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Old 07-11-2012, 06:49   #1
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Boat Buying Observations

So after a long process we finally bought the bigger boat, the one that will take us anywhere. Now is the time to find out all the surprises that were hidden or lied about. Like so many things in life it is only after you finish process that you better understand how to do it. So that others can benefit from my battles (and losses) here are a few ideas to think about:

1) Pre offer inspection list: After the first going over if you are serious you need to go back thru the boat with an inspection list. These are online and in books. Find one you like and modify it accordingly. The broker will hate it, they will may make fun of your, they say - "the surveyor does that, just make an offer". Bull. Get a little plastic hammer, a moisture meter, a flashlight and a checklist and go for it. Turn on every switch, open every drawer, look at every bit of hardware, etc.

2) Listing - Have the listing sheet in hand as you go over a boat. The trick they play is that if it is not on the list then it doesn't have to work. In our case that meant the autopilot, the engine hour meter, San X system and I am sure some surprises to come.

3) Surveyor - Don't count on them. Maybe I am just unlucky but the 3 times I have had a surveyor I felt they focused just on creating a document that listed everything. You need to take the lead on finding potential problems that you can then point out to the surveyor.

4) Broker - Don't let them distract you with personal chit chat or blather about the nice brass lantern. He is not your friend, he works for the seller. I wish there was a site where we could review brokers and rate them as to how big of a liar and bullsh***ers they are. This, like other review systems, would reward the less sleazy and provide some disincentive to liars.

So, good luck.
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Old 07-11-2012, 07:47   #2
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

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Originally Posted by Papakina View Post
...
3) Surveyor - Don't count on them. Maybe I am just unlucky but the 3 times I have had a surveyor I felt they focused just on creating a document that listed everything. You need to take the lead on finding potential problems that you can then point out to the surveyor.
...
One issue with using a local surveyor is that, while they may not work for the broker, they do work with them on a regular basis. Thus, they have a built-in dis-incentive to find too many problems in a survey. If they create too many problems then the broker won't recommend them again.

Secure your own surveyor, bring him in from another venue if you have to, and be there when he does the survey.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:47   #3
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

Good points. My comments from the other side below.

Quote:
1) Pre offer inspection list: After the first going over if you are serious you need to go back thru the boat with an inspection list. These are online and in books. Find one you like and modify it accordingly. The broker will hate it, they will may make fun of your, they say - "the surveyor does that, just make an offer". Bull. Get a little plastic hammer, a moisture meter, a flashlight and a checklist and go for it. Turn on every switch, open every drawer, look at every bit of hardware, etc.
Be careful with pressing this too far (no cranking up the engine, unrolling sails, going up the rig) - when you get adventurous that is what makes brokers uncomfortable. The rule of thumb for inspections is nothing is turned on. You can look, but please do not operate anything. Ask the broker to do so. When something breaks, it becomes a uncomfortable situation for the broker-seller relationship. The seller holds the broker rightfully responsible. You never know what will happen when you throw even a light switch on boats. Bring a flashlight for sure.

Quote:
2) Listing - Have the listing sheet in hand as you go over a boat. The trick they play is that if it is not on the list then it doesn't have to work. In our case that meant the autopilot, the engine hour meter, San X system and I am sure some surprises to come.
If something is not on the spec sheet that should mean that the seller wants to keep that item or forgot to list it. I don't think using an item being unlisted as an excuse for it not to work is fair. When you agree on an initial purchase price on a yacht, it is a good idea to have both parties (buyer and seller) go through the specs item by item and make sure everything on the listing goes with the boat and nothing is missing that could come into dispute later on. Then both parties should initial each page and include this paperwork as an addendum to the purchase agreement.

Quote:
3) Surveyor - Don't count on them. Maybe I am just unlucky but the 3 times I have had a surveyor I felt they focused just on creating a document that listed everything. You need to take the lead on finding potential problems that you can then point out to the surveyor.
Like in all professions there are good and not as good surveyors. I think you have had bad luck. There's a qualified surveyor on this forum who I have done deals with named Stetler if your purchase is in Florida. He'll be thorough.

