Long for a plush apartment slap-bang in the middle of the city, but the price is beyond your reach? Well we’ve found the answer – a luxurious floating home, moored on the River Thames, and costing a lot less than anything else you’ll find in the vicinity
WORDS BY KELLY BESWICK
Waking up to the sound of gently lapping water, looking out of a porthole to see dappled sunlight flitting over the river’s inky surface while a mallard duck glides serenely by – this is the scene that greets Alex Prindiville of a morning on board his barge, a name that really doesn’t do this particular vessel justice. A luxury floating apartment more like!
All solid wood flooring, a state-of-the-art kitchen complete with breakfast bar, plush oversized sofas and a magnificent wood-burning stove taking centre stage, this is not Rosie and Jim territory, being more akin to a scaled-down oligarch’s yacht. Indeed, the main room leads to two equally impressive bedrooms and a bathroom that wouldn’t look out of place in a five-star hotel. No wonder Mr Prindiville seems to have a permanent smile on his face.
And you too could have the grin of a Cheshire cat knowing that you’ve bagged yourself a fabulous floating residence in a prime East London location (the beautiful Limehouse Basin Marina, glamorous St Katherine’s Dock or cosmopolitan Canary Wharf anyone?), because what Prindiville originally created as an occasional weekday crash pad for himself and a lovely weekend treat for his three young daughters, he’s now manufacturing for public consumption, and all for £300,000 a pop.
“What else could you get for that price in this area?”
Prindiville asks, not waiting to hear a response because he knows the answer is practically nothing. “For the money you get a fully kitted out two-bedroom apartment, complete with washing machine, dishwasher – you name it. You’re all ready to move in. All you have to do is buy your shopping, stock the fridge and you’re good to go.”
It does sound decidedly seductive and even though the business proper has only been up and running a few months, Prindiville has been inundated with interest, with three builds already in serious discussion. “Each customer wants different things, which is fine because we offer a bespoke service,” he explains. “There’s one guy who wants to forsake the second bedroom for a recording studio, a lady who’s moved out to the country and just wants a space in London where she can come down and stay for a few days, and a chap who’s already living on a boat but is looking for an upgrade.”
If Prindiville sounds like the seasoned businessman, that’s because he is, with supercars, rather than super boats being the market he first dipped his toe in some 20 years back (he’s now 41). So how did he go from Bentleys to barges? “It’s not such a stretch, really.
Working in the high-end motor trade means I have developed a fine eye for attention to detail and rely heavily on top-quality manufacturing. The same principles apply whether it’s Ferraris or floating apartments.”
It was while in his Limehouse showroom overlooking the marina that Prindiville first struck on the idea of acquiring a houseboat. “Working so close to the river, I could see how lovely it would be to live on it, and also incredibly convenient. To be able to stay just a stone’s throw from where I work for a couple of days during the week, saving me having to make the train journey home, was very appealing, as was the idea of using it at weekends with the family, so I started to look into it.”
Initially the idea was to simply buy something and be done with it, but Prindiville’s love of luxury and quality got the better of him. “I just couldn’t bring myself to buy some heap of plastic that didn’t really fit our use, so I started to look into getting something made,” he recalls.
His research took him up and down the country, visiting various manufacturers, but it was in Sheffield that he finally found what he was looking for. “I came across these guys and I could see they were really good craftsmen who’d been building boats through the generations and I immediately knew they were the right people for the job,” says Prindiville. His instincts proved correct and he was so delighted by the end product that he decided to set up a second business selling similar floating apartments to the public.
“It really wasn’t a business I intended to go in to, but once I saw from my own boat how brilliant living on the river could be, I thought it made perfect sense.
This product really fills a gap in the market for young professionals looking for somewhere central to live and who don’t want to compromise their lifestyle, or for people like me who simply need somewhere to stay a couple of nights a week without spending a fortune.”
Indeed, Prindiville’s enthusiasm for the life aquatic is positively infectious and after just half an hour in his company you seriously start considering the merits of his water-bound merchandise. But what of the hidden costs, particularly the issue of mooring, which is at such a premium in the capital? “We can provide mooring if the customer requires it,” he says. “In fact, we have two immediately available within the E1 area.
A typical one is between £10,000 and £13,000 per annum, but that’s it. There’s no council tax, no additional costs – everything else, the heating, hot water, all the running costs are really minimal.”
But surely getting a mortgage is problematic? Not so, according to Prindiville. “It is a bit more expensive than a traditional one, but we have lenders in place. Say you’re looking to borrow the whole £300,000, you’ll obviously need a deposit, usually around 10 to 20 per cent, and the rest can be done over a period of 10 to 15 years.”
No difficulty is insurmountable with Prindiville’s ‘can do’ approach. “People have said to me ‘you can’t beat bricks and mortar’, while others talk about how cold they think it’s going to get in the winter and worry about who’s going to empty the toilet. They’re silly concerns and totally surmountable. You’re hooked up to the electricity and water as part of the mooring and all the services are done easily by the people who run the marina.”
With his smart business attire, Prindiville doesn’t look like a revolutionary, but that’s what he claims he is. “I’m leading an urban living revolution,” he states proudly. Long live the revolution we say!