What's The Best Thing About Houseboating?

July 2015 Industry

We recently talked with Travis Keller from YourNewBoat about why he loves selling houseboats. If you're passionate about houseboating yourself, you'll find yourself agreeing with what he says. Here's what he shared with us:

1. How did you get into the broker business?

Having grown up in a boating/skiing family, I knew that I wanted to work in the marine industry pretty early on. To get a taste for the industry, during college I went to work for Lake Cumberland Marine in Somerset, Ky., which was a family-owned powerboat dealership that sold everything from personal watercraft all the way up to a 60-foot Motor Yacht. I was originally hired to develop a pro shop (that would stock water ski and wakeboard equipment and accessories). After the pro shop was up and running I started helping out in their parts & service department and eventually found myself handling sales. I loved the atmosphere there and what the family-owned dynamics did for the business. Every day was something different. And it wasn't unusual to stop what you were doing and help with the owner's children, whether it was fixing a toy that got broken or taking them for a ride around the lot in a golf cart along with the company guard dog. During my time at Lake Cumberland Marine I was able to witness the work ethic that is required to be successful in our industry firsthand. I feel privileged to have gained such valuable experience from Randy Hartmann and Jeff Boyle (former Owner and Service Manager, respectively, at Lake Cumberland Marine).

While in college I also competed for the University of Kentucky Waterski Team in the South Atlantic Conference. I was soon introduced to the campus of the University of Tennessee and to the waters of Norris Lake, Tenn., by way of the University of Tennessee Waterski Team. I soon looked for a way to transfer schools and finished my South Atlantic Conference eligibility at Utah while helping to win the South Atlantic Conference Championship in my final semester. During my time at Utah I took a business course that was taught by a Sea Ray Boats Executive, Bob Reich. Under Bob's mentorship I developed a business plan for YourNewBoat, even though I had transferred to Eastern Kentucky University to finish up my degree. In my final semester at EKU, I had begun to put my business plan into action and found a way to return to the most beautiful lake I had ever seen by starting YourNewBoat on Norris Lake in 2007.

2. What's the best thing about houseboating?

The best thing about houseboating is its ability to keep a family together. My family started with an old Nautaline Houseboat when I was very young then moved up to a 1983 Sumerset 54-foot steel hull, then to a 1990 Stardust 68-foot aluminum hull and eventually to a 1998 Stardust today. My parents would host relatives all through the summer months. We'd have more people onboard than the boat could sleep and younger cousins would have to pitch a tent on the roof of the boat and some weekends we'd even have to beach the boat on a shore to make room for more tents to be erected than could fit on the roof of the boat. My brother and I would dress up as restaurant workers and serve food and drinks to my great aunts and uncles and they would tip us with nickels. Even as we became teenagers we still wanted to spend time with our parents for weeks on end in our houseboat tied up in a cove somewhere. Most recently my parents even co-hosted a family reunion on a pair of houseboats tied up in a cove for a long weekend and the boat serves as a summer home for their grandchildren to visit them.

3. Can you share an inspiring customer story?

In one of my first few years in business I had a couple whose wife had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and they had a new found appreciation for living in the moment and had developed a “you can't take it with you” attitude.

His wife always wanted a houseboat and she loved to fish. The husband was a retired navy veteran and didn't care much to fish but loved to work on things. So after they purchased the boat, she would sit on the rear porch and fish while he remodeled the entire inside and even did some work on the outside of the boat. I think the experience was good therapy for both of them. It's been about 5 years since they purchased and they're still enjoying fishing and houseboating and they even get to spend quality time with their grandson during his many stays at the lake with them. Most weekends I'll see them heading to the lake with their runabout in tow and it just makes me happy to know that they're still enjoying the boat and their time onboard.

4. What marina do you keep your boat at?

Outside of my immediate family's houseboat that is kept on Lake Cumberland, Ky., my wife and I briefly owned an Aqua Chalet as our first houseboat in the Spring of 2009. However, we soon realized being a houseboat broker who works on and around the lake 7 days a week from April to October doesn't always privilege you the time to be able to enjoy the lake yourself. Needless to say, it was mid-October of that year before we were able to complete an overnight stay onboard.

Ultimately we decided to sell and spend my random days without appointments visiting my parents on their houseboat at Lake Cumberland. On my random afternoons off my wife and I take our kids skiing behind our 1989 Malibu Sunsetter, which we keep at Stardust Marina on Norris Lake, Tenn. At Stardust we're centrally located among the 24 other marinas on the lake and we can go any direction for lunch or dinner depending on what we're in the mood for. Our choices range from pizza and wings to home cooked barbacue and burgers to crab cakes and shrimp cocktail at the many on-water restaurants across Norris Lake.

5. What's the best thing about selling houseboats for a living?

The two best things about selling houseboats are the location and the people. I have beautiful Norris Lake as the backdrop of my office. I also get to work with unique and interesting buyers and sellers while working along side the wonderful owners and operators of the many marinas on Norris Lake.

6. What song best describes you?

“Family Man” by Pat Green.

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