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Old 16-06-2016, 04:19   #1
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do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Found an ideal boat for our use in Miami (We're in NC)
Flew down and inspected it, looked good. Put in an offer, it was accepted!

We are getting ALL the surveys, and we have engaged a buyers broker to facilitate the transaction.
This is our first brokered boat, each previous purchase has been between individuals.

Both the selling broker and our buying broker ask if we're going to use a documentation agent. (the boat is USCG documented, and we will do same)

-=-
Their value proposition:
  • "Our USCG package price is $695.00 and includes:
  • Lien searches on the vessel with its registry as well as the local DMV if in a tax state
  • Lien searches on the seller UCC & public record searches for liens, bankruptcy, divorce, etc.
  • Prepare all buyer & seller documents
  • Seller documents include a separate Warranty of Title instrument that is expanded language (vs. the few lines on a standard bill of sale) to cover unrecorded liens, duty, taxes, etc.
  • If there is a current mortgage on the vessel we obtain the payoff letter with wiring instructions for the broker. After closing we go after the bank for the satisfaction of mortgage instrument for discharge & record it
  • Transfer USCG Documentation change of name & hailing port if needed
  • Provide a temporary running package after closing
  • Loads of little items
  • Confirm good standing & incumbency of all companies, trusts, estates, powers of attorney;
  • Make sure we have a Bill of Sale with price for certain states requiring this;
  • For vessels in Florida we assist with reporting removal of the vessel to the Dept of Revenue."
-=-

It kind of feels like a title company in a real estate transaction.

Now, I dislike dealing with govt. agencies as much as the next person, and I am surely prone to a mistake or an oversight being busily employed and out-of-state. So I guess this is akin to the DIY or hire a pro question.

Q: Is a Marine Documentation Agent something you used when you bought?
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:55   #2
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

No. The process is very simple, they are available by phone for questions, and all the forms you need are on the website, including their preferred bill of sale.
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Old 16-06-2016, 05:14   #3
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

We didn't use one and our purchase was a little more complicated than yours. We purchased our boat from someone who owned it for one month(they didn't document) The previous owner had had it documented. The process was very easy, done online, and took about an hour to find, fill out paperwork, and pay. It did take about 6 months to get our certificate from the USCG.
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Old 16-06-2016, 05:30   #4
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

We used a documentation agent. While the process is "simple" the agents services save loads of time and a little stress to ensure everything is done right. The USCG part is super duper easy and not where the value of the agent lies. The biggest value is in making sure all your ts are crossed and is dotted. Also in using an agent we had our USCG certificate in about 2 weeks. All of our closing is complete and relevant papers in hand. Nothing left to do. We did skip escrow by paying in cash "on the spot" as we were very comfortable with the seller. With everything else we have to do, using an agent took a load off. Im glad we did it.
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Old 16-06-2016, 06:40   #5
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sea Dreaming View Post
We used a documentation agent. While the process is "simple" the agents services save loads of time and a little stress to ensure everything is done right. The USCG part is super duper easy and not where the value of the agent lies. The biggest value is in making sure all your ts are crossed and is dotted. Also in using an agent we had our USCG certificate in about 2 weeks. All of our closing is complete and relevant papers in hand. Nothing left to do. We did skip escrow by paying in cash "on the spot" as we were very comfortable with the seller. With everything else we have to do, using an agent took a load off. Im glad we did it.
Was your boat documented previously?
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Old 16-06-2016, 06:44   #6
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

As stated above, the USCG Doc Center is pretty simple process for recreational vessels. However, it sounds like this is a rather expensive purchase and the quoted price for what is essentially equal to a residential "title search" and "title insurance" is going to be a very small percentage of the purchase price for a large helping of peace of mind. Doc center will catch any outstanding "preferred mortgages" or other gross liens, but will not show any other civil liens against the present owners which may cloud the title.

Also it is quite common for a ships mortgage to be paid off and never reported to the Doc Center. At that point the CG will not move forward with the transfer. An agent who deals with the Center will have a much easier time dealing with this and similar issues.

While I ran my own documentation (Simple sale and initial Documentation), if I were in your shoes I would probably accept the bid for documentation and title search services. What is it, less than 1/2% of the purchase price? Cheap insurance and one less headache.

Your mileage may vary...
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Old 16-06-2016, 06:49   #7
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vjm View Post
Was your boat documented previously?
Yes. Documented at the time of purchase.
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Old 16-06-2016, 06:55   #8
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sea Dreaming View Post
Yes. Documented at the time of purchase.
If your boat was documented before you purchased then the two week turn around time to transfer documentation is pretty normal (AFAIK) and not a function of using an agent. Documenting for the first time is a much longer wait.
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Old 16-06-2016, 07:12   #9
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Congrats!

$700 seems a bit high. For my first (and only) boat, I paid about $300 for the documentation and $55 for the title. The service wasn't even local. I used New England Marine Documentation at www.boatdoc.com. The broker worked closely with them so I hardly had to do a thing, but sign a few forms.

As others have said, the actual documentation part doesn't take much time. Kind of like filling out a tax form; a little tedious, but if you slowly read everything literally, you'll figure it out. Costs $84 and you'll wait a few months (reminds me that I need to follow up on my name change I put in two months ago...).

