale in the city at the moment.


The first and most important thing is the mooring [ligplaats]; as in all real estate, location is everything.

Choose your neighborhood with care, because it's more important than the vessel. You can repair or even change the vessel, but not your spot.

A neighborhood has more to do with your boat neighbors than anything else. Somehow we boat people tend to have more to do with other boat people than the more numerous apartment people.

I've nearly always had great boat neighbors. We're always ready to lend each other a hand or look after each other's boats.


This is important; When you've seen a boat you might be interested in, you should personally go to or call Binnenwaterbeheer [020 550 3633 from 9:00 to 11:00 am on weekdays] and check that there are no legal problems with the boat or its mooring. You'll need the address and the owner's name. They're very helpful with these types of inquiries, and will speak English if you need them to. They'll tell you if it has a ligplaatsvergunning [mooring permit], and confirm the ownership.  Furthermore, they will even issue a document stating the legal position of the boat in the eyes of the city, free of charge.

They don't keep records of liens though [as far as I know]. To check thouroughly, go to [or call] the schepkadaster [ship's register].

The kadaster keeps the register of ownership for the vessels, but not all vessels are registered with them. Banks require registration with the kadster before they will issue a mortgage [loan] for the boat. It's reasonable to assume that if there is no kadasteral registration then there is no lien. However, it can be tough to be sure the boat isn't registered.


Of course have an independent assay done. Your bank will recommend a surveyor who's valuation they will accept.


The purchase contract of any steel vessel MUST include a trip to the shipyard to verify the hull integrity. Sometimes the seller will provide a hull survey recently performed by a shipyard. Generally speaking, this is good enough; but never just believe the seller when he says "the boat is perfect!". Unless a steel ship has been independently inspected out of the water, it should not be bought.

Generally, the costs of this is paid by the seller, although sometimes the buyer pays for the basics, towing, lifting, and painting the bottom. Any necessary steel repair work is always paid for by the seller. See my page;
To the shipyard for haulout


Minimum steel thickness is agreed in advance, generally to the requirements of the insurance company. It depends on the insurer and the size of the vessel, but between 3.5 and 4.5mm usually.

These days it is legally required to have the sale handled by a "notaris", which is not the same as a notary in English. A notaris is a basically a lawyer for contracts. The purchase money will be handled through his office account; paid in by the buyer, and then paid out to the seller according to his/her instructions after the contracts are complete.

I recommend Notariaat Kroes+Mokkum 020-695-6898 They do a lot of boats, and understand the differences between boat and house contracts.

 Immediately after the sale, go to Binnenwaterbeheer to register your ownership with the city. For some reason the professionals don't think that part is very urgent, but to me it's the most important thing. The BBA [Binnenwaterbeheer] is the registering authority for the mooring, which is the most valuable part of your purchase.



Insurance;
If you get a mortgage, you’ll be required to have full insurance. There are only two companies that do this for houseboats in the Netherlands;
Oranje and EFM.
Some other larger insurance companies offer “woonboot verzekering” [houseboat insurance], but the coverage does not include sinking, so is not acceptable to lenders. If you buy for cash, you could try to get one of these polices because they're much cheaper. They do cover fire [far more dangerous than sinking] and other calamities.


Click here for; Types of Dutch houseboats


The legal situation of houseboats in Amsterdam;
Well, it’s slightly murky.
We houseboat owners buy, sell, and get financing for our boats just the same as house owners do for their houses.
But boats are not immovable property [real estate, onroerend goed]. They are movable property, like trailers or cars.

This has recently been affirmed by the Dutch supreme court; if it floats, it's movable, regardless of how many poles, chains, cables, and services the vessel is connected to.


The moorings are fixed and registered to the ship and the owners, and seem to be secure [enough for banks]. There is some legal protection for ships mooring rights in old Dutch law, and the total value of the houseboats in Amsterdam is about €500,000,000 or so; that’s a lot of property value, and a big piece of tax base.
But the city makes its own rules, and sets tax rates as it sees fit.
 
Amsterdam houseboat rules;
There are a lot of rules and laws for the houseboats in Amsterdam now, and the city changes them from time to time. Please use this as a general Guide, and call Binnenwaterbeheer when you need accurate information.


Changing the position [mooring spot, ligplaats] of your houseboat;
You can apply for this. The answer is 99.9% NO.
It's theoretically possible for 2 boat owners to swap places, but in practice it rarely works; because when you get permission to change the boat in your mooring, both "new" vessels have to conform to the strict new criteria.
Neither vessel can be higher than 2.5 meters from the water line [excepting a "characteristic wheelhouse"], have any extensions beyond the hull, or be too close to a bridge or another houseboat [exact distance varies with the district].


Planning permission in now required for almost any alteration to the exterior of a houseboat in Amsterdam, excluding color changes [the last vestige of freedom]. Even the addition or change of windows or doors requires permission from
Binnenwaterbeheer.
Any change that rises any section of your vessel to above 2.5 meters from the waterline will be problematic, and most likely refused. There are some exceptions, but not many.


Don't think you'll get any sympathy for improving the appearance; the rules don't define beauty, only dimensions.
If your boat is classified as "Historic", then it will probably be imposable to make any changes at all.
Planning  permission requests take between 6 weeks and forever to process, so allow plenty of time.


It is no longer allowed to work on the exterior of your boat while in your mooring within the city, if it makes any noise or if you work over the water [so that something could fall in, even dust]. You can usually get away with small weekend jobs, but building a new steel cabin in the middle of town is not possible anymore.

Even painting the topside usually has to be done while you're at the shipyard now.

See; Taking your ship to the shipyard for haulout


So far, you can still do whatever you want with the interior. Just be careful where you drill those holes! There could be water outside.

Changing your old boat for a new one;

There are lots of rules for this. Yes, you can do it, and people do. But what the new boat is allowed to be will depend on the old one, which part of town you're in, and other factors. The rules have been changed since last time I did it, so my information is no longer up to date. Just ask Binnenwaterbeheer and get the right information; and if possible, don't buy the replacement vessel until you have your "vervanging" permission. If permission is refused, you now have 2 boats that you don't want!

 



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