I would have to agree with BULAWAYO - since I have been in the process of trying to sell my boat - the "quote" normal "unquote" procedure here on the east coast
and gulf coast
of the USA is:
1. Find a boat you are seriously interested in.
2. Contact the broker or seller to arrange a viewing or personal inspection
of the boat.
3. If the boat is what you think you want to buy, then through the broker or directly to the owner make an verbal offer on the boat, OR
3a. Have broker prepare a tentative "sales agreement" stating your desire to purchase the boat and include any "conditions" surrounding your offer like survey, sea trial, etc. This document is sent to the seller for acceptance or rejection.
4. At this point the broker may want a "deposit" to show good faith that you are serious about wanting to buy the boat. Then a "sales agreement" is drawn up normally containing provisions for a further inspection
(survey); launching or haul-out if necessary; and a provision for refund of the "deposit" minus any costs of launching/haul-out and sea trial costs should the boat fail to satisfy the buyer.
5. Some brokers verbally contact the seller with the offer if it is outside the price
range considered by the seller to be serious. Otherwise, the broker continues with the written sales agreement for final yea or nay from the seller.
So the paying of a "deposit" or whatever the broker wishes to call it - is dependent upon how serious the buyer is about getting the boat. The price
of the boat also plays a part in whether the offer is given verbally or by a written sales agreement. It can be done both ways and the broker rarely wants to go to all the work of preparing documents if the potential buyer is not seen as seriously interested.