Quote:
4) Broker - Don't let them distract you with personal chit chat or blather about the nice brass lantern. He is not your friend, he works for the seller. I wish there was a site where we could review brokers and rate them as to how big of a liar and bullsh***ers they are. This, like other review systems, would reward the less sleazy and provide some disincentive to liars.
To arbitrate this situation somewhat you choose a buyer-broker. Such a broker will act on your behalf instead of the seller. They will split the commission with the selling broker, so there is no extra charge for their service. It is a posible idea to shop for broker as well as a boat. You'll get the best service by being loyal to one broker who you are comfortable with instead of switching between many brokers.
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Old 07-11-2012, 12:12   #4
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

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Originally Posted by Papakina View Post
So, good luck.
I think all that very fair - if "you" don't know if something works (or is even for sale!) how can anyone expect someone else to put a value on something, let alone agree to buy! (boat in total / contents individually).

But to be fair to Brokers, you not being provided with an accurate list of items and / or details of what does and does not work is likely less to do with being deceptive more a case of laziness / ignorance / inability to get the Vendor to play ball - all compounded by the fact that many (most?) buyers can be bamboozled into accepting that position as "the norm" (which it may very well be! - but IMO does not make it any the more acceptable).

In practice might need a degree of flexibility on the timing of checking "everything" (by self)......could be a 3rd (or 4th! visit), or simply after having put in a ballpark offer (non-binding - and no cash deposit!), subject to everything actually working as claimed or assumed......after all, no point paying someone $500+ to check stuff which you can do yourself by simply switching things on and off etc.

Your money = your rules, if Broker or Vendor don't like 'em - move on (will soon enough find out if your rules are insane ).


But as you said, now you get to find out "the truth" - not everything will have come from deception, much from pig ignorance of Vendor........
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Old 07-11-2012, 13:31   #5
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

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Originally Posted by Richard Jordan View Post
Good points. My comments from the other side below.

Be careful with pressing this too far (no cranking up the engine, unrolling sails, going up the rig) - when you get adventurous that is what makes brokers uncomfortable. The rule of thumb for inspections is nothing is turned on. You can look, but please do not operate anything. Ask the broker to do so. When something breaks, it becomes a uncomfortable situation for the broker-seller relationship. The seller holds the broker rightfully responsible. You never know what will happen when you throw even a light switch on boats. Bring a flashlight for sure.

....
G'Day Richard

Thanks for that post. It is interesting to hear from someone on your side of the counter, and I think that your positions are reasonable in general.

But, I'm not comfortable with not being able to exercise all teh systems on a prospective purchase prior to hiring a surveyor. I've dealt with a good few brokers and looked at numerous prospective boats. In general, the brokers were not interested in spending the considerable amount of time required whilst I threw switches, checked lights, radars, radios, instruments and so on. This represents several hours of his time, away from the office and the telephone links to other customers. And yet, I am unwilling to assume that all those expensive systems actually work, nor am I willing to pay the hourly rate for a surveyor to check them (and they seldom do these tasks anyway).

So, what's the answer? How can the customer satisfy himself that things in fact work before forking out a lot of money? Cruising boats are ever more complicated, ever more expensive, but vendors are not willing to invest the time to properly represent their wares.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this subject, for you seem to be a responsible and well thought of broker.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 07-11-2012, 13:58   #6
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

OP: Great post and right on.
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Old 07-11-2012, 14:00   #7
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

Seems to me that if you're going to put an offer in a a larger boat, you should be in a position to know a LOT about boat systems. If you're not, then you have stumbled across the wrong thread!

