Cash-strapped first-time buyer ‘sick of renting’ first home is a £37k BOAT

A PROJECT manger beat Britain’s soaring house prices by buying a boat instead.

George Martell, 30, purchased a place of his own for £37,000 last year without taking out a mortgage.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

George Martell and his fiancé Lisa Threlfall with their dogs Frankie and Freddie[/caption]

With rents predicted to rocket by 15 per cent over the next five years and the average deposit for a first time buyer in London hitting £80,000, it’s a depressing forecast for tenants hoping to get their foot on the property ladder.

And only last week it was revealed that half of renters are relying on credit or borrowing money from friends and family for a tenancy deposit.

Sick of renting, George traded in his rented two bedroom house in Hertfordshire and moved into a canal boat with his fiancé, Lisa Threlfall, 26, and his two dogs.

This week in the My First Home series we caught up with George who explains how he was forced to look for alternative accommodation when his landlord decided to sell-up.

Here he shows us around his pad and tells us what he loves about living on the water.

When did you buy your boat and how much did you pay?

Up until October 2017, I had been renting a “two-up, two-down” in Apsley, Hertfordshire, with my fiancé, Lisa Threlfall, 26, a surveyor.

We had been paying “mates rates” of just £900 per month rent for it.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Up until October last year, they’d been renting a “two-up, two-down” in Apsley, Hertfordshire, for “mates rates” of £900 per month[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The couple needed to find a new place to live after their landlord told them they were selling up[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

At the time they had one dog and they felt they needed a family home with a garden[/caption]

But when our landlord announced that he was selling up and moving overseas, we needed to find a new place to live.

We thought it would be easy to find another rental property and looked at lots in the Home Counties.

But as we have a dog, we realised that we’d need a family home with a garden – and this would mean monthly rent of around £1,300 plus bills for a two-bed house.

Are you a first-time buyer who want to share tips on how you did it? Email us at or call 0207 78 24516. Don’t forget to join the Sun Money’s first-time buyer Facebook group for the latest tips on buying your first home.

As this was pretty costly, we then gave some serious thought to alternative housing options.

We fell in love with a boat in October last year, and bought it for £37,000.

How did you find the boat?

We did most of our research online, on sites such as eBay and Gumtree, as well as specialist boat site, Apolloduck.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The couple found their boat on a specialist site called Apolloduck after searching eBay and Gumtree[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The living area doubles up as a bedroom with cupboards and under-bed storage[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The couple love the freedom that comes with living on a boat[/caption]

We went and saw a couple of boats, but decided they weren’t right because they were too old, too big, or because the interior needed too much work.

Then we went to see a young guy in Milton Keynes who was selling a boat we’d seen on Apolloduck, priced at £40,000.

We just knew it was the one for us and made an offer straight away.

We got on well with the seller, and while he didn’t accept our first offer, we settled on £37,000. We then moved in two weeks later.

George's tips on buying your own home

GEORGE may have decided to ditch the dream of buying a house and got a boat instead, but the principle of saving is still the same.

Here are his tip on how to get the funds together:

  • Save as hard as you can. Be willing to make cutbacks while you save.
  • Buy with someone else so you can save together and pool your funds.
  • Make a start at getting onto the property ladder as early as you can in life. Own something you can live in.
  • Be a bit whacky and creative about your living arrangements – don’t worry about what other people think.

How big is it?

Our boat is a 50ft “cruiser stern” with a deck area at the back where you can sit out.

Inside, our living area comprises a double bedroom with cupboards and under-bed storage, a bathroom with a sink, power shower and “cassette” toilet (which you take out and empty).

There is then a sitting room with a sofa bed, TV, radiators and a coal and log burner, and a kitchen with oak tops, old-style sink and fridge freezer.

Who do you live with?

I live with Lisa, and we now have two dogs – Frankie, a mongrel, and Freddie, a young Jack Russell.

