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Old 02-11-2006, 09:45   #1
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Why Survey?

A discussion in another thread prompted me to ask this question....

Common logic says that if you're about to sink many thousands into a boat then you should pay to have a pre-purchase survey done. However, my personal experience with surveyors has led me to the following questions:

a) With all the legal disclaimers and "I'm taking your money but won't be responsible for things I missed" clauses in the survey contract, what am I really paying for? An afternoon talking to a guy who likes to get paid to look at boats?

b) I reviewed two different surveys for the boat I purchased... they are like night & day. Both were done by "certified" surveyors. I was present for one of these and actually pointed out things that the surveyor had missed. So.. again, what am I really paying for? An afternoon spent with a guy who likes to talk boats?

c) If you have a solid background in boats, and are reasonably well-educated regarding the BIG problem issues to watch for (like delamination), then why not skip the surveyor and do it yourself? Chances are the legal disclaimers would leave you high & dry anyway should you discover a major problem later on...

For these same reasons I've stopped paying for home inspections - I remodel them and move on to the next - because I am confident that I can do as good an inspection as almost anyone I can hire. True, my house won't sink - except maybe in Florida - but the idea is the same.

So what's your opinion? With all the "I'll take your money but no responsibility" clauses used by today's surveyors, does it make sense to hire one IF you know your way around boats? And if not, why not get one of your experienced friends to look at the boat with you?

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Old 02-11-2006, 09:59   #2
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Interesting thread, Mark. I think I agree with everything you say. I have read surveys in the purchase process and then did a walk-through and found things the surveyor missed. I also have looked at more than one survey on the same boat - and they got lots of things wrong, like displacement, boat length, tankage, etc... On a survey of my boat, they surveyor mistook the TV antenna half way up the mast for an EPIRB!

So... I think an experienced mariner who has really torn apart a boat and rebuilt it would probably armed with a moisture meter might do just as well or better.

I had also paid surveyors who were illiterate. All in all, I won't use one again - then again, I won't need to, but the point is valid. No offense to surveyors or their business - but it seems as though they might be best for people with less experience in some cases. It's a valuable service they provide and it's quite essential in many cases (espcecially if you get a loan).

But... if you're paying cash and you're used to boats - seems like doing it yourself is the way to go.
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Old 02-11-2006, 10:24   #3
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"On a survey of my boat, they surveyor mistook the TV antenna half way up the mast for an EPIRB! "

Sean, I have to thank you for inspiring the first good belly laugh I've had today. I thought about what you said, and an image popped up in my mind, of the same surveyor, mistaking the SAR response team for the Cable Guy and reaming them out for taking so long to fix the cable service.<VBG>

Surveyors are like any other "professional". You're paying for expertise, but doctors, mechanics, lawyers, any of 'em, you've really got to find one that comes highly recommended or else you are just shooting craps. Of course, if your insurer or finance *demands* a survey from a surveyor...you do the dance.

Otherwise, the value of a survey is in direct proportion to how much or how little you know about boats, and the ways folks may be concealing damage.
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Old 02-11-2006, 10:35   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markpj23
A discussion in another thread prompted me to ask this question....
a) ... what am I really paying for ...
A qualified surveyor brings a great deal of expert knowledge, and comprehensive experience to his profession. For these qualifications, I would pay him.

