Why owning a home at sea makes financial sense for the wealthy

The Mathews wake up every few days to a new view outside their balcony. It could be either Antarctica, Madagascar, Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia or Indonesia, depending on which expedition their houseboat is on that particular week.

The couple own an apartment in the world, “the largest private living ship in the world”, and have been living on board for eight years.

“The average span of residents living here is five to seven years,” says Mr. Mathew, who has changed his name to protect his privacy.

“We live six months a year on board the ship – that’s the average. We’ve made very good friends with whom we travel, eat and do activities. It’s a close community and we share a passion for adventure, travel and exploration .

They represent the quintessentially approved home owners in the world, which includes 165 residences by the sea, ranging from studios to three-bedroom houses.

But buying a piece of this sought-after lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, with prices ranging from $2 million to $15 million, plus annual ownership costs, says Andy Dinsdale, The World’s residential director.

The annual property costs are distributed according to the size of the home, so the bigger the house, the higher the contribution. These fees include a resident’s share of ship maintenance, operations, fuel, crew compensation and food and beverages on board.

It also offers residents access to the most exclusive destinations, enrichment programs, Michelin-level dining, as well as health and wellness services on board the ship.

The Bahamas-flagged 196m long, 12-deck ship was launched in 2002 and circumnavigates the globe.

Concierge staff arrange customized experiences in exotic locations for residents hailing from 20 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Japan, Uruguay and Brazil.

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have inspired high-net-worth individuals to flee to far-flung parts of the globe in search of luxury and seclusion.

This type of superyacht life is also becoming more popular as more working-age people embrace a nomadic lifestyle.

This has led to luxury private houseboats becoming big business. Other players are also vying for a piece of the pie, such as Somnio, which will come online in 2024, and Njord, scheduled to deliver in 2026.

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“When we were younger, say 10 years ago, as Americans, we were mostly traveling in Europe. But living aboard the world, we can visit places that I could never imagine going alone,” says Mr. Mathew .

“We can explore the world from the comfort of our own home.”

He and his wife choose Antarctica, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia, Greenland, the Northwest Passage and Svalbard, Norway, where they snorkeled with whale sharks, as their most memorable expeditions organized by The World.

The average resident on board is about 64 years old and “is a self-made entrepreneur whose business success has given him or her the wealth to buy a house on the ship and time travel,” says Mr. Dinsdale.

“Some residents are still active in their business(es), while others are semi-retired or retired.”

A typical resident prefers to sail for three to four months. The length of stay on board the ship is up to each resident. Several of the current residents spend most of the year aboard the ship, according to the residential director.

Average occupancy aboard The World is 150 to 200 residents, which provides an intimate atmosphere, he says. Occupancy peaks during the summer months and December.

The average resident on board is a self-employed entrepreneur whose business success has given him or her the wealth to buy a house on the ship and time travel

Andy Disdale, Residential Director, The World

Potential residents in the world must have a net worth of $10 million or a net income after taxes of $1 million for each of the past two years and foreseeable future years, according to the company’s brochures.

In addition, they must have “acceptable” references, no criminal record and two letters of recommendation from existing apartment owners on The World, excluding the seller. A background check is conducted on all potential owners.

In addition, a security deposit is required for each owner and is held in an interest-bearing account for the duration of ownership.

Insurance of the apartment and the ship, including casualty and damage damage, is included in the annual operating costs.

Buyers are also required to pay a transfer fee when purchasing an apartment on board.

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There are 44 studios, 20 one- and two-bedroom studios and 104 apartments with two, three or more bedrooms in the world.

“The original inventory of apartments was sold in June 2006,” says Mr. Dinsdale.

“From time to time there are a small number of resales to buy.”

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For example, a two-bedroom apartment is now for sale because the owners are said to have bought a “beautiful house” in Italy.

Since only resale properties are available to purchase, most apartments are sold fully furnished, including linen, kitchen appliances and crockery. Changes to the apartments can be made with the permission of the board and at the expense of the resident, according to the brochure.

“The average time to sell an apartment is six to nine months,” it says.

“Payment terms are negotiated between the seller and the buyer. While the terms are almost always for cash, some sellers have sometimes agreed to short payment terms.

The ship is renovated every three years in a dry dock and is financed by annual contributions.

A route committee and the ship’s captain choose eight routes around the world, then narrow them down to three and put them to a vote by the board of residents. This is done three years in advance, says Mr. Mathew.

World management tries to add 20 new ports every year and never repeats an itinerary. On average, the ship stays in each port for three days.

Residents will welcome the New Year in Dubai. The ship will sail across every ocean on six continents, with more than 108 ports of call.

Other facilities on board include daily housekeeping, six restaurants, spa and gym, lectures by Nobel laureates, a medical center with a full-time doctor and nurse, a clothing boutique, Internet and phone access, a golf simulator, putting greens, what is said to be the only regulation-sized tennis court Court by the sea, a helipad, theater, billiard room and video games.

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The world is basically a grown ship. No pets are allowed on board.

“With the increase in satellite speed, there are a lot of people on board,” says Mr Mathew.

“This helps us maintain a good communication plan, but time zones can be a challenge.”

Living aboard a residential yacht like The World is the perfect alternative to individual yacht ownership as it offers services and amenities that would be challenging to achieve on your own.

Common yacht ownership requirements such as hiring crew, planning an itinerary and caring for staff are eliminated by purchasing an apartment on board

World resident

Common yacht ownership challenges such as crew recruitment, planning an itinerary and taking care of the staff are eliminated by buying an apartment on board the world, says Mr Mathew.

Many residents own or consider owning their own private yacht, says Mr Dinsdale.

“The initial investment to own your own yacht is significantly higher and the annual operating costs are substantial, all of which are paid by the owner regardless of how often the yacht is used,” he says.

“An equivalent travel experience with the same standard of luxury, including lodging, dining, private car service and first-class flights, could easily cost $500,000 or more on a semi-annual basis.”

Other benefits include reduced maintenance, fuel, berthing and docking costs as fees associated with maintaining yachts are typically overlooked, says Mr Dinsdale.

The world also allows certain apartments to be rented out to qualified potential new residents to allow them to try the lifestyle on board before reaching a purchase decision.

However, due to the exclusive, private nature of the world, guest access is limited and by invitation only. Guests must undergo a rigorous security and background check.

“Owners can invite guests to stay on board in their apartment or rent a unit under the Guest Stay program,” says Mr. Dinsdale.

“Access to the ship is carefully controlled. It is not possible to enter the ship without a special invitation, security screening and proper identification. The ship’s journey is carefully planned and adjusted when necessary to avoid areas of conflict or other dangers.

Updated: 29.12.2022, 05:00


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