There are tons of "How to Inspect a Sailboat" threads on the internet. This is but one of them: Boat Inspection Trip Tips - SailboatOwners.com

We spent a year in 1997-98 finding "our" new-to-us boat. We did a LOT of reading about systems and this particular boat. We saw some sadly neglected wrecks, did a survey on one and learned all is not necessarily what it looked like (i.e., the POs pointed out their great fridge, only it didn't work on DC current!!!), and passed on it, finally finding the one we bought. It was in superb condition.

But (here it comes), there were things to do on what was essentially a pristine yacht kept in superb condition by the PO:

--- horrible old charger
--- isolators
--- nice microwave but no inverter (this was in 1998, remember) - we bought and installed a Freedom 15
--- missing key in prop shaft coupling (we really had to get into details ourselves)
--- overheating engine (disclosed by PO) - simple solution: remove HX and clean out the port where the seawater dropped out - the tubes were just fine

So, no matter what you are looking at, YOU have to do the work and make the effort. We had a superb surveyor, who worked for us. After dissing the first boat he surveyed for us, when he saw the one we bought, he said: "Wow, where'd you find this beauty?" No broker involved.

But we still had work to do. That's the nature of used boats. Also, new ones, for that matter.

Good luck.
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Old 07-11-2012, 14:15   #8
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I've been through the buying process only twice but +1 to operating every device you possibly can. Why pay a surveyor to tell you to walk away from a boat when you could have answered the question for yourself? BTW, this is not to discourage the use of surveyors. I was extremely pleased with the surveyors who went through the two boats I bought. My point is that I was already reasonably confident I chose wisely before hiring them. I spent 5 or 6 hours with each of them during the surveys and learned a lot. I think the main message of this thread is that the buyer should play an active role in his search.
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Old 08-11-2012, 08:01   #9
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
So, what's the answer? How can the customer satisfy himself that things in fact work before forking out a lot of money? Cruising boats are ever more complicated, ever more expensive, but vendors are not willing to invest the time to properly represent their wares.
Maybe there are two classes of items to test if they work or not. In class one, we can put lights, instruments, radars, and the like. They either turn on and work or do not. They will not blow up or cause water to rush around inside the boat. In class two we put radios, engines, generators, sail systems, pumps, etc.

I would politely ask the broker to operate class one items. He / she probably will. Not having time for you just means the broker has incorrectly judged how good a client you are. This business is about quality over quantity, so if you are looking at the prospective yacht in good faith, the broker has simply underestimated you. Maybe sharing more information about yourself will help relax the brokersaurus rex animal you are dealing with.

Items in class two are for the survey. I know these are the expensive items that you want to avoid gambling away money for a survey on if they don't operate, The only situations where we would ever operate these systems without a deposit in place is if the owner is present or if the broker has a special arrangement with the owner ( ex. the broker is also the captain of the yacht ). Please put yourself in the seller's position. You might be alright with a seasoned sailor turning switches on, but I don't know if anyone would be comfortable with a novice fellow turning items on when he doesn't understand the complexities of modern systems.

Also, please note that turning stuff on leaves open the posibility of things being forgotten to turn off and left on.

An example of the type of issue brokers are trying to avoid might be with an air conditioning system whose pump is triggered by the salon unit. I do not want the prospect switching on the aft aircon unit while I am not looking and the salon unit is not running.

I'm open to suggestions if anyone has ideas on how to better arbitrate such situations. But at the moment, I act aggresively and firmly to protect my client's yacht from a prospect who doesn't respect the above guidelines.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:03   #10
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

A variety of ways to deal with the Class one and Class Two situation.

a) laugh.

b) if still interested in the boat, arrange another visit when someone is onboard who can show that the boat actually works (any reluctance to do that is a reliable indicator that would be wasting money on a survey).

Probably a combination of both .