On the other hand, mere “talk” is (or should be) cheap.
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Old 02-11-2006, 10:41   #5
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Aloha Mark,
I agree with all you've said about surveys. They are only as good as the surveyor. From experience I know that lending institutions require them and insurance firms require them. I also believe that anyone new to boating and the mysteries of boatbuilding should hire a reputable surveyor. If a newbie wants to buy a boat I would always encourage them to hire a surveyor. Many experienced boatowners are overconfident in their abilities to spot hidden (by a unscrupulous seller) problems and, again, I would recommend a surveyor.
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Old 02-11-2006, 11:46   #6
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It sounds like the trick is not just finding a good boat but finding a good surveyor as well. The guy I use, and have used for years, is pretty good, but better at power boats than at sailboats. I can always find something he missed and he can always find a bunch of things I would miss (why I hire a surveyor in the first place.) We have one surveyor in the neighborhood that all of the brokers don't like because he is too tough when inspecting a boat. Also a surveyor who specializes in a brand or type of boat may be better than one the seller suggests. I'm tryng to track down a guy who is a C&C specialist now. I'm not a maritime lawyer but I handle a lot of contracts and I never worry about the escape clauses as much as some people do. In fact I can't recall ever getting a contract back from an attorney saying "you better X out that part where he says he's not responsible." Maybe an attorney can shed light on how much valuse those clauses really have. Anyway if I am buying a boat for a couple of thousand I will not use a surveyor, but if I plan on spend $100K plus I would seriously consider using two. And I'm not paying anyone who does not know what that big metal stick is for. Finally the last question to ask a surveyor is "how much do you charge".
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Old 02-11-2006, 14:20   #7
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If you intend to have insurance on your boat, you may find it difficult to get without a survey report from an accredited surveyor (regardless of whether the report is worth the paper upon which it is printed).
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Old 02-11-2006, 14:53   #8
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Originally Posted by Pura Vida
..We have one surveyor in the neighborhood that all of the brokers don't like because he is too tough when inspecting a boat.
All too true! When brokers lose deals due to survey results they tend to steer business to the ones that go easiest on their inventory. Another reason I'm asking "what am I really paying for...?"

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Old 02-11-2006, 15:01   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markpj23
... Another reason I'm asking "what am I really paying for...?"
Asking a Broker to recommend a Surveyor is something akin to asking the 18 year old clerc in a clothing store: "is it durable", or "does it look good on me"?
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Old 02-11-2006, 17:50   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markpj23
All too true! When brokers lose deals due to survey results they tend to steer business to the ones that go easiest on their inventory. Another reason I'm asking "what am I really paying for...?"

So don't ask the broker to recommend a surveyor. Ask the broker which surveyor he or she would NOT recommend (and why).

The broker I was dealing with when I bought my boat respectfully declined to recommend any surveyors when I asked. Good broker ;-)
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Old 03-11-2006, 12:07   #11
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The most important reason to hire a surveyor is for the objective opinion. If you are in love with a boat to the point that you would be willing to spen hundreds of dollars for a survey, you are probably already sold on it. Looking at a boat through that perspective will make it very easy to be unrealistic about the severity of problems that you do find. (It's just a little delamination, right?) True, there are good and bad surveyors, and even the good ones miss things. In our area, there is no real "certification" for surveyors. Anyone can hang their shingle and start doing surveyors. THe only thing remotely resembling a "certification" is a membership to NAMS or other nationwide association. For those who are familiar with my radio program, I did an interview with a local surveyor. I know him personally, and know his work. I asked him this exact question, and his answer was very much along these same lines. If you are asking this question, I would recommend listening to the show. It will give the surveyor's perspective.
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Old 03-11-2006, 13:05   #12
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the disclaimers are there to protect against unforseen & hidden things...
examples... the stuffing box was fine at time of survey, but it started to weep in the month it took to close the deal, not my fault.
Or the teak & holly sole looks great but I can't see the "greatbig-o"(thats an international southern unit of measurement) in the liner underneath. The owner would take a dim view of me ripping that up.
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Old 03-11-2006, 13:07   #13
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the insurance covers the lawyer who responds..."you moron, my client isn't liable because you can't dock your own da**boat without playing bumpercars."
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Old 03-11-2006, 13:10   #14
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ummm, seems as though my responses are out of sequence when I mash the send button, pay homage to the internet gawds.
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Old 03-11-2006, 13:20   #15
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Paul, it ain't just you. I just emailed Wheels, I'm pretty sure the wee silicon critters actually making the forum work, have gotten into the rum cask.

Which I wouldn't mind--except, they're NOT SHARING! :-(
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