Photo of a luxury, modern houseboat with wooden exterior.

Lifestyle –

The Rise of Houseboat Living

Bruce Brooker, Co-Founder of On Water Developments, speaks to Private Life about the growing popularity of high-specification houseboats, and the benefits of life on the water.


23rd November 2020


When you hear the word ‘houseboat’, you could be forgiven for thinking of a run-down boat in need of some attention – not something that would appeal to the elite. You may be surprised; houseboat living has never been more popular and is increasingly considered as a housing option. From newly constructed contemporary-style abodes to restored barges or canal boats, an increasing number of refurbished vessels are appearing in our waters. So, why has there been such a shift in attitude towards houseboats?

Cue On Water Developments – a business focused on placing high specification floating houseboats in beautiful locations, transferring the same standard of living found on land to the water. It was founded by Bruce Brooker and John Wood, who created the business determined to continue to change people’s perception of houseboats and prove that they can be wonderful places to live. As well as creating single unit spaces, On Water Developments works on creating hamlets and small on-water villages, with the aim of bringing a community feel to these sites.

Houseboats are said to have been on the Dal and Nagin lakes since the 1800s. In the late 19th century, houseboats for English visitors and residents who were not allowed to own land in Kashmir were built by the boat-dwelling Hanji community of Srinagar. Other sources claim that Sir Francis Younghusband, the famous British explorer, credited an M.T. Kennard with the idea of a ‘floating house’ between 1883 and 1888 – called 'the boats of Kennad Sahib’ by locals. According to Younghusband, there were hundreds of houseboats in Kashmir by 1906.

Photo of the living room on a luxury houseboat, with a view to the water and trees outside.
Photo of a luxury houseboat with wooden exterior on the water at dusk

The advantages of living on a houseboat are many, varying from financial benefits to positive lifestyle changes. On the financial front, not only do houseboats cost a fraction of the price of a bricks and mortar home, it is worth noting that you do not pay Stamp Duty when buying a houseboat, nor do you pay VAT. In terms of lifestyle, there is something uniquely restful and peaceful about being around and living on water. The sights, sounds and colours change on a daily basis, which has a positive impact on mental health.

The potential for a houseboat doesn’t stop at using it as a home. On Water Developments have seen a number of requests come through to them since they established themselves in 2018, including floating offices, restaurants/bars and even a floating yoga studio! Working alongside skilled architects, the design process really allows you to make the space exactly what you want it to be.

Bruce Brooker from On Water Developments spoke to us about the process of building and buying a houseboat.

“Our bespoke floating homes are produced individually by our own team of dedicated craftsman. Designed and built for all seasons, they are specifically engineered for each location. Both floatation and superstructure are made within quality-controlled factory environments, allowing for the highest standard of specification. This enables our team to have a light touch approach when delivering our ready-made products, minimising the development time required for each site.”


To find out more, visit 

Photo of the exterior of a luxury houseboat, surrounded by trees.