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Old 13-02-2012, 17:34   #1
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Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Hello Everyone,

I was hoping to start a parallel thread to the one about the state of the market specifically addressing everyone's experience negotiating the best possible deal in a "buyer's market".

My wife and I are our finding ourselves in our early forties with little to show for having worked hard all our lives other than an overwhelming desire TO GET OUT THERE NOW! while we are still young enough to enjoy it.

We don't have huge chests of treasure but are in search of a worldly little boat to love and cherish and call our own. Something along the lines of a 35' to '40' fiberglass production boat, the kind that is likely too old to qualify for financing. I think there are a thousand of them out there.

Suffice it to say we are cash buyers looking to capitalize on the wealth of skills acquired through said lifetimes of hard work. We have been looking seriously in the past six months, having made two offers without success.

My first love was a true classic, I really invested myself in the offer. I developed a detailed budget including a breakout of realistic labor rates and materials. The broker presented this budget to the owner along with my offer.

In the end we couldn't see eye to eye and the boat is still out there. I think the owner appreciated the fact that I cared as much as I did and I will say that he did counter my offer with a number that was a solid 30% off of his asking price.

The next boat was another darling, expect of course for leaky port lights and hatches which had extensively rotted through the pretty bits of wood along with some more serious parts. Don't forget new rig or the blister peel/barrier coat jobs! Etc.

I felt bad for the owner. He just didn't get it, if he donated the boat he couldn't get more than a $12k write-off. The broker dropped the listing afterwards because mine was the best offer the guy would ever get.

I was the guy with the resources to fix the boat and make it wonderful again, I cared. It didn't matter. Even though the broker dropped the listing I still had the owners name from the paperwork. I looked him up on the interwebs and gave him a call recently.

He told me he was still interested in selling. He didn't sound very convincing when he told me he thought the market would get better. At which point I mainly feel bad because I know the boat is spending the winter rotting with water in the bilges.

I read in the other post about the Bad Market where someone mentioned they thought that 95% of the listings on Yachtworld were by people who didn't want to sell their boats.

After the holiday break we are back on the boat quest. Unlike before, we have nailed down a particular boat design of which I could find more than twenty listings through the usual suspects; Yatchworld,, and even Craigslist.

I am very interested to know what experiences others have had bargain hunting in "a buyer's market" and specifically what percentages below asking people are offering.

As it seems to me, at best 1% of boats come on the market at numbers that would garner enough offers to demand an offer over asking price from a serious buyer, doesn't everyone automatically offer below asking?

Also, since I understand there are a lot of sailors out there who really aren't part of the one percent, many of whom are upside down on their mortgages at home, I am interested to hear from those of you who are selling your boats.

I can't imagine having to give up something you love so much for so much less than you may have put into her.


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Old 13-02-2012, 17:52   #2
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Re: Bad Market, Good Negotiation Strategies?

I've said it before on here--offer what you think the boat is worth to you and if the owner doesn't accept it move on. There is no set percentage, because boat condition, the owner's asking price, and many other things are so highly variable. I try to purchase the boat at a fair price for me, and I tell the owner that up front. Sometimes it means paying asking price or nearly, other times it means 50% of the asking price. I'm not out to break the owner down somehow to the point they are going to give the boat away. To me that is not what I am out to do--it is to find the right boat at the right price. Also, you can do better price wise if you have an open mind. I have never set out with a particular boat in mind, but rather a particular type of boat. If you are locked into a particular boat your options are drastically reduced. If at all possible, find the owner and talk to him/her directly--they are usually much more willing to deal than a broker who makes his/her money as a percentage of the selling price.

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Old 13-02-2012, 17:55   #3
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Re: Bad Market, Good Negotiation Strategies?

I bought a 44' my that was listed for $109 then reduced to 80k I paid $45k the former owned owed 80k
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Old 13-02-2012, 18:16   #4
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Re: Bad Market, Good Negotiation Strategies?

Bought a Defever in Augs last year, fixed a messed up engine(120 lehman) and some exterior bright work paid 54,000 sold 2 weeks ago for 96,000, now we are looking for a Motorsailor in the 100,00 to 125,000 range You can buy for GOOD prices right now if you have cash or really good credit LOL the deals are out there don't be worried about low balling the price cus theres not all that many flush folks looking either !! So go look and make a stupid low bid what do you have to lose ?? just my 2 cents Bob and Connie
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Old 14-02-2012, 08:35   #5
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?


