The Art of a Speedy SaleEvery sailor who calls a brokerage company to list his or her yacht for sale has the same agenda—sell my boat for the highest possible price in the shortest timeframe with the least amount of hassle. With that common theme comes a range of mistakes that work against the seller’s best interests. Here are 10 things you should do to sell your boat quickly while still fetching the best price.
HIRE AN EXPERT BROKER Good brokers sell boats; weak ones do not. Yacht brokering is a profession that requires a wide range of skills normally obtained over years of apprenticeship, often through the aegis of professional organizations such as the Yacht Brokers Association of America, the Florida Yacht Brokers Association or the California Yacht Brokers Association. Any truly successful North American yacht broker will be licensed and bonded in either Florida or California, and will likely carry the Certified Professional Yacht Broker credential from the Yacht Brokers Association of America. There is no question that you should only be taking advice from a broker who is in the market on a daily basis selling boats just like the one you are trying to sell. Familiarity matters—a broker who can’t confidently advise you on pricing or a potential buyer’s sailing requirements will be crippled when it comes to the final moments of a deal. As yacht sales are now a global business, look for a broker who works at a company that employs a wide range of marketing messages globally—boat show presentations, print, online and social media. Check the broker’s web presence, MLS listings and website traffic rankings to make sure your yacht has the best exposure.Make sure your broker is a part of a skilled team that can assist him when he or she is out of the office. Successful brokers travel often, so they need an expert team to support them when they are away.
PRICE YOUR BOAT TO SELL If you price your boat too high, she will not sell. A professional yacht broker should provide you with a report of recent sold figures for boats such as yours, how they differed, and why they sold for what they sold for. He should offer you his advice on a proper retail price for your boat in the current market based on her condition, equipment, year, configuration and location Many sellers wrongly assume that every upgrade they make to their yacht adds value; sadly, this is generally not the case. While there are many items that do in fact add value to boats for resale, they seldom fetch back what they cost to purchase or install.
PLACE YOUR BOAT WHERE SHE IS EASY TO SHOW AND SURVEY The time in which your boat sells is tied largely to her price and condition. But her location can also play a major role. In the U.S., the hot spots for selling are the major yacht cities of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Annapolis, Newport, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego. These cities are easy to get to and a buyer can often see several different yachts on the same visit. In the Caribbean we find that the Virgin Islands, St. Martin and Grenada are the best locations for sales. In Europe, the South of France and Turkey are easy to get to as well, warm enough year round to complete a sale, and have a wide range of large shipyards where a survey can be conducted. We always suggest that sellers allow us to produce a Catamaran Condition Index on their boat. With this report, we rate her overall condition in advance of a survey. Many buyers half a world away may be interested in your boat, but they have one lingering question: What condition is she really in? No buyer wants to take a long flight to learn that the boat he thought was a cream puff is really a worn-out charter boat. One issue that presents problems is when boats are located where it is not only hard to visit them, but hard to survey them. Have you ever tried to haul a 30-foot cat in Tahiti? Cannot be done. Unless there are facilities to haul and survey your cat easily near her listing location, selling her will be doubly complicated.
DESCRIBE YOUR BOAT IN CAREFUL DETAIL—INCLUDE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS Whether you list your boat for sale in a popular location for showings or an isolated one, it is vital that you work with your broker to provide him with every scrap of information you have on her history, good and bad. Buyers want to know everything they can—engine hours, gen hours, brand of electronics, recent refit history, damage history, where you sailed her, who has owned her, charter history, etc. Getting very detailed information is even more vital if you are selling a lesser known brand or a custom or semi-custom boat. Who built it? Who designed it? How was it built? Can I stand up in the saloon if I am over six-feet tall? There is no question that we always want to have as many pictures as we can get of any yacht we have for sale. Whenever a boat is close to us, we take them ourselves, and we also do a video walk-through. Hopefully these pictures do not show a boat that is cluttered. While I personally believe that pictures are seldom a good way to determine a boat’s condition, many people on the Internet tend to disagree. The requests we get for “more pictures, please” is rather constant, so my advice at the start to any seller is the more the merrier. Videos are even better, as they give a good idea of the flow of the yacht
DISCLOSE DAMAGE HISTORY UP FRONT It boggles my mind how often yacht sellers fail to disclose accident history. I was recently involved in a sale where a few moments before I planned to send the seller an offer from a buyer I asked him pointedly, “Before we go into a survey, is there anything you wish to disclose to me?” After a long pause he admitted that he had a serious collision with a barge and his entire port hull had to be rebuilt. Such “failure to disclose” is problematic for several reasons. The first is that any serious damage history is almost surely going to be revealed in a survey, and the moment this occurs the buyer is rightfully going to be very upset and question the integrity of the seller and the broker. Secondly, in North America, failing to disclose any damage that might impact the seaworthiness of a yacht or her resale value is a violation of the law. I believe this is why so many sellers who are selling damaged boats do so in the Southern islands of the Caribbean where the standards are lax and consumer protection laws quite limited. In short, honesty really is in the best policy when selling anything.
