So you want to live on the water? Cynthia and Warren Billings, originally from Concord, are doing exactly that. Literally, on the water, in a floating bungalow, down in Lake Monroe, Florida. Cynthia recently took some time to discuss their Floating Bungalows business.
Whose idea was the floating bungalow?
My husband was the one who really came up with the idea, when we were sitting in New Hampshire in a very large home. We were thinking about different applications of living more simply and really began thinking about simplifying our life. … [That was about] two years ago, and it’s taken us that long to kind of pull it together and build it. She just launched [in November].
Was it difficult to establish the business?
Everything was a process because nothing had been done quite like that. The barge had to be commissioned specifically for the house, and all the decisions had to be made with it being a boat, as well as a home.
What is the best part?
The best part about it is, when you sit on the porch and the water surrounds you. There is nothing like water to ground you.
What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
The most challenging was, hmm, everything required so much research. All of the weight and balance calculations, making sure her center of gravity was correct. All the decisions, where do you put a washer and dryer and a refrigerator and where you would use it, along with the balancing of the boat.
Why didn’t you just buy a condo?
Well, we really wanted to be on the water. When we looked at condo options or other kinds of options in Florida, it was a very expensive way to sustain life. Condo fees were high, and we didn’t feel like we were on the water even if you could look at it from the condo. We wanted to live really simply and be on the water in a way condos couldn’t give to us. Marina fees, it’s just such a crazy, cheap way to live on the water. For less than $350 a month you have your slip fee, your water, your electricity, your plumbing and your WiFi.
Do you still own a home in New Hampshire?
We do not right now. Our hope is to spend summers in New Hampshire and winters down here, but while we were building here, that wasn’t really an option. … We plan to live on the floating home all except for July and August, when we would like to be back in New Hampshire.
What happens in bad weather?
We stay docked to the marina. She is built expecting bad weather. The marina we are at did not have any boat damage in the last three hurricanes. It’s kind of part of Florida life, hurricanes and such, but she is built sturdy.
Can you feel the house moving?
Not really, but it’s a really gentle feeling of being on the water. You can feel a gentle rocking when it’s windy.
How much work do you put in each week into running Floating Bungalows?
Right now, we’ve just launched the first one. We will not be putting any more into production until this one sells. It’s pretty calm right now. We are just sitting back and enjoying the porch right now.
Will you live there until it sells?
Yes, and then we will go and build another one. We are hoping to build two more when this one sells. One will be our permanent residence in Florida, and the other one, we will sell.
The price for your bungalow is $225,000. Is that the standard cost?
The ... one that is for sale now, she has a 14-foot pontoon boat, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and she would be a top-end model. It can be purchased for less without the full package.
If the Floating Bungalows takes off, will you be upgrading to a floating mansion?
[Laughs] We do not feel like we need more space than we have in the floating bungalow. It’s 550 square feet, and we are enjoying the simple life.
— Josh Rosenson