Strange that it's always only a few dollars / pounds when it's coming out of someone else's pocket . But some of us do work hard for our money.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:18   #11
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

I'm a hard*ss I guess, but if a broker refuses to operate a system for me, I assume it is inoperable. My offering price, if I make an offer, would deduct the estimated cost to repair or replace that system. I also make this clear to the broker when I make the offer.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:26   #12
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

Richard,

I completely understand your position on the class 1-2 items and it was always an issue for me when I was selling boats. As you say, the class 2 items are the high dollar equipment that might be a deal breaker for the buyer. But they are also the items that have the higher risk of damage from being operated by someone that doesn't know how the owner has them set up. Is the cooling water seacock open? Is there a secondary or diverter valve in the system. Was the engine winterized, is there oil in the engine?

But from the buyers point of view why pay hundreds or thousands for a survey to find out there's a major problem with the engine or gennie that he could have found on before hand?

I think part of the solution from the broker's point of view is, as well as you can, qualify the buyer. Does he or she have the financing, ready to close the deal or just kicking tires? If I felt like I had a serious buyer ready and able to close a deal I would inform the seller and if the buyer wanted, try to arrange some way for the class 2 testing. I would not go around cranking engines and such without prior permission from the owner and a discussion on any quirks or special issues with their setup.

In general as a buyer I was not too concerned with the class 1 equipment. I considered anything more than a few years old as expendable anyway and if it worked great, if not it was not a deal breaker.
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Old 08-11-2012, 11:59   #13
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

I'm not so sure that "tire-kickers" aren't largely a myth. If you're taking the time to go look at a boat (or a house, or a car, for that matter), I think you are probably close enough to buying such a big-ticket item to be taken seriously.

I have looked at a couple of boats when I was sure that I was a "tire-kicker", but I ended up making an offer. Good brokers (or good owner/sellers) SELL. And that makes a huge difference.

When I first made a phone call to the broker of my current boat, I confessed to him that I was nothing more than a long-shot buyer who could not afford the asking price. He took me seriously, treated me courteously, and got me all the answers to my questions. I now own that boat.

I'm amazed how many brokers over the years have simply told me where the boat was docked or stored, given me the combination to the companionway hatch, and said to call them if I had any questions. I don't own any of those boats!
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Old 08-11-2012, 13:26   #14
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Jordan View Post
Maybe there are two classes of items to test if they work or not. In class one, we can put lights, instruments, radars, and the like. They either turn on and work or do not. They will not blow up or cause water to rush around inside the boat. In class two we put radios, engines, generators, sail systems, pumps, etc.

I would politely ask the broker to operate class one items. He / she probably will. Not having time for you just means the broker has incorrectly judged how good a client you are. This business is about quality over quantity, so if you are looking at the prospective yacht in good faith, the broker has simply underestimated you. Maybe sharing more information about yourself will help relax the brokersaurus rex animal you are dealing with.

Items in class two are for the survey. I know these are the expensive items that you want to avoid gambling away money for a survey on if they don't operate, The only situations where we would ever operate these systems without a deposit in place is if the owner is present or if the broker has a special arrangement with the owner ( ex. the broker is also the captain of the yacht ). Please put yourself in the seller's position. You might be alright with a seasoned sailor turning switches on, but I don't know if anyone would be comfortable with a novice fellow turning items on when he doesn't understand the complexities of modern systems.

Also, please note that turning stuff on leaves open the posibility of things being forgotten to turn off and left on.

An example of the type of issue brokers are trying to avoid might be with an air conditioning system whose pump is triggered by the salon unit. I do not want the prospect switching on the aft aircon unit while I am not looking and the salon unit is not running.

I'm open to suggestions if anyone has ideas on how to better arbitrate such situations. But at the moment, I act aggresively and firmly to protect my client's yacht from a prospect who doesn't respect the above guidelines.
G'Day Richard,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I agree that having an unknowledgeable customer running about the boat throwing switches could be a disaster, and share your concerns there. Yet in the case of an elaborate and complicated yacht, these systems represent a considerable portion of the vessels worth, and the repair or replacement of faulty ones can be very costly... enough so to be a deal breaker if discovered. And too, the broker himself may not be conversant with operation of the systems, nor will a surveyor necessarily be up to speed. The only person(s) who posses this info is the owner/operator, and they are not typically available, often even at the time of a survey. It's a real knotty problem for the buyer and broker to work out.

