Having just bought a boat 'sight unseen' aside from a lot of pics, I agree it goes against conventional wisdom. However sometimes it can be effective despite that. But there are risks.
First of all, this broker is reputable and very cooperative, I'm not sure if this is par for the course in this country, but my experiences with a couple of others suggest it may well be the case.
The boat is in Sydney
and I am in a country town in South Australia
. For various reasons, hopping on a plane and zipping over for a personal inspection
was not possible, though he encouraged me to do that before we finalised the deal or to get a survey
done. We tossed it around some at home and with the broker and did the deal. He offered to release me from the deal when it was clear I couldn't get there to pick it up, and refund my deposit. He had other buyers waiting of course. He then chased around and arranged a long term mooring
at cost, so we went ahead and paid the balance.
I did consider getting a survey
done, however this would be a significant percentage of the cost of the boat, so I considered whether that might be better spent fixing things I knew needed doing (and the broker told me what it needs without hesitation) and anything I might discover myself when I eventually got there. Combine the cost of a survey with a round trip ticket to Sydney
and it's quite a chunk of change. I'm not a frequent flyer and it's expensive to fly here, not to mention a 140 mile drive to Adelaide to get a flight. More expense. Is there some risk attached to this? Yes, of course there is. There might be some problem only a haulout and a full survey would disclose. Would it be cheaper than finding the problem myself and fixing it? Probably not. I can get it home and haul it out here for a fraction of the cost in Sydney and my time is my own. This is a $14,000 boat. For a 35' ketch
, that's not a lot of money. Most issues I can fix myself, just need to get it onto the hard and that's cheaper and easier here than a haulout just for a survey in Sydney, which can go upwards of a thousand dollars all up quite easily. I'd rather spend that on fixing what's wrong rather than paying someone just to tell me what's wrong. There's a definition of a consultant I'll share. A consultant is a man with a briefcase. You ask him the time, he takes your watch, tells you the time and keeps the watch. I'm not disparaging surveyors, but in many cases, they are only telling you what you can discern for yourself if you take the trouble to look and not ignore what you see. I elected to save the money for actually fixing things rather than paying for a list I can doubtless do myself once I get the boat home.
One important caveat. The risks of this method are proportional to the cost of the boat. The more expensive the boat the greater the risk of significant loss on a boat that looks ok, but turns out to be unsound and requires a lot of expenditure to make it sound. If the boat's dirt cheap
, you aren't likely to lose much on the deal in a worst case and if it turns out to be fine, you are in front. In our case, the main area of risk is the hulls state, but a ferro
that's been around 30 years is not likely to have structural issues that haven't surfaced long before now, so I'm not expecting any nightmares.
Will there be some things wrong that haven't been spotted by us or the broker? Probably. Does it make the boat not worth the price? Unlikely.
YMMV. I guess we'll find out how wise it was in early January when I go fetch it home. I'd also point out that the broker has gone 'above and beyond' over this, even to arranging another mooring
for me when we suddenly found we couldn't come straight over and get it. And then putting it on his own mooring when that fell through due to no fault of his. No names, but the seller basically reneged on a deal to pay his mooring fees
until I could come and fetch it, he didn't let the broker know this until after the deal was done which put us all in a difficult position. The broker moved the boat to his own mooring and used the money I'd offered the owner to hire another for his use until we collect the boat.
He's also been going out to the mooring every week or so and making sure all is well aboard and emailing me regularly. It's clear he's very busy and moves a lot of boats, and the deal is long done, so he's certainly looking after me well beyond what's required.
I'm not sure if I'm allowed to, but if I am, when this is over and I have picked up the boat, I'll mention his name here as someone that goes the extra mile.