I am in the same position as the OP. Not really a haggler at heart, but the scale of dollars we are potentially talking here, I think I need to give it a good shot. Here is my thinking so far.

Step one for me was to identify a number of different types of boats. A C&C Landfall 39 was the first boat we set foot in that hit a few key things for us: massive headroom to hold me (6'4") and relatives (taller!), and a cabin layout that made sense for lots of friends and family participation. That boat and another 6 months of reading and research identified a number of boats that are similar: Whitby 42 and Brewer derivatives, CSY 44, Reliance 44, Spencer 1330 and others. I am not falling in love with any one boat design, but rather have identified a number of boats that get a passing grade of 50% (There are no boats for anyone that score higher than 70% I figure, that compromise thing).

Step two is now to somehow physically get on examples of these boats just to make sure of key things like the actual headroom matches the "internet" headroom, and in general just confirm the theoretical ideas from my readings.

Step three has not yet been done. Make some lowball offers and be prepared to walk away. Might be best to not start with an offer on the favoured design. Do this 3 or 4 times and your reputation will start to preceed you. Brokers will know your offer is your offer, you don't fall in love with a particular boat, and the seller can then decide if they want to sell to you or not.

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Old 02-03-2012, 21:59   #6
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You have to remember a few things. First, boat prices are set by precedent-not realistic valuations. Its all about what the last one sold for. If some fool pays a premium for a vessel, suddenly they're all worth more. Ive seen used boats in my 2000 BWS mag that are selling for more today than then! It makes no sense to me and most others, but thats the boating market.

Next, most brokers rep sellers, not buyers. They want to get the most possible. They also keep values artificially inflated in many cases in my and others opinions - including many brokers I know. I think a good honest broker is critical, but get a good one. They are very hard to find, but will help you cut through the market BS.

Finally, the boat you really want will naturally be 'hot' - at least until you want to sell it. Then you can plan on the market for it being soft!

The people who suggest offering what the boat is worth to you are absolutely correct. Don't be afraid to offend a seller, and being in the true power position means having the ability to say
No! If the seller wants to sell they will consider your offer. The problem is that many boats are sitting and not being maintained or used. That kills boats! Dockage, insurance, and maintenance are very expensive to sellers as well.

In the end its about doing whats right for you and your wife. You're not going to be happy with a bad deal. I think you'll be surprised of the motivated sellers out there. Whats more, the economy is not getting better. The sellers who want to wait this one out have another 5-7 years to wait! Its only the end of the beginning- not the beginning of the end as far as the economy is concerned. Buyers are mot falling out of the sky these days.

Ive owned 6 boats. I know what Im willing to pay before I pursue the boat and never go higher. I am willing to walk away from a bad deal for me.

Good luck!
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Old 02-03-2012, 22:45   #7
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Hi Delancy,
I am looking to sell my present boat mono-hull fixer upper,,and buy a multi-hull fixer upper.
So i am hitting the problem from all sides.
Personally i agree that Brokers keep the prices way to high for sake of their percentage. i think this doesn't do any one any good at all,,least of all the owner.
I find that i cannot move much further on the purchase of my newest project,,until i can sell my present project..and the market is really slow right now.. especially where i am as we are still getting Snow,,Brrrrrrrr....
Have you tried Boat angel yet?? they get donated boats and resell them,,,i have seen some really interesting boats on their site.
Good Luck to ya Matey!!!
"The Truth Shall set you Free....But First it will Piss You Off"
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Old 02-03-2012, 22:56   #8
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

From the seller's side: we've listed our boat for 10% below the going rate for this boat/year even though it's very well equipped and in splendid condition. The idea is to sell quickly. So far the best offer has been 35% below our asking price and we're seriously considering it even though our broker is advising us to wait.

There are too many boats on the market and not enough offers - that might mean that you'd be the first person to make an offer on a particular boat this year.

Don't look at the asking price, think about what you'd be willing to pay for it, and go!
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:16   #9
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Look for one that has had money spent on it and then has been neglected/left to sit, BECAUSE these are usually the ones that will NEGOTIATE. Either interest has been lost or the wife/partner or bank has said LIQUIDATE.

If you are getting really serious do some due diligience on the boat and check the mortgage value on it BECAUSE quite often in todays market it is the banks that own the boat.

Check past tracks on the GPS for activity. Log book, visitors book whatever clues you can note.

