In Holland, Housing Goes With The Flow

Mark Phillips floating home flooding Amsterdam

When you call in the movers in the Netherlands these days, they may show up with tugboats instead of a van. The housing market in Holland is buoyant — literally. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

The Dutch, half of whose country lies below sea level, have been fighting off the water for centuries, building their massive sea defenses higher and higher. But, with the prospect of sea levels rising even more, they're taking a new tack.

Instead of worrying that their homes will be swamped by the water, they're building homes designed to float on it — big homes, developers like Mark Van Ommen offer open-plan living areas, rooftop dens leading out onto decks, and bedrooms — like everything else — with water views.

But it's not just the lifestyle that's appealing. This sort of home, built in factories, essentially on a big, shoebox shaped, floating concrete box, can be placed in areas that are out of bounds to regular housing because of the flood risk.

"There's a change within the last couple of years in Holland, quite drastic. Before as you said, it's fighting the water, (now) there's more of a tendency to work, cooperate with the water," said Van Ommen.

Some of the homes float all the time. Others normally sit on the ground, but are built on platforms that will float up when the water comes.

Across Holland, there are growing, established communities of floating homes.

The Dutch call these houses arks, like Noah's, and they perform the same function. When the flood comes — and it will — they'll float up with it. After centuries of trying to fight off the sea, the Dutch are finally learning to go with the flow.

It's not only smart, it pays. The houses, like Marcel Visser and his wife's canal-side model and the land it's moored on, cost what a comparable land-based home would cost, and values have — like the waters — been rising. Not only that, what began as an environmental necessity, has become chic.

"We have well known people from Holland that work in movies or on (the) telly and they live on water," says Marcel Visser. "We've had royalty living on water . . . it's very popular."

And for a lot of reasons, becoming more popular all the time.