Next time around, I'd be more inclined to document the boat myself and pay for the lien and title service. Or I'll take the easy way out and pay for everything. Buying a boat already imparts stress, so why not reduce it a little? You have plenty of other worries to address!

If its an older boat, I bet the chances of a lien directly on it are low. I wonder what one would do if there is a lien against the seller? Thinking off the top of my head, the creditor probably would be happy if the boat is sold for cash at a fair price. It you're getting it for a steal, I'd be more worried that the creditor would call foul.
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Old 16-06-2016, 09:36   #10
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Yes, it is like a title search for real estate.

Mostly it can be done by yourself if you take the time and complete the forms. If you don't want to be bothered, then the service is well worth it.

If you have a mortgage on the boat, the bank may well have something to say about who does the documentation. Most likely they will want it done professionally, to make sure all the ts are crossed and is dotted. After all it is their money at risk.
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Old 16-06-2016, 09:45   #11
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

We did NOT use an agent. Yep, a little cumbersome to figure out on my own, but the process went very very well. The USCG was helpful when I called with a question.

Our transaction was "medium" complex. Not super straightforward, but nothing weird.

Overall it worked perfectly fine. Cost was something less than $200 (I think). Might just as well save the $500 and put it towards something else you're new boat will CERTAINLY need.
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Old 16-06-2016, 09:46   #12
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

For your future peace of mind do hire an agent so you are not sorry later. I have always utilized one and all is good
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Old 16-06-2016, 09:49   #13
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundWave View Post
Found an ideal boat for our use in Miami (We're in NC)
Flew down and inspected it, looked good. Put in an offer, it was accepted!

We are getting ALL the surveys, and we have engaged a buyers broker to facilitate the transaction.
This is our first brokered boat, each previous purchase has been between individuals.

Both the selling broker and our buying broker ask if we're going to use a documentation agent. (the boat is USCG documented, and we will do same)

-=-
Their value proposition:
  • "Our USCG package price is $695.00 and includes:
  • Lien searches on the vessel with its registry as well as the local DMV if in a tax state
  • Lien searches on the seller UCC & public record searches for liens, bankruptcy, divorce, etc.
  • Prepare all buyer & seller documents
  • Seller documents include a separate Warranty of Title instrument that is expanded language (vs. the few lines on a standard bill of sale) to cover unrecorded liens, duty, taxes, etc.
  • If there is a current mortgage on the vessel we obtain the payoff letter with wiring instructions for the broker. After closing we go after the bank for the satisfaction of mortgage instrument for discharge & record it
  • Transfer USCG Documentation change of name & hailing port if needed
  • Provide a temporary running package after closing
  • Loads of little items
  • Confirm good standing & incumbency of all companies, trusts, estates, powers of attorney;
  • Make sure we have a Bill of Sale with price for certain states requiring this;
  • For vessels in Florida we assist with reporting removal of the vessel to the Dept of Revenue."
-=-

It kind of feels like a title company in a real estate transaction.

Now, I dislike dealing with govt. agencies as much as the next person, and I am surely prone to a mistake or an oversight being busily employed and out-of-state. So I guess this is akin to the DIY or hire a pro question.

Q: Is a Marine Documentation Agent something you used when you bought?
Don't bother. We used one years ago in FL, and the day AFTER we closed they told us that we could NOT document our boat for coastwise trade. Useless... it is simple enough- here is the US coast guard website: https://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/
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Old 16-06-2016, 10:03   #14
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

The paperwork may be easy - that's not my biggest concern. If the previous owner, or the one before him, and so on (up to a statute of limitation time limit and even old liens can be renewed. Varies from state to state) has a judgement or tax lien, those liens attach to the boat when that person owns it. If the person already owns the boat and gets a judgement or tax lien it attaches as well. When said person sells the liens don't get removed - you buy the boat with the liens attached too.

So my big worry isn't paperwork - it's a clear title. That's why on houses there is title insurance (among other reasons like being sure the house is really on the land you purchased.

I'd want whoever was searching the past history of liens, judgments, and mortgages to located in the area the transactions takes place - not in another state where the laws may be different.

I don't know if there's even such a thing as title insurance on a boat - but I'd buy it if there was. The older the boat, the more owners there have been, the greater the exposure for this kind of problem.

I've been shopping for a boat and came close to an accepted offer then discovered the owner had only owned the boat for a month before putting it up for sale and then didn't record any transfer documents.

It felt like the perfect scenario for a title problem. So I didn't complete the sale.

To me, the paperwork is the minor issue - clear title is the major issue and with boats costing as much as houses and even treated as such for some tax purposes it seems like there must be title insurance available.

So... who has that answer?
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Old 16-06-2016, 10:18   #15
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Re: do I need a Marine Documentation Agent?

I would shop around on price. as stated the forms are available on line and simple to fill out. If you have a valid reason you can request Priority processing of your documentation. I had a valid need and my application for transfer of documentation was acted on within a week of emailing to the USCG doc center. This is the website for doc center USCG National Vessel Documentation Center - Links Page. Also, if you are using a company to hold your payment in escrow or trust you may be required to use them for the documentation. It would be typical for the seller to pay the escrow or trust fees and you pay the documentation fees. As you are using a broker they may have a escrow account that you can use to handle the payment.
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