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Old 20-04-2009, 10:30   #1
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Buying and the survey.

Hi All,

I will start with an apology as I'm not sure if this has been asked before and if indeed I am asking in the correct area of this forum.

When purchasing a boat, should it be out of the water? If it is in it, can I ask to have it put on land to have a look at it. Or, is this something that is undertaken by the surveyor? In any case, who pays?

Do people look at boats first, then return a second time with a surveyor. Then, if all is well proceed... My dilemma is that most of the boats I have come across thus far have been a great distance away. I could ask for all the info up front by email and phone and make a best guess/gut instinct decision as to whether it's suitable or not but is that really the way to go? Not all purchase scenarios will be the same but any light you can shed on this is most welcomed.

It's true to say that I am a complete novice when it comes to purchasing boats and that I may not exactly know what I'm looking for even if it were on land but I would still like to know what I can expect or indeed ask for.

Many thanks in advance,

Darren.
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Old 20-04-2009, 10:45   #2
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Originally Posted by LBH49520 View Post
Hi All,

I will start with an apology as I'm not sure if this has been asked before and if indeed I am asking in the correct area of this forum.

When purchasing a boat, should it be out of the water? If it is in it, can I ask to have it put on land to have a look at it. Or, is this something that is undertaken by the surveyor? In any case, who pays?
I think many people find prospective boats when they're on the hard. If it's in the water, ultimately you'd require a survey as part of a purchase agreement and the boat will have to be hauled out of the water. Usually, The buyer of the boat (the person who is commissioning the survey) is responsible for all costs associated with the survey, including the haulout fee. However, these days the seller of the boat should pay to have it hauled, as it's a depressed market and everything is negotiable.

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Do people look at boats first, then return a second time with a surveyor.
Only if you plan on buying the boat, and then only as part of a sales contract. Usually written with a negotiated price and a clause that says something to the effect that the sale is canceled if the survey uncovers significant problems with the vessel.

How is it that a French farmer types better English than me? I thought the French had little regard for Americans?
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Old 20-04-2009, 11:17   #3
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Originally Posted by LBH49520 View Post
Hi All,

I will start with an apology as I'm not sure if this has been asked before and if indeed I am asking in the correct area of this forum.

When purchasing a boat, should it be out of the water? If it is in it, can I ask to have it put on land to have a look at it. Or, is this something that is undertaken by the surveyor? In any case, who pays?

Do people look at boats first, then return a second time with a surveyor. Then, if all is well proceed... My dilemma is that most of the boats I have come across thus far have been a great distance away. I could ask for all the info up front by email and phone and make a best guess/gut instinct decision as to whether it's suitable or not but is that really the way to go? Not all purchase scenarios will be the same but any light you can shed on this is most welcomed.

It's true to say that I am a complete novice when it comes to purchasing boats and that I may not exactly know what I'm looking for even if it were on land but I would still like to know what I can expect or indeed ask for.

Many thanks in advance,

Darren.
I don't know what is most customary in your part of the world, Darren, but in the US it generally goes something like this:

When a person finds a vessel they are interested in, negotiations with the seller begin. If there are brokers involved (seller usually has one, and his listing on YachtWorld, or similar, is how the potential buyer often finds the boat), an offer is prepared and submitted along with a 10% deposit.

Many people balk at putting out such a significant sum up-front, but as the offer should state that the agreed sale is subject to a satisfactory survey, this is not a great danger. Having a broker representing the buyer's interests is usually recommended, especially if a person has never bought a vessel before, and the 10% deposit is often held by the buyer's broker (the check is often uncashed until the offer is accepted.)

After the seller accepts the offer, the buyer arranges for a surveyor to give the vessel a thorough going-over, including an out-of-the-water hull inspection. This is typically an in-the-slings hull tapping to check for any suspicious loss of integrity of the hull, especially below the waterline. It is the buyer's responsibility, and his expense entirely, to handle all aspects of the survey; i.e. he pays for the surveyor, the hauling-out, power-washing the hull (if necessary), the engine oil analysis and any other thing he feels he needs to assure him of the vessel's acceptable condition. Most yards won't haul an un-insured vessel, but it is the seller's responsibility to handle that aspect.

The typical out-of-the-water hull inspection is not as comprehensive as one might wish, but it is the best option given the costs. To really know if something suspicious, as revealed by hull-tapping, is serious, grinding into the area is the only way to confirm exactly what it is. This, again, is a cost borne by the buyer, can only be done with the seller's permission and includes restoration repair to the seller's satisfaction.