Then make an offer BUT the strongest part of a negotiation is to be able to make the offer that suits YOU and be able to walk away, many a time you will get THAT phone call....

"Political correctness is a creeping sickness that knows no boundaries"
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Old 03-03-2012, 02:09   #10
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Its interesting how much the value changes when you learn the exact reason for sale itself.

I narrowed my choices down to one boatyard, did a ton of research on the problems to look for, memorized production variations, noted hull numbers that had changes over the years in design and watched the market for a year before actually setting out to find my perfect ocean lady.

With that ammunition it was easy to spot problems and "Owner Modifications" just with pictures alone. I felt confident to be able to ask for a price for what I considered would be reasonable with additional reductions that required my own capital to finance in repairs.

However, what I found was that even the most amazing deals on vessels that required a lot of work were almost impossible to close because the owner had some personal invested interest that he or she couldnt let go of. On the other hand the more expensive, "perfect" vessels had sellers that wanted to get the sale done as soon as possible, but would not go down on price.

I had a broker come back to me once telling me that my list of issues were equivalent to "Asking for a reduction of price on a house, because you didnt like the drapes" My list on that one included teak deck boards so loose you could pull them up with your fingers. After a ton of back and forths it became evident that the seller in fact, didnt want to sell at all, just as the OP has stated.

This is a bit sad, but finally the one I was ready to sign a check for had a seller that recently had heart issues and his doctor said he should never sail again. He was so protective over her, he didnt allow pictures to be taken, as if I was stealing her soul somehow by doing so. It was a fantastic deal, but while driving to see her, some watchful buyers online wired a deposit and signed a contract so I was out of luck. Never the less the seller refused to let anyone sail her for a sea trial without him present, but he was bed ridden. It was exciting in terms of the numbers, as it was just So many more things on the refit list I could spend money on, but heartbreaking that man was forced to sell her for hospital bills.

Understandably so, people love their boats, in some cases they are their significant others, their escape, their dreams all encapaslated in fiberglass, wood and canvas. The trick is finding someone that really just sees it as an asset they want to get rid of no matter the cost and avoiding those that need the money but can't let go.

After 2 years of looking I still haven't found the right combination, a good boat and a motivated seller.
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Old 03-03-2012, 03:53   #11
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

When we found the 1977 Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 she had been sitting for 8 years going to pot. Owner was asking 44 thou. Using my own broker we offered 24 thou. with a survey and sea trial. After the survey I presented him with a new offer of 20 thou. and a list of what the survey found and a cost estimate from a local boatyard. He fumed and cussed but we waited him out and bought the boat for the 20 thou. My advice is to find a good broker you can work with.
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Old 03-03-2012, 04:42   #12
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Just a comment to all those suggesting low ball offers . . . if you are intending from the start to make a low ball offer, and you expect to take seller's time and energy and access to his boat, I urge you to communicate your intent (to offer well below the asking) to the seller early in the process. I personally feel that is the ethical and honorable approach. Remember the golden rule. Ethics and honor may be old fashion and not in vogue in a 'buyers market' but I hope we as all sailors together can be decent with each other.

There is an asking price, and my personal feeling is that you are being deceptive if you look over the boat with no intend ever to offer anywhere near that price, without mentioning that to the seller at the start.

Some sellers just want an offer and they will let you know that - "sure please look at the boat and let me know" while many others have made a serious calculation about their asking price and want/will only take something near it. You can determine which is which early and not waste your or their time.
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Old 03-03-2012, 04:59   #13
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Right on "ICE" we cant forget that profiting from someones misery can revisit us in the future. For someone to win,,their must always be someone at a loss, there but for the grace of god, go i!!
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:17   #14
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Again ditto on Ices post. There is negotiating and then there are attempts to take advantage of people. Buyers are no more concerned about getting a good price than the sellers are. What's worse, the person who bought a boat from a widow for $35K less than the value or the unsuspecting buyer who paid $35 more than they should?
It's too bad that ethics and honor don't rule the day.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:24   #15
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Re: Bad Market - Good Negotiation Strategies ?

Originally Posted by ice View Post
There is an asking price, and my personal feeling is that you are being deceptive if you look over the boat with no intend ever to offer anywhere near that price, without mentioning that to the seller at the start.
You're being too sensitive. It is a business deal, not a date. Is the seller being 'deceptive' if he lists a boat at much higher price than he will take? Look at whatever boats are on the market. Make offers at prices that work for you. The seller will decide if it works for them.

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