In our most recent fit of boat searching and purchasing we were looking in the 400K +/- region here in Australia. At that time we had been sailing for 30 years, full time cruising for 17 and owned a fairly competent cruising boat. We were cash customers, too. At the going rate of commission, the broker stood to earn on the order of 30 to 40 thousand dollars by selling us a boat... six months salary for many folks.

So, in the case of a boat that has passed the first stages of inspection successfully, is it unreasonable for us as serious buyers to expect the broker or his representative to both have the necessary knowledge to operate the systems and be willing to spend the time to do so? I don't know the answer to this question, but in our case we walked away from some brokerages vowing to not return because of the attitude of the broker.

On the other hand, one chap spent considerable time with us even though he knew (and said) that he didn't have the required boat available then. He spent the time in order to get a good idea of what we wanted (we had a printed sheet of criteria: features that were necessary to us, things that we'd like to have, things that we wouldn't accept and so on) so that he could usefully seek an appropriate boat for us. In the end he was not successful in finding our boat, so that he earned nothing by his efforts. However, when the time to sell Insatiable II comes, he will get the job. At that time we will supply a set of written instructions relative to the operation of all systems on the boat that vary from the simple on/off switch and hope that whoever shows the boat will take the time to read and understand them.

This has been a rather rambling post, Richard, but for most of us the purchase of a serious cruising boat is the largest outlay of cash in our lives and we worry a lot about doing it right! The selection process is complicated and can itself add a significant cost (surveyors fees, slipping, etc) and these concerns lead to passionate discussions here on CF.

Again, thanks for your input.

Cheers,
Jim
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Old 08-11-2012, 13:31   #15
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Re: Boat Buying Observations

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Originally Posted by Tia Bu View Post
I'm not so sure that "tire-kickers" aren't largely a myth. If you're taking the time to go look at a boat (or a house, or a car, for that matter), I think you are probably close enough to buying such a big-ticket item to be taken seriously.
Oh I assure you, they exist. I even had one couple admit that looking at boats was part of their FL vacation and that they had no intention of buying anything. Another guy told me that he liked looking at other boats to give him ideas on how to fix up his own.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tia Bu View Post
I have looked at a couple of boats when I was sure that I was a "tire-kicker", but I ended up making an offer. Good brokers (or good owner/sellers) SELL. And that makes a huge difference.

When I first made a phone call to the broker of my current boat, I confessed to him that I was nothing more than a long-shot buyer who could not afford the asking price. He took me seriously, treated me courteously, and got me all the answers to my questions. I now own that boat.
And there is the problem. Sometimes you just don't know if someone that shows up at your office is serious or not. You can make an evaluation based on past experience but you will never be right 100% of the time. I had customers I swore would never buy a boat that did and customers that I was certain were ready that didn't.

My policy was to always err on the side of the buyer. When not certain give them the benefit of the doubt but still respect the time and needs of the seller.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tia Bu View Post
I'm amazed how many brokers over the years have simply told me where the boat was docked or stored, given me the combination to the companionway hatch, and said to call them if I had any questions. I don't own any of those boats!
I had similar and worse experience when I bought my last boat. I was serious, had the money in the bank, and was ready to sign on the dotted line as soon as I found the right boat. Left messages with a number of brokers that never called back. Spoke with one broker and told him I was looking for a +/- 40' center cockpit cutter. He sent me a listing for an aft cockpit ketch.

Yes it is amazing. Makes me wonder how some of these guys make a living. I'm still buying and selling, just not boats, and I cannot count the number of times I have called suppliers for information on their product and never even received a call back.

Maybe I should get back in the boat business.
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