Either before hauling the vessel, or after, a sea trial is usually performed. The object is to ascertain that a vessel will do what the buyer wants/expects it to do in it's natural environment. If it's a sailboat, this is the best way to ascertain the condition of the sails - the real "engine" on a sailboat - and the rigging.

If the survey and/or sea trial has revealed any issues with the vessel (it will, 99% of the time) negotiations resume between the buyer and seller. The buyer can (and should) ask for a price reduction if he still wants that vessel, or withdraw his offer if he does not. The seller may volunteer to have issues raised in the survey fixed at his expense.

That may sound good, but can be problematic: The seller may have a less-than-qualified entity do the repairs, or he may have a qualified entity do a less-than-satisfactory repair to hold down the expense. In my experience, a price reduction sufficient to have the issues addressed to the buyer's satisfaction is the best remedy, but the buyer and seller often have wildly different notions of what is satisfactory, and what it should cost to achieve.

Assuming buyer and seller can agree on a final price that accounts for repairing serious issues the survey has brought to light, the sale is almost always consummated. If it is not, and it is due entirely to the buyer getting cold feet, the buyer will lose his 10% earnest money deposit.

I wouldn't recommend that any buyer, no matter how experienced, ever seriously consider purchasing a vessel "long distance." Assuming that a vessel suits one's purposes on the basis of a few photos and a brief description of the vessel's condition is an almost certain path to disappointment. I would never make an offer on anything that I hadn't seen with my own eyes, nor anything that I hadn't been given the opportunity to thoroughly crawl through, over, under, into (you get the point) for as long as I felt I needed before making an offer.

There is a lot to consider in purchasing a vessel, but it isn't really a lot different than buying a used car: Don't fall in love with anything, always be suspicious, always have an "out," have a surveyor (mechanic) whom you trust and always hold up your end of the deal.

You might still get stuck with a lemon, occasionally, but it won't be for lack of acting rationally.

TaoJones
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Old 20-04-2009, 11:21   #4
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Ha ha, my dear friend, please let me enlighten you on the French farmer bit!

I am originally Welsh (the small, but perfectly formed country stuck on the western side of England!). I moved here to France and bought a small farm just over three years ago. Therefore, English is my maternal language.

Nice cat. I did look at a few but unfortunately way out of my price bracket!

Thanks for the buying info, that straightens things out for me.

Best,

Darren.
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Old 20-04-2009, 11:39   #5
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TaoJones,

Many thanks for that comprehensive response. It has opened my eyes. The 10% up front is no surprise and wouldn't put me off as that is how we operate here in France when it comes to buying houses.

One final question: Are all surveyors independent, unbiased towards both parties and to be trusted? The reason I ask is that I know someone here, another British chap, who surveys boats all over the world. I would like his input as I could trust him though it would mean two lots of flight tickets and hotel bills. But, if surveyors are independent and held accountable for their verdicts then is it worth it?

Thanks,

Darren.
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Old 20-04-2009, 12:02   #6
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Originally Posted by LBH49520 View Post
TaoJones,

Many thanks for that comprehensive response. It has opened my eyes. The 10% up front is no surprise and wouldn't put me off as that is how we operate here in France when it comes to buying houses.

One final question: Are all surveyors independent, unbiased towards both parties and to be trusted? The reason I ask is that I know someone here, another British chap, who surveys boats all over the world. I would like his input as I could trust him though it would mean two lots of flight tickets and hotel bills. But, if surveyors are independent and held accountable for their verdicts then is it worth it?

Thanks,

Darren.
If hiring such an individual would make you most comfortable, Darren, then don't hesitate to do so. I don't think it's necessary to go to such extraordinary expense, however. There are competent surveyors to be found most everywhere boating is a serious pasttime.

Perhaps I'm overly cautious, but I would never accept a broker's recommendation when it comes to hiring a surveyor - not because the recommended individual might not be any good (he might even be the best), but because the appearance of a conflict of interest is so obvious.

If the vessel you wish to have surveyed is at some distance from you, and you don't know any surveyors there, try to get a recommendation from someone you trust. I can well-imagine that your surveyor-friend might know of a good surveyor near the vessel if he's been surveying for some time. And, even if he doesn't know of someone, he would be your best bet for putting the word out through his contacts and finding someone for you.