But there’s also a great sense of community when you live on a boat.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The couple plan to live on the boat for around three to four years while save hard for a deposit for a house[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The bathroom has a sink, power shower and “cassette” toilet which needs to be taken out and emptied[/caption]

Within an hour of getting to our current location, another young couple had moored up beside us, and that night we were having drinks and a BBQ together.

It’s been like that wherever we go.

You become a lot closer the people around you when you live on the water.

How did you afford to buy the boat?

Lisa and I bought the boat with a combination of savings and a loan.

We saved money from our jobs, and by cutting back on things, such as takeaways, eating out and socialising.

We also moved to cheaper phone contacts and decided to go without Sky. It was definitely hard work.

We then took out a loan for the remaining amount with Zopa. This was a loan for £10,000 over four years.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Having a boat means that they can live on one salary and save around £2,500 per month towards a deposit[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

They hadn’t spent a lot of time on boats before buying one[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

They had to learn about the engine, the steering and how to work a lock[/caption]

This means repayments of just over £200 – though we try and pay off £500 a month, so we can clear the loan more quickly.

What are the ongoing costs?

Aside from our loan repayments of £500 a month – which is a lot cheaper than a mortgage would be – we pay £600 a year for out boating licence (which works out at £50 per month), and £38 per month for insurance.

We pay less than £50 per month for diesel, and in the winter, we pay around £10 per for a bag of coal or logs for the burner.

Overall, our outgoings are pretty low.

Why did you decide to buy a boat rather than a house?

We would love to buy a family home one day but right now it is unaffordable.

We need to save up a lot of money for a deposit, and wouldn’t be able to do that if we were paying a hefty chunk of our salaries in rent each month.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

They have a “continuous cruising licence” which means they have to move every two weeks[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The toilet has to be manually emptied every day[/caption]

With the boat, we don’t have a mortgage – and didn’t have to pay stamp duty – plus our running costs are very manageable.

This means we can live on one salary and save around £2,500 per month towards a deposit.

How did it feel when you moved in?

On the first day, there was a real mixture of nerves and excitement.

We’d not spent a lot of time on boats, so there was a lot to learn in terms of the engine, the steering, how to work locks, and so on.

It was a steep learning curve and several months later, we are still learning new things.

But the previous owner was brilliant, and helped us move the boat a few miles to our first mooring.

He showed us how to steer it – and explained how everything worked.

After that, it was more or less a case of just “jumping in and seeing if you swim.”

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

They couple took out a £10,000 loan to make be able to afford the boat[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The loan repayments every month at £200 although they try and pay off £500[/caption]

What do you do for furniture?

Our biggest issue with moving from a house to a boat was the fact there isn’t a huge amount of storage, so we had to get rid of a lot of stuff so we could fit things in.

The main new items of furniture we bought were a double bed with a specialist “boating” mattress, and the sofa bed for the living room.

Are there any issues with the boat?

We have a “continuous cruising licence” which means we have to move every two weeks, but we love the fact we can move from place to place on the boat, exploring Hertfordshire by its waterways.

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Lisa and George hope that one day they’ll be able to afford to buy a house[/caption]

Doug Seeburg – The Sun

The previous owner helped them move the boat a few miles to their first mooring and showed them how to steer it[/caption]

If we bought a house, we’d be tied to just one location. It’s great to have so much freedom.

How do you decide where to go next?

I need to know where I’m going, and once we’re coming to the end of a stint, I like to start plotting where we will go next (though in reality, we often end in places on a whim).

We’ve been from Milton Keynes to Rickmansworth to Berkhamsted. It’s all about exploring different areas and seeing what we find.

When do you think you’ll move again?

We plan to live on the boat for around three to four years while saving hard for a house deposit.

We then plan to use our savings – along with the proceeds from the sale of the boat – to buy a place of our own.

However, we are also getting married this year [in August], so that’s our main focus at the moment.

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