No matter if you’re buying or selling, we all know that in today’s financial climate the purchaser has the edge. The reasons for wanting to own a boat are the same as they always have been: blue water cruising, relaxing, skiing, wake boarding, fishing and even racing under sail are just some of the motivations for choosing to spend money on some type of vessel. Many people even use their boat as a place by the water, just to “get away from it all” without even taking her out.

If you’ve ever purchased a boat of any size, you will remember the “honeymoon” feeling. You can’t wait to get aboard, you wash and clean her to within an inch of her life and everything to do with your pride and joy is new and exciting. This feeling ebbs slowly to one of satisfaction and general enjoyment. Next thing you know something changes to cause you to consider selling her.

People sell their boats for reasons that are many and varied. It could simply be that your lifestyle has changed and new circumstances take away your spare time, or you may be older, wiser and keen to downsize slightly. It may even be that you wish to upsize to a vessel with better features or more power. No matter what is driving the sale, owners generally find themselves much less motivated during this period of their ownership to keep their boat clean, polished and maintained, let alone neat, tidy and well presented.

‘Why is that?’ I constantly ask myself, ‘Don’t boat owners understand the serious impact that their lack of attention will have on the final offer a purchaser will make?’

Well some owners do and they will benefit at the end of the day. Sydney Boat Brokers has been selling boats for years, in our experience the clean and tidy boat will attract a higher initial offer than one that’s covered in guano and has mushroom farm growing on the inside of the bimini. When inspecting boats that are poorly kept, prospective buyers think that the owner simply doesn’t look after their boat at all, when they see examples like this. In the back of their mind they will have doubts about how well the owner has maintained the more important components of the boat.

Then there is the owner who also keeps their vessel well serviced and maintained. Minor chips in the gelcoat are repaired for instance, servicing of engines and equipment is kept up to date, the hull is cleaned and anti-fouled, the topsides and coach house are polished, down below worn out latches catches and hinges are repaired or replaced, in the engine room any leaks or minor corrosion are dealt with and the bilge is dry or at the very least bilge water is not oily or contaminated. Why is this beneficial to the sale? Well it helps hold the asking price strong. Those prospective purchasers are not given any excuses to offer less, negotiate the price down after the marine survey or withdraw from the sale completely. In most cases where the boat is well kept and maintained, the costs of performing such maintenance during the period the boat is listed for sale will be offset by a far better sale price result.

Another way that the boat owner can support the sales process is by retaining copies of all maintenance invoices to create a chronological service history of their boat. If possible this should also include the previous owner’s invoices as well. Some major service items only occur every 5 years or so which means that having a complete history will assist the current owner but also the future owners of the vessel. An example of this is the periodic replacement of exhaust manifolds and risers on petrol engines. Any prospective purchaser of a vessel with petrol engines may immediately discount their offer by several thousand dollars on the assumption that these items may need immediate replacement if they cannot be shown with certainty, that they have been replaced or inspected thus deemed to be in good condition.

A smart owner who wants to achieve the best possible sale price will commission a reputable Marine Surveyor to conduct full out-of-water survey at his own cost prior to placing the vessel on the market. Why? So that as many possible faults can be identified and repaired prior to listing. This means that it is highly unlikely that the purchaser’s survey will find any hidden surprises and that they will have no reason to revise the offer that the seller has already accepted. That is, the end result will likely be higher retention of the asking price.

Who amongst you are now thinking that this all seems like common sense? Unfortunately there is a gap between best practice and reality in most cases. Many factors will influence an owner’s ability to present their ‘pride and joy’ in tip-top condition. For most it is likely to be lack of time and for some a tight cash-flow scenario. Sydney Boat Brokers can assist owners during the initial assessment of their vessel by suggesting a list of “must do” items and a list of “nice to do” jobs in order to present the boat in the best possible light considering the circumstances.

So, in fact, the condition of the vessel for sale is just one of the criteria to consider in order to achieve a good result when selling a boat. Another critical aspect of the process is asking the right price for the boat. Determining a fair market value for a boat is much more complex that it is for a car for instance, it’s more akin to real estate in a number of ways. Such variations include location and transport costs, how many different types of engines were available when the boat was sold new, what factory-fitted options the boat has been fitted with, maintenance history, engine hours, custom fittings, inclusions such as tenders etc. It is not simply a matter of saying that all boats from “X” manufacturer built in “Y” year, that are “Z” model are worth a particular price. There is no boating “RedBook” guide.

Boat brokers are able to assist with this determination using a combination of experience, previous similar sales, industry insight and proven marketing methods. Many boaters who decide that they can save money by “doing it themselves” quickly find that it’s not as easy as they initially thought. Pricing a vessel too high will result in the boat sitting on stagnant on the market and costing the owner ongoing fees. Pricing a vessel too low will mean that the owner unwittingly puts money into the purchaser’s pocket even though they may achieve a quicker result. Brokers have access to confidential information regarding the sale results of vessels. Remember, what is seen on the Internet as an asking price is almost never the price that the boat is sold at.

The final important facet in effectively selling a boat is simply use of proven methodical marketing techniques, simply put, getting exposure! A boat must be made visible to potential purchasers. Putting an add in the local paper doesn’t get the word out like it used to. The best medium today is without a doubt the Internet but some sites are much better than others.

Sydney Boat Brokers employs a marketing process that is proven to work effectively and includes access to potential purchasers that individuals cannot. It is also cost prohibitive for individuals to advertise their vessel using the sheer number of classifieds websites and other avenues that we already have in place and are cost-effectively using to promote boats. In addition we have high numbers of FaceBook and Twitter followers, an extensive database of boaters and a retail waterfront presence on three Sydney marinas.

Part of our service to our clients listing their boats with us includes determining an Advertising Strategy for their particular type of vessel. It would be fair to say that the techniques needed to effectively market a 30 foot sailing sloop would need to be quite different to that for a 52 foot flybridge motor cruiser for instance.

By way of summary, to get a good result when selling a boat means that you must:

1) Price the asking price correctly
2) Tidy her up, declutter and clean
3) Wash & polish her regularly
4) Keep her serviced and maintained
5) Get marketing exposure
6) Qualify and manage prospective buyers
7) Ensure that the buyer’s Sea Trial and Survey proceeds smoothly
8) Secure the settlement

Although these employing these points will give the boat the best possible chance of selling reasonably quickly and retaining as much as possible of the asking price, it should be pointed out that there is no guarantee of that. The important thing to remember is that when a boat doesn’t sell quickly, the method of reassessing and the recommendations about how to further proceed will be offered with a firm commitment to achieve a good result for the seller.


Time to cast-off then Matee …

All the best from Steve Williams
Twitter-bird-light-bgsFollow me on Twitter @BoatingBloke


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