Are all surveyors independent, unbiased and to be trusted? Not if they're human! Seriously though, most surveyors will do the best job they're capable of, because their continued success depends on their reputation. Never doubt that the surveyor you hire is working for you. That doesn't mean you have to be an overbearing p***k, but that you want him to place your interests above all others.

The written report he will create for you is the basis for additional negotiations with the seller, so you want it to be as professional and thorough as it can be. It is your ammunition for grinding the price down to a level that is acceptable to you. As Rick mentioned, it's a buyer's market for vessels these days (I maintain it always is, but there is no question that it is now), so don't hesitate to make ridiculous low-ball offers, and grind, grind, grind the price down to what makes you happy.

Good luck.

TaoJones
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Old 20-04-2009, 12:25   #7
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It is in the last sentence wherein lies the rub; ‘held accountable” they are not, and like lawyers they will have very very small print in their agreement to exonerate them completely for making any error or not spotting the obvious. You have the answer already if you know a surveyor who you feel you can “trust.” How good he is may be another matter. Ask him if he knows about the type of boat you fancy, and if he says no, then you have a problem. In which case, maybe he knows another surveyor who does specialize in the type.
TaoJones’ explanation is sound, to which I would only add: After you and your surveyor have inspected the boat, and found it to your liking, employ a broker to buy it for you, because since you are so green as to be almost Irish, he will probably save you money and might also come with you on your sea trial.
It might help if you were to tell us the type of boat you are planning to look at, and the asking price. There are probably owners on this forum who will be able to advise what to look for, etc.
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Old 20-04-2009, 14:09   #8
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I would hire a surveyor where the boat is, if I could find a good one. This board is pretty good for finding one, the best way I have found is to ask local sailors.
I just finished up with the survey/bid process. Although it was initially awkward, and I had to walk away from deal, I learned a lot about the boat type I wanted and found some good honest brokers and surveyors.
I would recommend learning as much about the model you want as possible, then hiring a broker that knows your type of boat. Do not let him talk you into anything you don't want. Be prepared to walk if they try to get you into a boat or price range that you do not want.
The survey cost $$. Buy a book on evaluating the type of boat you want, and get good at "surveying" them yourself. Then when you are sure you have a good one, make an offer and make it contigent on the survey and sail trial.
If you get a good surveyor, he will show you stuff you never dreamed of that needs to be repaired. Use this to work with the owners and arrive at a new lower price that takes all repairs into account.
Then get the boat of your dreams for less!
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Old 20-04-2009, 16:06   #9
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Cheap air fares?

If you know a surveyor that you can trust and the additional cost is not too large than I'd use him/her.

I've had experience where what the surveyor told me was not as important as what they didn't (and should have).
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Old 20-04-2009, 19:49   #10
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[quote=Jolly Roger;275731]\ Ask him if he knows about the type of boat you fancy, and if he says no, then you have a problem.

I disagree. Most good (not all) surveyors that have been in the business for a number of years can survey most any boat. The only restriction might be maximum size they are comfortable with. IMHO, all boats are pretty much the same from a surveying view. They all have hulls, bulkheads, decks, engines, fuel tanks, batteries, shore power, water systems, electronics, etc, etc, etc...
The only difference is that some have masts and sails and all those "strings" to pull. This does intimidate some surveyors that don't know anything about sailing, and they only do power boats. But a surveyor that has a sailing background can go back and forth very easily, and you get better at it the longer you have been surveying. The differences in sailboats is minor among the brands. There are some differences in catamarans versus monohulls, but you still end up looking at the same things in a cat, just more area to cover.
So that's my opinion for what it's worth, I go back and forth between power and sail, 20 footers and 80 footers, monohull and catamaran, recreational and commercial, fiberglass and steel, aluminum, and wood; and I don't take a job unless I know I can do a good job inspecting the vessel.
Sorry if I was a little long winded, and no offense is intended, but that comment is just wrong in my opinion.
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Old 20-04-2009, 20:17   #11
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I've been in real estate for 30 years. I always advise my clients to hire a building inspector from out of the area and emphasize that you want every nitpicking fault found.

If you hire a surveyor near the boat he will invariably know the broker(s) involved. If he's too tough on the boat he stands to get a reputation among the local brokers as a "deal-killer" which can have an adverse affect on his future income.

It's worth paying some travel expenses for an unvarnished opinion.
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