SHOW YOUR BOAT PROPERLY The cheapest and best thing you can do to sell your boat is to have her professionally buffed, waxed and detailed, and to have her cleaned once a week until she sells. It continues to amaze me how few of our sellers do this. The next most important actions are to have your engine rooms detailed, to have all rust removed, and to repaint any bow or stern lockers that are dirty or mildewed. Finally, remove all clutter, store only what you must, and have her looking spotless inside, with all beds made up nicely and with good ventilation running at all times. Cosmetics con-tinue to matter more than anything else—frankly, a lot of buyers are simply not experienced enough to see past a boat that needs a good buff and wax and detail.
LOWER YOUR PRICE WHEN NEEDED Boats go market dead pretty fast. If you place your boat in a location that makes her hard to get to and you see no activity, you need to move her—fast—to a location where she can sell more easily. If your boat still isn’t selling, you need to lower the price until you start to see some offers. It is always better to turn down offers that are too low than to get none at all. Every boat has a value, whether she is on top of a reef or brand new off the shipyard floo. As long as she is priced properly for the current demand, she will sell.
NEGOTIATE LIKE A GENTLEMAN Yacht sales often get a bit too personal, and sometimes sellers assume all sorts of ill intent from a given buyer when there is none. When I get into a sale I have no idea how a buyer or seller will behave in the heat of negotiations. But if there is one thing I have learned, it is this—anger is never helpful or profitable in business. If you get an offer, you can accept it, reject it or counter it with the terms and price you can live with. If you find an offer upsetting, simply refuse to counter it. If you are selling the boat for far less than you had hoped, that is not the buyer’s fault. You may have paid too much for her. You may have added on options that are not bringing you back the money they cost to install and purchase. The market condi-tions may have deteriorated since you bought her. The only advice I can give to sellers who are upset about the price they are getting for their boats is to ask them to recall all the months or years they spent on her, then to consider what it would have cost them to charter for all of that time, and place a significant value on that. We buy boats for life enhancement, not as investments.
PREPARE FOR THE SURVEY PROPERLY Never allow your boat to go into a survey unless you have had her props and bottom recently cleaned, her oil changed, and all of her engine and generator fluid stopped off. If something is broken prior to a survey and it needs to get fixed,fix it or it will show up as a negative in the survey. Many deals fall apart because a piece of equipment did not work and the seller knew in advance but did not tell his broker. Now is not the time to be cheap. It is always a good idea for the seller or his skipper to be present at a survey to answer questions, explain operations and examine any potential defects the surveyor points out to the buyer. Should negotiations need to take place after the survey, there is nothing more helpful than knowing exactly what the problem was and what the surveyor believes is the best way to correct it.
BE RESPONSIVE AND PLEASANT After you have an acceptance of yacht, it is vital that you focus on the many details of transferring the title with your broker. Remain in easy reach by phone, email and courier express services. I am often surprised at how many sellers take off to far-flung places after the survey, where it is nearly impossible for them to work closely with us in expediting the closing process. There is no reason at all why the process of a yacht sale should not be pleasant for the buyer, the seller and everyone else involved. While issues may arise that require serious negotiations, they should always be carried out in good faith and with a pleasant attitude. Yacht sales are often emotionally charged events for buyers and sellers. Keep the process positive and a positive result is far more likely to occur. Phil Berman is the president of The Multihull Company and the author of several books on catamaran racing and sailing. He is a Certified Professional Yacht Broker from the Yacht Brokers Association of America and has attended hundreds of catamaran surveys around the world over the past 30 years. Andrew Holland is the Sales Manager of The Multihull Company and oversees 50 to 60 catamaran sales a year.